Wir brauchen neue Namen

NoViolet Bulawayo | Miriam Mandelkow

NoViolet Bulawayo: Wir brauchen neue Namen
Translated from the English by Miriam Mandelkow | We Need New Names
Suhrkamp Verlag 2014 | Little, Brown and Company, New York 2013

“NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut novel tells of a coming of age after migration to another country. Poverty, violence and neglect are everyday, fundamental constants of a slum childhood in Zimbabwe. The only thing filled with life is a young girl’s own cosmos, created out of friendship and the bright colours of a child’s imagination, but the young protagonist loses all of this after her emigration to the United States. Speechless homesickness and alienation become parts of her new identity, in some passages commented by an almost lyrical, internal narrative voice. In the German translation by Miriam Mandelkow the creative, childlike voice that shapes the linguistic tone of the scenic novel still sparkles, at the same time painful and beautiful.” (The jury on the shortlist nomination 2015)

Wir brauchen neue Namen

Paradise is the name of a tin shack settlement in an unnamed city in Zimbabwe where ten-year-old Darling grows up. Although a shambles, it is still a home for Darling albeit with no father, no school, a place of hunger, disease, the threat of bulldozers and violence. Darling and a gang of kids wander the wealthy neighbourhood, steal guavas, invent football matches between nations and let aid workers give them toys in this inhospitable children’s paradise. When, at thirteen, Darling moves to Detroit to live with her aunt, the longed-for America turns out not to be the Promised Land. Darling transforms herself into an American, peeping at porn with her schoolmates in the afternoon in the basement, gets to know the snow and cold and misses the African sky and the guavas. The debut novel by NoViolet Bulawayo sends a girl from an African slum into the cold of Detroit. The author from Zimbabwe tells unsentimentally of harsh realities, big dreams and complex identities.

NoViolet Bulawayo, © Smeeta Mahanti/Suhrkamp Verlag

About the author

NoViolet Bulawayo, born in Zimbabwe as Elizabeth Zandile Tshehele in 1981, emigrated to the United States at the age of 18, where she studied at Cornell and Stanford University. She published short stories in a variety of journals and won the 2011 Cain Prize for African Writing with her short story Hitting Budapest. We Need New Names, her debut novel, was on the shortlist for the 2013 Man Booker Prize and received the 2014 PEN/ Hemingway Award. She currently teaches at Stanford University.

Recent publications:
Short stories in a number of magazines and journals including:
“Happy Birthday Africa President”, Munyori Journal, 02/2012
“The Return”, The Telegraph, 06/2013
“Diaspora Christmas”, The Africa Report, 12/2011
“The City: Bulawayo”, Newsweek, 09/2011
“Hitting Budapest”, The Boston Review, 11-12/2010

Miriam Mandelkow, © private

About the translator

Miriam Mandelkow, born in 1963 in Amsterdam, studied English and American studies in Hamburg and the United States. After working for many years as an editor, in 2001 she turned to literary translations. She has translated works by authors such as Richard Price, Martha Gellhorn, Patrick Hamilton and David Vann. In 2014 she was granted a Hamburger Förderpreis für literarische Übersetzungen for her translation of We Need New Names.

Recent translations:
David Vann: Aquarium; Suhrkamp 2016 (Aquarium; William Heinemann, London 2015)
Ta-Nehisi Coates: Zwischen mir und der Welt; Hanser Berlin, 2016 (Between the World and Me; Spiegel & Grau, New York 2015)
Eimear McBride: Das Mädchen ein halbfertiges Ding; Schöffling & Co. 2015 (A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing; Galley Beggar Press, Norwich 2013)
David Vann: Goat Mountain; Suhrkamp 2014 (Goat Mountain; William Heinemann, London 2013)
Anne Landsman: Wellenschläge; Schöffling 2014 (The Rowing Lesson; Soho Press, New York 2008)
Pat Barker: Tobys Zimmer; Dörlemann 2014 (Toby’s Room; Hamish Hamilton, London 2012)