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Harare North

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  336 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Caine Prize winner Brian Chikwava tackles the realities of life in London for Africa’s dispossessed in this fearlessly political and very funny story of an illegal Zimbabwean immigrant seeking a better life in England — with a past he is determined to hide.
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 19th 2009 by Jonathan Cape (first published April 2nd 2009)
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Average rating 3.43  · 
Rating details
 ·  336 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Nana Fredua-Agyeman
The narrative in Harare North is unique; it dealt away with the entire grammatical caboodle that burdens the writer when using a character who is not versed in the English syntax because it is not his first language; or even if it were, because he has adopted and adapted it to suit his daily needs. Brian Chikwava's protagonist is not burdened with the flowery, indulging, and literary complications of the English language; he has given the layman's English as it is spoken and understood by the ma ...more
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Do you have enough ginger..." to read Harare North. "Do you have enough ginger..." is our unnamed narrator's favourite phrase. He who ran away from home escaping capture by the police only to be "imprisoned" in a foreign country on another continent.

Yes. You do need ginger to survive in Harare North, London. Harare North is a story of surviving London as an immigrant with no papers. Too afraid to apply for asylum because venturing outside of the "squat" without papers is too risky. Feeding peop
Mar 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fran Hepburn, Dave Venter
A book with a difference!
Written by a Zimbabwean living in London it kept me interested enough to keep reading although at times I found the Zimbo-lingo (read pidgin English) irritating. However, it all makes sense if you read it as an African listening to an African............

Funny and sad but definitely worth a read.
Oct 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
As a person who was born and grew up in Harare I was thrilled to stumble upon this book because who doesn’t love a book written by one of their own right? Much to my dismay I found the author’s writing style painful to read. I think the character’s themselves and their stories are interesting but I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone.
Lisa Burgess
Jul 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
It took me several attempts to read this book. I kept getting mired in the speaker's language, but when I finally got past page 50, I was in the mode and thoroughly enjoyed the book. Quite an amazing exploration of a psyche gone awry. Now I want to read it a second time. ...more
Dec 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A truly brilliant and thought-provoking read but the ending totally caught me off guard!! I think I would have given it 5 stars if the huge plot twist had been more than a few lines long. Would have made it easier to understand/digest.
This book is so powerful. I grew up white and middle-class (and British) in London and it was heart-breaking and fascinating to see my hometown through completely different eyes. I’d highly recommend this book, and if you’re very familiar with London I’d recommend it even more.
Beth B
Aug 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
Got me laughing. It's a pretty sad story, but only feels that way at key moments. The narrator's sense of humour is great. Author has done a decent job of capturing the classic struggle of navigating immigration, and the systemic oppression around it.

I know some people have issue with the voice of the narrator and how it's written, saying it's a negative portrayal of Zimbabweans - I don't disagree in that it could be, but I also like to consider that the author himself is from Zimbabwe and wrot
Feb 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-noir
Not mystery, but pure Zimbabwean-in-Britain noir (though I expect it is termed literary), this was quite extraordinary. Language that flows and jumps just the way people speak it and with those rhythms you can find in English as borrowed and reinvented language, Chikwava sure spins them smooth jazz numbers. But darkness lurks beneath; only gradually do you piece together what kind. It is the brutal life of the newly-arrived immigrant, banal, and yet so utterly chilling I could hardly read it at ...more
Rebekka Hindbo
Read for uni. Maybe I just didn't understand this book but I couldn't really get into it or enjoy it.. Hopefully I'll have a better understanding of it when we discuss it in class.

After discussing it I will give it a star more (started with 2, now 3) because I had not understood the book. Upon discussing it became more interesting but it is still confusing if you just read it and does not discuss it or research it.
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
You have no idea how amazing this book is if you don't read it. Chikwava writes a witty and dark book and it leaves you laughing and terrified when you're done. Crawling deep into your duvet terrified. ...more
Nov 03, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The language used by the author was painful if not annoying. I have never heard of this language in Zimbabwe or outside. This really put me off as the portrayal I feel is not representative of how Zimbabweans speak.
Sep 01, 2018 rated it liked it
A bit complicated for the level of attention l gave it. Grim too.
Chinyimba Mando
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is different, if great art is meant to inspire emotion in someone then this book does so in spades, in terms of style it is simple to read and the writer doesn't employ any overly techniques (except for a time jump in the very first chapter).
It has pretty much the same themes as most post colonial African literature I.e Hopelessness, despair a growing realization that your expectations for the future and your faith in established structures and the people who represent them were misp
Miriam Majome
Dec 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Quite a hard read. A bit of a stretch because no one speaks English like that in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans may not speak the best English nor do they have to but no one speaks it like that so it didn't feel authentic. Story could have just made sense written properly. The writing style added nothing but confusion to the story ...more
Sep 05, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am no Zimbabwean. But most every Zimbabwean I know speaks and writes the Queens English better than Brits. Which is a gross over generalisation, but one that coloured my preconceived notions enough to really detest reading this book written in a lazy pidgin.

