In Tariro Ndoro’s Absaloming, a new world is at loggerheads with the old, each attempting to make sense of life after an apocalyptic event. For Ndoro, finding the best solution to a natural calamity is about faith in the power of one’s courage to overcome the unseen and unknown. Absaloming has been longlisted for The Short Story is Dead, Long Live the Short Story! (2018)

What was the germination of your story? 

I saw an image of two characters standing on a hill, one trying to kill the other, and I thought to myself, “Why would that happen?” So I built a story around that frame – a young woman feeling so desperate that she feels she must kill a healer.

Tariro Ndoro (image courtesy of Mgcini Nyoni) 

In what way would you say your writing is political?

I’m not quite sure. I’ve realised my stories are better when I just write them, listening to the voices of the characters and the setting as opposed to moralising, so sometimes my work has direct morals and an easily discernible worldview, sometimes not. I think this particular story is more personal than political but then again, the political is always personal, yes?

What are your opinions on religion, especially regarding how it is talked about in African literature?

Well, let’s start with how religion is discussed in African literature. Looking at Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus or Bulawayo’s We Need New Names, it seems religion is always a centre of tension. One thing versus the other: in Purple Hibiscus it’s the Catholic father versus his the grandfather who still holds on to African beliefs; in We Need New Names the religious leader uses his position of power to abuse a young girl. So religion is often, if not always, discussed from the vantage point of how it affects a person’s power/influence in a society. I guess this is because of links between colonialism and religion, someone else always has an opinion of who you should worship and why you should worship that deity, and I find this unfortunate (that African religion seems to be played out in the public eye with so much reference to power, propriety and, most recently, miracles) since faith can be a profoundly personal and sacred thing.

Faith can be a profoundly personal and sacred thing

Tariro Ndoro

What lesson are you hoping readers will take from your story?

I think there are many lessons in the story. The first being that one mistake can’t define you forever. Another being that, sometimes one crosses the line between following the rules and following the heart. The biggest lesson I guess, is that we don’t always have to stick to binaries. In Absaloming, there is a clear rift between the scientists and the religionists but in the end, they have to rely on each other to survive. The existence of one doesn’t have to negate the existence of the other.

What advice would you give to beginning writers?

I think beginning writers should always be open to learning from other writers, i.e. they should read voraciously and dedicate time to writing. Talent or inborn ability alone will only get a writer so far; great writers must constantly hone their skills through practicing and reading and opening themselves to constructive criticism.