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The House of Hunger

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  563 ratings  ·  56 reviews
Winner of the Guardian fiction prize, this novella and nine short stories describe life in a Zimbabwean township. They are about the brutalization of the individual's mental processes, until madness, violence and despair become the normal state of affairs for families in black urban areas.
Paperback, 160 pages
Published December 7th 1993 by Heinemann Educational Books (first published 1978)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  563 ratings  ·  56 reviews

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Oct 29, 2009 rated it liked it
When I was reading House of Hunger, I thought to myself that in our class discussion on Tuesday, many people are going to criticize the novella for anti-feminist characteristics. I don't know if the entire novella should be branded with this label just because of certain parts? The same can also be said if someone has autistic tendencies, then doesn't automatically mean they are autistic. For example, after explaining a unsatisfactory experience of being left in charge of Julia's best friend, he ...more
Jim Robles
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Growing up in colonial Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)! Outstanding! Five stars!! The short stories are sublime.

The author, who died at the age of 35, writes wonderfully imaginative similes. "And outside wet snow piled up softly like things which a man has chosen to forget, . . . . " (p. 140).

"One learns a lot about people by merely studying what they do not want to know" (p. 58).

"I pelted them with the hailstones of desperation. I stoned them with the rocks of fear" (p. 90).

"It was the House of Hunger
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, africa-2019
"There is nothing left but the genitals of senile gods."

Dambudzo Marechera's interconnected short stories circulate around a whirlwind of spinning time. The title novella that anchors this collection is a masterclass in fractured Modernism. As the narrator explains his story, the reader is shot back and forth along a personal timeline. Anchored by bursts of extreme violence - school yard, domestic, and at the hands of the State - the narrator recounts harrowing moments of enlightenment and
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book, its a great read. It is a short story collection that was the first book by Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera. The House of Hunger is as much a product of being down and out sleeping rough, being beaten up by thugs and policeman alike and struggling with alcoholism, as it is of the Rhodesia it describes.... The 'hunger' of the book’s title does not refer only to the literal starvation which was ravaging post-independent Zimbabwe at the time. Rather it implies a ...more
Marechera was a brilliant writer and his 'The House of Hunger' was and still is an invaluable piece of literature for Zimbabwe.

I don't think you can "like" or "dislike" this text because it's a disturbing, unsettling and thought-provoking read.

The stream-of-consciousness underlines the utter chaos in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe in the 1970s.

Nyashadzashe Chikumbu
The work of a genius at hand.
Kobe Bryant
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Its cool because its about Zimbabwe
Nov 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, zimbabwe
From my Instagram account @Onebookonecountry


The hunger in this book goes beyond empty plates. In "The House of Hunger", Dambudzo Marechera captures the yearning a recently independent Rodhesia, later Zimbabwe, has for something more than a failed postcolonial future.

The opening line "I got my things and left" seems to capture the spirit of disillusionment that was installed with Ian Smith's government. Marechera actually wrote this book in Oxford after he was expelled thus becoming an
Sep 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: africa
To read The House of Hunger is to step into the violence of 1978 Rhodesia, engaged in a civil war, with a government on the brink of collapse. A separate study of the country’s history finds words such as colonization, apartheid, uprising, ill-fated, discontent, torture, murder, brutalities of white oppression, and insurrection the rule rather than the exception when describing the country now known as Zimbabwe.

To read Dambudzo Marechera’s novel is to step into a brutal stream of conscience
Nov 13, 2014 rated it liked it
I first heard of Marechera from BBC radio 4. A native Rhodesian grew up in a dysfunctional family, experienced violence, explicitly sexual promiscuity and racial segregation. These profound experiences had shaped his rebellious and iconoclastic personalities.
Vishakh Thomas
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Paints a very vivid picture of angst and desperation - feels autobiographical. The language is woven rather beautifully. Highly recommended.
Noel Kus
Jun 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Well a tid bit of the history of Zim through the Marechera kalideoscope. Each time you shack it you meet a different aparition. I see great paralels with Dostoveyski.
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-books
One of the finest books ever written.Sharp, incisive and baring of the soul.
Nov 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
brutal and grotesque, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe's very defiant answer to Celíne.
Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire
Dambudzo is another name for language.
May 27, 2019 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gautam Bhatia
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
In the prefatory essay to The House of Hunger – a collection including the eponymous novella and eleven other aphoristic, semi-autobiographical sketches – the Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera sets out his relationship with the English language. “I took to the English language as a duck takes to water,” he writes:

