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Helon Habila

Helon Habila is the author of two novels, Measuring Time and Waiting for an Angel, winner of the Caine Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. He is also the author of the biography Mai Kaltungo (1997). In 2005–2006 he was the first Chinua Achebe Fellow at Bard College in New York. He currently teaches creative writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He has been a contributing editor to VQR since 2004.


Irekefe Island

Boma was alone when I got home in the evening, and I could tell she had been crying. I had gone straight to the office to write my report for tomorrow’s paper, my legs still wobbly from standing all afternoon on the ferry. We had made so many sto [...]

The Hotel Malogo

The sun was setting when I got off the bus and entered the empty hotel bar. Most of the space in the dim rectangular room was taken up by iron chairs arranged round iron tables, the white paint peeling off to reveal the rust, brown and streaky, under [...]

On Dambudzo Marechera: The Life and Times of an African Writer

Winter 2006 | Essays

The second sentence in The House of Hunger is: The sun was coming up. It must have seemed pretty sunny and promising on the plane after the initial difficulties. But then the third sentence reads: I couldn’t think where to go. With Dambudzo things always had a way of falling apart just at the moment when they seemed most promising. In Berlin he was promptly arrested by the frontier police and threatened with deportation to London. By the time he was rescued by the conference organizers, the news had spread through the conference halls that a writer was being detained. The festival, tagged “Berlin International Literature Days,” had brought to Berlin almost all the prominent African writers: Bessie Head, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Dennis Brutus, Nuruddin Farah, and many others. When he finally arrived at the festival hall, Marechera—perhaps the youngest writer there at twenty-seven—was already a star. Though his name was not on the leading list that night, he was given the opportunity to read. He gave an impassioned reading from The House of Hunger, which was greeted by a standing ovation, and from that moment on, the German media had discovered a hero. The truth is that the audience had never met an African writer quite like Marechera before—a man with such a sense for the dramatic, a man to whom the boundary between the fictitious and the real is so thin as to be almost nonexistent. He was hijacked from the main conference by another, left-leaning, group who had organized an alternative conference and who now wanted him to give a press conference on his “travails” in the hands of the German police.


My Uncle Ezekiel

Summer 2004 | Fiction

My uncle Ezekiel's body was discovered in a ditch early on Christmas morning, three years ago. Beside him was an empty bottle of cheap whisky; I still remember the red and green label on it, with the inscription: Christian Brothers. Because of the empty bottle and because of his drinking history, people assumed he had drunk himself to death; but actually it was the cold that killed him.