After the huge success of Niketche, she has now written The Cheerful Song of the Partridge (“O Alegre Canto da Perdiz “), her fifth novel. Niketche dealt with the phenomenon of polygamy – the heroine discovers that her husband has more wives and families – whereas with O Alegre Canto da Perdiz, Chiziane sheds light on the role of African women in the colonisation process. At the heart of the novel is the beautiful Delfina, who leaves her poor black husband and marries an affluent white man. Her aim is to bear children with lighter skin, thereby making it possible for them to have a better life. She is racist in her dealings with her own children, for example giving her firstborn black children worse food than the younger mixed-race children, and in so doing destroys her family and spirals herself into despair. Only decades later does she find her children and grandchildren, and particularly her daughter Maria das Dores, whom she thought had disappeared for good.
The story takes place in the Northern province of Zambézia, and is told looking back from the present day. The action takes place thirty years previously, still during the colonial times. Social problems, however, are not just down to colonisation alone, but also caused by the patriarchal structure which is increasingly evoked in myths tradition-conscious population. Instead of arguing the purity of black or white, Chiziane postulates on the affirmation of society’s mixture culture and an active adoption of the Portuguese language. As in earlier books, this author guides her readers through a world of traditional values and paints the captivating portrait of a collapsing society. Without using the methods of magical realism, she mixes mythical with real events and thereby creates a powerful, outlandish and incomparable work of poetic literature.
The Cheerful Song of the Partridge
»The truth is that Paulina, the ‘storyteller’, steps away from the circle around the fire and puts on her novel-writing hat (…) and observing, scrutinizing, listening, capturing, analyzing and studying the deep complexities of her country, providing us with this delight, The Cheerful Song of the Partridge.«
Quote from the Afterword (p. 340): Nataniel Ngomane
»…not only has she now made her mark in Mozambican literature, she is also becoming one of the most interesting African women writers to follow.«
Tony Simões da Silva, AFRICAN REVIEW OF BOOKS