“I was therefore a keen accomplice and student in my own mental colonization. At the same time of course there was the unease, the shock of being suddenly struck by stuttering, of
J.L. O'Neill
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Zimbabwe does not seem like a wonderful place to live. The struggle of the common citizen to find their place in an almost lawless society where adolescence sex, drug and alcohol abuse, rape, and poverty are everyday regular occurrences. The entire narrative is thought provoking and speaks about racism as well as dysphoria for one's own people and society. I have heard some arguments that this novel is sexist. I have to disagree. I think it sheds light on the disgusting truth of what happened in ...more
Mike Cahoon
Aug 29, 2017 rated it liked it
The House of Hunger (I'm only reviewing the novella, not the additional stories) is written in a beautiful, brutal, style. It's easy to pick up that Marechera was a poet as well, the novel is atmospheric, slightly non-linear, and uses forceful abstract language. If you like a good story, this book's probably not for you. Where the book is successful is delivering impressions of violence and degradation in post-independance Zimbabwe. It's not a happy or enjoyable book by any means. In fact, there ...more
Kate Walsh
Sep 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Written like a boss.

'You literary chaos are our only hope,' Harry began.
I choked politely on my drink. Then we are sunk, I thought.
(pg. 16)

The match went out. The shadows closed around us with a noiseless cosmic violence. It woke her up. her voice had an inner light stirring within it; the way clouds seem to have in their heart a trembling clarity. She spoke of many things, and fragments of things. She spoke with an intensity that seemed to refract my character the way a prism analyses clearly
africawrites  - The RAS' annual festival of African Literature
House of Hunger, probably Marechera's most renowned work, is as much a historical novel as it is a work of literary prose. The book charts the psychological chaos experienced by the narrator (quite obviously Marechera), as he experiences family pressure, sexual desire, Freudian psychosis and angst all seen through the prism of the colonial oppression and the struggle for liberation in Zimbabwe.

Based on the language and writing style of Dambudzo Marechera, it is obvious that his writing skill exceeds many. However, I cannot bring myself to get past the first couple of pages. Marechera shows the reality of the violence that surrounds his characters and I am unable to weed through this work.
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Read for Contemporary Postcolonial Writing.
The way Marechera writes is fragmentary and chaotic, but within this there is a lot a beauty. Passages of the novella were incredibly grounding and embodies something of what it means to be human in a postcolonial world. I really loved the way he writes, and I'm looking forward to discussing this book next week.
Nov 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book is well written but what disturbs me is that it traces one life from extreme poverty to ~ ? I can't believe in the happy ending. There is too much unresolved and unredeemed. It starts off being realistic, mercilessly so, and segues into magic realism, and that I cannot find a justification for, either. Much of it is memorable, and I'm glad I've read it, but it is troubling.
df parizeau
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the most unsettling collection of stories I have ever read. It really dives to the core of the effects of colonialism on not only the collective but on the individual and what one must choose to sacrifice, just to survive long enough to perhaps, one day, see change.
Soulja Abdul
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Marechera dances a rhythmic dance in The House of Hunger. His word play and use of metaphors are powerful, as he transports you mind first into what colonial madness can cause, and does cause.

A masterpiece. He is missed, very, very much.


Feb 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such an interesting, psychological novella! I’m excited for the in-class analysis!
Blessing Chisvo
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was confused half the time reading this book! but loved all of it!
Aug 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
talked about it some here:
One of the legendary escapism thoughts penned down together. amazing
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"A black man who has suffered all the stupid brutalities of the white oppression in Rhodesia, his rage explodes, not in political rhetoric, but in a fusion of lyricism, wit, obscenity. Incredible that such a powerful indictment should also be so funny."

Doris Lessing in praise of The House of Hunger

Harare, 1986
At home in Harare, 1986.
Ernst Schade.

Known as the "enfant terrible of African