Interview with Tendai Huchu, author of The Hairdresser of Harare
21 Sep 2015
The book is about Vimbai a young single mother trying to make a life for herself and her daughter during Zimbabwe’s crazy, hyper-inflationary period. She is the best hairdresser in town who specialises in making women feel “white”, until she is usurped by a new guy called Dumisani. The book follows their relationship as it grows and develops amidst the turmoil surrounding them.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t think about what anyone else has to say. Just do you.”
Which books do you find yourself returning to again and again?
I seldom reread books, but there are two that I always come back to every couple of years. Dostoevsky’s Demons and The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. I discover something new and meaningful each time I return to them.
Say you’re the host of a talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
I would want to have someone antihuman, like Cecil John Rhodes, sit down with them and try to figure out how their minds work. The thing that makes them so radically different from the rest of us. My first question would probably be, “What the fuck?” and everything else will follow from that.
What makes your world go round? Why does it bring you joy?
Little things, small acts of kindness, Wangari Maathai’s little hummingbirds that change the world we live in in really deep, positive and meaningful ways. It brings me joy to know that we don’t have to be big and powerful to do good in this world we live in, that even though the grand negative forces that surround us can seem unstoppable, what we do in our own little, insignificant ways still adds a pixel of colour to the rainbow.
Who are your literary heroes?
I like daring innovative writers, so I have long list that could go on and on till the cows come… Sarah Ladipo-Manyika, Jon McGregor, Dostoevsky, Mridula Kushy, Jim Thompson, David Mitchell, Juan Ruflo, David Foster Wallace, Yvonne Vera, Paul Auster… My list changes frequently and is always expanding. There’s so much good work out there, one doesn’t know where to turn.
What’s your favorite quote or scene from The Hairdresser of Harare?
I like chapter 22 because it is particularly explosive. It brings all the main protagonists together and really reveals something about their character and attitudes. At this point the book switches from its light comic gear into something a little more serious. After that they drift in and out of each other’s lives and what happens there has ramifications later on in the narrative.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
Very loosely, the philosophy I live by demands that I’m free to change my mind about anything at any time. I always try to have that built in flexibility when it comes to my beliefs and tastes. I may not always succeed, but I always try to open myself up to new experiences and/or ideas. This comes out, I would hope, in my own work as I switch voices, styles and genres, always trying to find new ways of both feeling and expressing myself.
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Taylor loves books with a heavy dose of absurdity, hilarity, and beautiful prose. She is a marketer, adventurer, nature-lover, Hufflepuff, wannabe world traveler, and advocate of laughter.