Just couldn't get into the characters when my eyes and brain suffer fatigue page after page.
Bernice Puleng Mosala
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Brilliantly constructed, culturally vibrant and the ending was brilliant. This book has made me a more open-minded writer.
Annie Munyenyembe
Jun 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
Something about the broken english in which it's written threw me off... ...more
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was ok
Too many unanswered questions, unlikeable protagonist and dissatisfactory ending, took me a long time to read.
Sarah chaher
Jul 18, 2021 added it
Shelves: 2021
The false sense of originality and sticking to the mother land in a foreign country and the mirage of the return-home intention.
Francis Bunch
Jan 15, 2022 rated it liked it
Very dark.
Emma Clarke
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
This book is about a Zimbabwean man who claims asylum in London. He lives in abject poverty and struggles to earn a living.

It manages to underline how vulnerable asylum seekers are in the U.K. while also keeping a sense of humour. Some parts of the book made me laugh.
Lucy Hastings
Jun 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
Finally finished last night. Set in Brixton in areas I know, lived a group of African illiegal immigrants. Two were from Zimbabwe another was a woman with a baby. All lived in an awful, rat infested squat and tried to make a life together. It gave a good insight into the struggles of finding 'graft' and living hand to mouth. The discovery of the food bin behind Marks and Spencers led to violence. The politics of Africa and the status they had back home comes into play here, where people held cou ...more
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this novel. It's in one of my favourite places in the entire world (London). It has lots of references to my favourite place to read about (Sub-saharan Africa). But I couldn't do it. It just didn't work for me. I felt it started out strong, but by the end, I had no investment in any of the characters. The fatal flaw is the protagonist. He's unlikeable, which in and off itself isn't a problem, there are plenty of unlikeable protagonists, but that Chikwava doesn't give him ...more
africawrites  - The RAS' annual festival of African Literature
In Harare North Brian Chikwava introduces us to a wholly original voice emanating out of a South London squat. The nameless Zimbabwean narrator is recently arrived from Harare, with a questionable past involvement as one of President Mugabe's youthful thugs, clutching a briefcase - the contents of which are not fully revealed until the end of the novel. Our narrator hustles, cheats and scrapes his way round South London introducing us to a cast of characters surviving perilously close to the bre ...more
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
The novel Harare North exposes the unheroic harsh realities of life as an Immigrant in London through the precarious lifestyle of his unnamed and his best friend Shingi. This is a novel that boldly touches on the struggle for identity when living in a diaspora. A post-colonial novel that really has an impact on its readers. It was hard for me to get used to Chikwava's narrative but through the mix of south London slang and Zimbabwean street English, I think the language did well in exposing the ...more
Feb 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
entertaining, looks like the 'struggle' is in every london community. Relocating , Migration...what ever you might call it. There are some lessons to learn from every city, mum, dad or school could never prepare you for. ...more
Witty and gritty first novel told from the POV of a Zimbabwean Mugabe supporter who arrives in London hoping to make quick $ to buy himself safety back home. Author has a unique voice.

Read for work.
Aug 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the use of dialect and the compromised unreliable narrator. Phrases like "giving forgiveness" stuck in the mind. This must be one of the most promising debut novels I've read in a while. I'm looking forward to what he does next. I didn't quite understand the ending though. ...more
May 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Thought the ending petered out a bit but on the whole, well written, particularly the voice and its dialect.
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Brian Chikwava is a Zimbabwean writer and musician. His short story "Seventh Street Alchemy" was awarded the 2004 Caine Prize for African writing in English; Chikwava became the first Zimbabwean to do so. He has been a Charles Pick fellow at the University of East Anglia, and lives in London. He continues to write in England and put out an album titled Jacaranda Skits.
Chikwava won the fifth Caine

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