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Butterfly Burning Paperback – Sep 2000

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (Sept. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374291861
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374291860
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 0.9 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 436,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

"Butterfly Burning" brings the brilliantly poetic voice of Zimbabwean writer Yvonne Vera to American readers for the first time. Set in Makokoba, a black township, in the late l940s, the novel is an intensely bittersweet love story. When Fumbatha, a construction worker, meets the much younger Phephelaphi, he"wants her like the land beneath his feet from which birth had severed him." He in turn fills her "with hope larger than memory." But Phephelaphi is not satisfied with their "one-room" love alone. The qualities that drew Fumbatha to her, her sense of independence and freedom, end up separating them. And the closely woven fabric of township life, where everyone knows everyone else, has a mesh too tight and too intricate to allow her to escape her circumstances on her own. Vera exploits language to peel away the skin of public and private lives. In "Butterfly Burning "she captures the ebullience and the bitterness of township life, as well as the strength and courage of her unforgettable heroine.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Yvonne Vera's poetic fiction, blossoms in this brilliant novel about a woman caught in the pause of development in a 1940s Bulawayo Township: Makakoba. Phephelaphi is about to be the first black nurse admitted on to a training course, but at the same time she falls in love. Vera fills this account with the pain and the solitude of decision making in an environment suffused not only with politics and appartheid but with the seductive and ebullient township music: Kwela. Vera really re-defines the African novel in this inspiring but harrowing story of how to define and claim your life in the midst of hardship and great love.
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Format: Paperback
A beautifully written book about colonialism and the alienating influence it has on people who lose touch with their roots as they try to adapt to the changing times. I enjoyed this rich, challenging and fascinating story. The Usurper and Other Stories, The Village of waiting, Anthills of the Savannah, Triple Agent Double Cross are some of the other African titles I enjoyed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9892ca38) out of 5 stars 9 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x989bd498) out of 5 stars POWERFUL WRITING THAT SPEAKS TO THE UNIVERSAL HEART 8 July 2003
By Larry L. Looney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Yvonne Vera's talent is amazing - she is gifted with the ability to relate stories set in her native Zimbabwe with stunning literary grace and beauty, opening the lives of her characters to the readers' eyes and hearts, laying bare the lovely and depraved and everything in between. That she does all of this and additionally illuminates and brings forth the universal aspects in each and every instance bears witness to the fact that, while she may be an African writer, writing about African people and events, she deserves to be recognized, admired and honored by the world at large - and the world at large owes it to itself to discover her talents.
BUTTERFLY BURNING is set in a Rhodesian township in the late 1940s - long before Independence from British rule. The black citizens (who, in reality, weren't recognized as citizens in their own country) were reviled by most of the whites, looked upon as a source of cheap labor and criminal activity. They weren't even allowed to walk on the sidewalks with the 'imported' white citizens. The heroine of Vera's novel is a young woman named Phephelaphi - orphaned as a young girl and raised by a close friend of her mother, she is filled with a burning need to always become more, to see her life expand without limits. This longing became widespread in the hearts of women in the West many years later with the rise of feminism - women sick of being relegated to cooking and cleaning, aching for more of an education and more of a chance to find their place in the world. Phephelaphi's yearnings lead her ever forward - emotionally, socially, and with respect to a potential career. When her path crosses with that of Fumbatha - an older man with a kind heart and a bruised and battered past (as many in Rhodesia were) - she finds love and security, and, for a while, satisfaction and fulfillment. With all of the love he can offer her, however, Fumbatha cannot fulfill all of Phephelaphi's needs - and her search to meet these needs brings her both joy and sorrow. The joys she experiences will raise your heart to the heavens - and her sorrows will break it.
As in her newest novel, THE STONE VIRGINS, Vera breathes palpable life into her characters - they are immediately acceptable and accessible to the reader. The physical settings - both the natural world and the world of the township and city - spring to life as well through the careful brush-strokes of the author's words. All of it blends together into a style that entertains on one level, certainly - but this writing will affect the reader on many, many levels. There is a depth and beauty here - and a natural grace - that is a rare thing in writing. Vera's novels are short (two of them, WITHOUT A NAME and UNDER THE TONGUE, are contained in one volume), but don't be deceived - once begun, they expand exponentially, and they will resonate within you for years to come.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x989bd4ec) out of 5 stars An Exquisite Find 7 Feb. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I found this book while browsing my local library shelves.
The story of a young woman's longing for selfhood in an Arfrican township during the 1940's speaks volumes to all of us who have felt, at one time or another, trapped in the seeming bleakness of our surroundings.
The writing is startlingly beautiful in its imagery, rich and full of bittersweetness like chocolate. The words come in floods and tides, you are literally overwhelmed by her words. They, alone, give their own experience.
The story of Phephelaphi is visceral: you do not merely read about her life, but feel it through her pain. Vera writes with the African closeness to nature and being; it is not an easy read, but one that will stay with you long after the last page is turned.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x989bd6c0) out of 5 stars Not your average novel, but poetry 14 July 2003
By Tammi L. Coles - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Booker Tea Reading Group (Wash., D.C.) read this title for our June discussion. While all of us agreed that Vera was a powerful and skilled writer, many also concluded that her writing style was so dense and poetry-like that it made it a challenge to read. This is not a put-down-pick-up-where-you-left-off book. The book does not have a plot. Rather, you are painted a picture of Southern Rhodesia that is both brutal and compelling for the reader and the characters drawn by Vera. The author gives space to the love story in glimpses between images of racial violence, back-breaking labor, rootless children, lost women and desperate men. Some scenes were so vivid it made me wriggle about in discomfort. We recently read "Austerlitz" by Sebald. If you were a patient enough reader for that, and enjoyed it, you'll like Vera. Also reminiscent of the beautiful and complex works of Toni Morrison.
HASH(0x989bdcf0) out of 5 stars Beautiful work 1 Dec. 2014
By Eliza Salmon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
If your life is lacking a source of beauty, movement, dream, song or even a welling up of tears, this novel can be of assistance. The way in which Vera weaves together moments and histories, love and sorrow, emotion into word... creates an incredible reading experience. The beauty of her verse creates a rythym carried throughout the work, creating a rare form of communication that reveals pain in an unbelievable way.

