Luna Kwon and Logan Lee
NoViolet Bulawayo sets Jidada, a reflection of Zimbabwe, as the setting of her story. In her narrative there is no space for human beings – there are only animals (mals and femals to be specific). This might remind you of Orwell’s Animal Farm, but stop that thought, because Bulawayo warns you from the start of her work of satire – “This is not an animal farm but Jidada with a -da and another -da! . . . And if you have any ears at all you’ll heed my advice because what you’re doing is swallowing all manner of big rocks, and very soon it shall be seen just how wide your asshole is when those very rocks will need to be shat!” Bulawayo, NoViolet. Glory (p. 33).
What We Enjoyed
- The Repetition
- “And the Father of the Nation, in his signature fashion, accordingly and incisively went on to denounce the West for neocolonialism, for capitalism, for racism, for economic sanctions, for ugly trade practices, for aid addiction, for the shutting down of factories and businesses in Jidada, for the absence of jobs, for the poor performance of farms, for the brain drain, for the homosexuals, for the power cuts and water cuts, for the miserable state of Jidada’s public schools and government hospitals and bridges and public toilets and public libraries, for the loose morals among the youth, for the potholes on the roads and the unpicked trash on the streets, for the black market, for the fluctuating crime rates, for the atrocious pass rate in national examinations, for the defeat of the Jidada national soccer team at the recent continental finals, for the drought, for the strange phenomenon of married men having second families on the side called small houses, for the rise in sorcery, for the dearth of production of exciting works by local poets and writers.”
- Bulawayo, NoViolet. Glory (p. 18). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
- As you can see, it goes on and on. It may seem unnecessarily long at first, but if you catch the rhythm of this never-ending list, you can actually realize that this simple mode of listing things – specifically the corruption of Jidada (even Zimbabwe) in this quote- is effective to mercilessly satirize the socioeconomic situation. This kind of listing appears frequently (very frequently), and the ridicule of these lists highlights what Bulawayo wants to say through her story.
- Symbolism of the Sun
- Tholukuthi the sun twerked in the lewdest fashion and sent out such an epic blaze a few animals passed out at different points in the stadium while a hen, thoroughly overwhelmed by the heat, laid a fried egg.
- Bulawayo, NoViolet. Glory (p. 13). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
- The Opening scene of Glory is set during a speech given by Jidada’s dictator, the Old Horse, and the crowd in front of it. Bulawayo uses the Sun as a recurring literary device to remind the readers of the mockery of the Old Horse’s reign. He (alongside with Dr. Sweet Mother, the first femal) thinks that the Sun is something that they can manipulate – as well as the country of Jidada.
- The Language
Tholukuthi this word also makes a frequent appearance. Meaning indeed, you find that, only to discover, and really anything along those lines, this Ndebele word gives the book a whiff of the culture of the setting.
There are also other words that introduce themselves during the story; here are some examples:
- “kana, ngitsho,” “futhi”
- Bulawayo, NoViolet. Glory (p. 20).
- Bulawayo, NoViolet. Glory (p. 21).
- Why Animals?
- “By taking humans out of the equation, Bulawayo eliminates the hierarchies that their presence would impose.” (NY Times , 2022)
- Bulawayo uses the connotation of certain species of animals to convey her ideas; for example she makes all the policemen dogs, because dogs are ferocious and strong. By drawing these kinds of lines in between species of animals, isn’t Bulawayo contradicting her purpose of utilizing animals to replace people? Or is it too far of a stretch to interpret the species of animals as the ethnicity or social status of people?
- Also, if there are different species of animals ranging from horses to peacocks in Jidada, how does the reproduction work?
Overall Impression/Tips if you choose Glory as your next read
- It may be difficult to understand from the perspective of a reader who is not aware of specific political backgrounds of Zimbabwe (However, this is also were Glory’s significance comes in- it sheds light to the current corruption and pain certain countries on the African continent is going through, which for some reason never makes the headline of papers).
- We highly recommend doing a quick research on the political history of Zimbabwe, as Jidada and the Jidadan political scene are a strikingly direct reflection of it.
- Reading reviews of Glory may ironically be a more enjoyable experience compared to reading the book itself. The reviews fill you in with ‘inside jokes’ such as “General [Tuvy’s name] — a play on the Shona word for shit, duzvi, setting up the joke of his name: General Shit” (Voices of Zimbabwe: On Noviolet Bulawayo’s “Glory” 2022).
- Glory definitely isn’t an easy read – it requires effort an energy to stay on track. In other words, it reads like a nonfiction (Bulawayo started Glory as a nonfiction and then switched lanes to satire, which sort of explains why). There are phrases and paragraphs that are hilarious, and there are fragments that I absolutely adored
Here are some articles to read beforehand- they will give you background knowledge on the setting of the story and keep you in the loop. To fully understand what Bulawayo would like to say through this story, skim through these first.
Luna and Logan, I absolutely love this post! I completely agree with everything you wrote, your analysis of different central motifs and stylistic elements of the novel really capture what this novel is like to read. Glory provides such important cultural insights that are relevant today but the sheer volume of the novel and its sometimes dense subject matter make it a daunting read. I recommend this book to those with a deep interest in politics and who have a thirst for history. Overall an insightful experience!
Very insightful post! We loved how you explained the world-building and explored the nuances of each decision Bulawayo chose. Your idea about Bulawayo using animals to eliminate inherent human hierarchy was intelligent.