The Colonial Boomerang: A Comparative Analysis of the Traumatic Effect of the Violence of War in Alexander Kanengoni’s Echoing Silences and Alexandra Fuller’s Scribbling the Cat

Keywords: ngozi, psychoanalytic theory, restitution, trauma, violence, war


This literary analysis explores how the repercussions of violence had both metaphysical and traumatic consequences for those involved in the war that led to the liberation of Zimbabwe, regardless of which side they fought for. This scarring of the psyche is vividly explored in Alexandra Kanengoni’s Echoing Silences and Alexander Fuller’s Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier. The main character in the former text is a black Zanla freedom fighter, while the protagonist in Fuller’s text is an ex-Rhodesian white soldier. This allows for insightful comparative analysis. Despite their differing socio-political cultures and positions within the war—one seeking to perpetuate colonial hegemony, the other to destroy it—in the post-war era neither of them escapes the boomerang effect of the wartime violence. The premise of this analysis is therefore, encapsulated in the Shona proverb Hapana mhosva isangaripwe (“There is no crime which does not carry a fine or reparation”). A psychoanalytic theoretical framework informs the examination as we reveal the traumatic experiences the two protagonists encounter, and trace their journeys as they revisit and re-member their sites of violence during the war in a quest to purge themselves of their “demons” and achieve psychological redemption.