SHORT STORY REVIEW: ‘This Is Not Au Revoir’ by Zukiswa Wanner
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ukiswa Wanner’s short story ‘This is Not Au Revoir‘ is published in the landmark anthology ‘New Daughters of Africa’, edited by Margaret Busby and published by Myriad Editions. A paperback edition of the anthology is available for pre-order, and will be published in the UK in September 2020. It was first published in hardback in 2019, and that edition can still be ordered from here.

‘This Is Not Au Revoir‘ Review:

Zukiswa Wanner’s short story, ‘This Is Not Au Revoir‘ is a feminist story that packs a punch. Set in Johannesburg, it follows the life and times of Naledi, a woman who decides that, in spite of everything she has been through, enough is enough. We follow her journey to self-determination through heartbreaks, mental health issues, and societal constraints.

While the story reads like an empowering, snappy, almost coming-of-age-story, it also looks at deeply complex societal and cultural issues. Over the course of the story, we see as Naledi evolves from the woman who unwittingly accepts emotional mistreatment from her lovers, to the one who decides to put herself first. We also notice that her lovers, though central to the plot, are not afforded names, but are referred to as ‘My Someone then’ and / or ‘My Now No One’ – a subject that we brought up in our recent conversation with the author (transcript coming soon).

Zukiswa Wanner’s short story, ‘This Is Not Au Revoir‘ is a feminist story that packs a punch.

The liberation of female sexuality and the reclaiming of autonomy over the female body are closely examined in ‘This is Not Au Revoir‘, but Wanner also raises issues around racism within feminism, the relegation of Black women’s places and issues to the proverbial ‘back of the bus’, and the importance of the acknowledgement of the intersection of race and gender in the lives of African and Black women.

Furthermore, ‘This Is Not Au Revoir‘ looks at the issue of body shaming in contemporary societies, and how conversations about weight gain / weight loss impact the lives, bodies, and minds of members of society. While Naledi is the focal point of this particular plot, her story represents a reality that transcends the boundaries of gender confines, and casts a wider glance at the impact of societal expectations, body shaming, and fat-phobia on both men and women.

While the story reads like an empowering, snappy, almost coming-of-age-story, it also looks at deeply complex societal and cultural issues.

What makes this story so compelling, is not just Zukiswa Wanner’s creative flair and prosaic flow, but also the fact that it contributes a unique angle to the overall discourse about body image – an angle, which not only exposes the impact of fraught race relations on gender issues, but also the overlooking of Black African women’s bodies in global discourses.

‘This Is Not Au Revoir‘ exposes the detrimental impact of the often-predominant stereotype of the ‘strong Black’ woman, and the incredible danger this poses for African and Black women. It also raises the question about the treatment and reception of mental health issues within African communities, and the impact that the association of ‘mental health’ with ‘white people’ has on large swathes of African populations.

While Naledi is the focal point of this particular plot, her story represents a reality that transcends the boundaries of gender confines […]

Zukiswa Wanner’s short story contribution to the ‘New Daughters of Africa’ anthology is one of those memorable stories that demands to be read, re-read, and enjoyed multiple times, as it holds more than meets the eye the first time around. It’s an entertaining, witty, yet deeply pertinent and critical story about Africans in general, and African women in particular, written by one of Africa’s finest women writers.