Rhetoric of Anxiety and Anxieties of Rhetoric: Strategies of Remembering Memories of Genocide in Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins (2002) and Christopher Mlalazi’s Running with Mother (2012)
In The Rhetoric of Fiction (1983) Wayne Booth argues that the rhetoric of fiction is its capacity to endlessly defer meaning, and in this process produce new meanings via unexpected significations. This article draws from some of Booth’s insights to tackle three creative problems related to the rhetorical challenges of fictionally representing genocide in the African novel. The first problem is how to artistically translate knowing into telling; the second challenge relates to how authors writing on genocide can guard against the danger of creating archetypal images of suffering women that might prove inadequate to capture women’s multiple human agencies. The third problem regards how to deal with the anxiety of what the language of genocide narratives may not be able to manifest in representing women’s responses to atrocities. Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins (2012) and Christopher Mlalazi’s Running with Mother (2012) are two novels from Zimbabwe that suggest that creative authors who use metaphorical language to magnify suffering may not always be in total control of meanings and tend to not always know the implications of the metaphors they use in describing the process by which they make their own metaphors of suffering. The language of genocide has generated certain archetypal images that represent more than one thing. Vera and Mlalazi use the language of the genre of the literature of atrocities to enlarge, embellish and stylise representations of genocide. This article argues that these creative problems are inevitable because language is the only cultural resource that the fictional imaginaries might manipulate in order to recover and reconstitute certain memories of genocide.