At the beginning of chapter 3, we are led through the sensation of longing, which exemplifies Vera’s craft:

“She could not stop longing even though she heard the water lapping against the edges, against the rim, as though she was some kind of river and there were things like flooding which take place inside her body. It was full desire because she liked the lapping on the rim and the liquid falling down her arms, falling, down to her knees” (75 - 76).

This character speaks to any audience who is searching for more, but unfortunately this novel is no fairytale. The African township is the backdrop to the walls and darkness that slowly encase Phelphelaphi, the lead character.

References to the earth and the elements form a theme, which is posited among humans just as they live within them. From sandy soil covering skin to bodies above or below the earth, surrounded by heat or cold, the environment acts as a reminder for us humans that we exist in a finite time here, yet we are pulled by so much.

This is a read for your bedside table, your metro seat, or your lunch break. At any point that I wanted to be reminded of the craft of writing, that there are different ways to view existence, or that there are billions of stories to be told on this planet, I just opened the pages of Butterfly Burning.
HASH(0x989bdd14) out of 5 stars An Exquisite Find 7 Feb. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I found this book while browsing my local library shelves.
The story of a young woman's longing for selfhood in an Arfrican township during the 1940's speaks volumes to all of us who have felt, at one time or another, trapped in the seeming bleakness of our surroundings.
The writing is startlingly beautiful in its imagery, rich and full of bittersweetness like chocolate. The words come in floods and tides, you are literally overwhelmed by her words. They, alone, give their own experience.
The story of Phephelaphi is visceral: you do not merely read about her life, but feel it through her pain. Vera writes with the African closeness to nature and being; it is not an easy read, but one that will stay with you long after the last page is turned.
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