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Butterfly Burning

A Novel

Yvonne Vera

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Butterfly Burning brings the brilliantly poetic voice of Zimbabwean writer Yvonne Vera to American readers for the first time. Set in Makokoba, a black township, in the late l940s, the novel is an intensely bittersweet love story. When Fumbatha, a construction worker, meets the much younger Phephelaphi, he"wants her like the land beneath his feet from which birth had severed him." He in turn fills her "with hope larger than memory." But Phephelaphi is not satisfied with their "one-room" love alone. The qualities that drew Fumbatha to her, her sense of independence and freedom, end up separating them. And the closely woven fabric of township life, where everyone knows everyone else, has a mesh too tight and too intricate to allow her to escape her circumstances on her own.

Vera exploits language to peel away the skin of public and private lives. In Butterfly Burning she captures the ebullience and the bitterness of township life, as well as the strength and courage of her unforgettable heroine.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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Butterfly Burning
oneThere is a pause. An expectation.They play a refrain on handmade guitars; lovers with tender shoulders and strong fists and cold embraces. Birds coo from slanting asbestos roofs. Butterflies break from disused Raleigh bicycle bells.In the air is the sound of a sickle cutting grass along the roadside where black men bend their backs in the sun and hum a tune, and fume, and lullaby. They are clad in torn white shorts, short sleeves, with naked soles. The grass burns over their palms where they reach over and pull at it, then curve over the sickle and beyond, pull, inward,
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REVIEWS

Praise for Butterfly Burning

"Vera makes the novel new in Africa."--Mandivavarira Taruvinga, Independent Extra (Zimbabwe)

"From the oral poetic tradition comes a new young writer, and we hail this arrival as we do the raincloud in the heat of day . . . Butterfly Burning is as passionate, volatile, loving, terrible, clear and confusing as any novel could be."--Nikki Giovanni

"A remarkable novel . . . Keen, vivid. The author's political sense, her critique of colonialism, is intrinsic, never intrusive . . . Vera writes gracefully, depicting with extraordinary elegance the chaos and disorder of township life, the surreal conditions of existence imposed by colonial authority upon the residents."--Michelle Cliff, Village Voice Literary Supplement

"Written in lyrical, metaphor-laden, heavily symbolic prose, this mesmerizing first U. S. appearance of Vera's work is sure to garner attention."--Publishers Weekly

"A rare work of beauty, capturing the oft-tragic poetry of life in a black township in Rhodesia in the 1940s . . . Vera's phrasing and style [give this] story of love, longing, and betrayal a lyric quality . . . Readers of Isabel Allende, A. S. Byatt, or Toni Morrison will all enjoy this introduction to fine African literature. Highly recommended."--Ellen Flexman, Library Journal

"This author is an unflinching guide, and if you trust her to take you off-road, she'll show you an exquisite piece of unmapped landscape."--Anderson Tepper, Time Out (New York)

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Yvonne Vera

  • Yvonne Vera is one of Zimbabwe's best known authors. She was born in Bulawayo, where she now works as the director of the National Gallery. Her novels include Without a Name, and Under the Tongue, which recevied the 1997 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Africa region).
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Available Formats and Book Details

Butterfly Burning

A Novel

Yvonne Vera

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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