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Seventh Street Alchemy
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Archived | 2018 Short stories > Seventh Street Alchemy by Brian Chikwava (16-31st May)

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message 1: by PS, Short Story Reading Chief (last edited May 20, 2018 01:28PM) (new) - added it

PS | 143 comments Mod
We'll be reading Seventh Street Alchemy by Brian Chikwava, a Zimbabwean author between the 16-31st of May 2018. "Seventh Street Alchemy" was awarded the 2004 Caine Prize.

Cam has very kindly uploaded a scan of the story here.

Look forward to our discussion!


message 2: by George P. (last edited May 19, 2018 06:48AM) (new)

George P. | 210 comments While we're reading this story, I bought an anthology titled The Granta Book of the African Short Story (nice used copy less than $5 w/ shipping) which has another story by Chickwava in it, "Dancing to the Jazz Goblin and his Rhythm", so I plan to read that one in the next week as well.


message 3: by Cam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cam | 95 comments George, let us know how those stories compare. I'd be curious to know whether his writing style is similar across all his stories.

I've just finished Seventh Street Alchemy and the writing style is quite effective at conjuring up the atmosphere of hallucinogenic activity. It reminded me slightly of Tram 83, but while I found Fiston Mwanza Mujila's style intoxicating, this short story felt like an oppressive whirlwind. I gobbled it up, but I'm not sure I'd want to read 300 pages like this!
I liked his (sardonic) description of daily life on that Harare street corner as a 'parallel universe', but I wasn't as taken in by the story.

I'm going to read the rest of that year's shortlist, as at the moment I'm confused as to why it won. Maybe the writing style?


message 4: by George P. (last edited May 20, 2018 11:49AM) (new)

George P. | 210 comments I've read Chickwava's "Seventh Street Alchemy" (Sofia, you evidently had a slip in titling it "Academy", but that's no big deal) this morning as well as reading his "Dancing to the Jazz Goblin and his Rhythm" last night. The latter story centered on a young musician who was imposed on by a "roommate from hell". The stories had a similarity in a theme with a loss of or lack of control over one's life.

I liked both stories, but Seventh Street Alchemy more; it has more inventiveness in the story, narration and description. It reminded me somewhat of Kafka's The Trial, updated to modern time and an African setting. I liked the way that the characters were often connected to one another in a circular pattern. The loss of control was sometimes due to the random nature of events, sometimes due to uncooperative bureaucracy as in the Catch-22ish problems of the birth certificate applications.
I seem to have liked it more than Cam did.


message 5: by Wim, French Readings (new) - rated it 3 stars

Wim | 846 comments Mod
I read Seventh Street Alchemy a couple of days ago and found it amusing, well structured and beautifully written. It indeed gives a good idea of the fuzz and chaos of life in Harare. On the other hand, it was a bit too short to really get into the story.


message 6: by Anetq, Tour Operator & Guide (new)

Anetq | 796 comments Mod
I liked this: the strange flow of language, the odd bit of jigsaw puzzle, but I have to say the full picture eludes med - maybe that's the point, but it works fine as a short story, I think.

From the review of his novel here on Goodreads, I get the feeling it's not as fulfilling in novel form, where we might actually want a full story line...


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