We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

EXTRACT: We Need New Names

An extract from NoViolet Bulawayo's Man Booker-shortlisted novel


Jesus Christ died on this day, which is why I have to be out here washing in cold water like this. I don’t like cold water and I don’t even like washing my whole body unless I have somewhere meaningful to go. After I finish and dress, me and Mother of Bones will head off to her church. She says it’s the least we can do because we are all dirty sinners and we are the ones for whom Jesus Christ gave his life, but what I know is that I myself wasn’t there when it all happened, so how can I be a sinner?

I don’t like going to church because I don’t really see why I have to sit in the hot sun on that mountain and listen to boring songs and meaningless prayers and strange verses when I could be doing important things with my friends. Plus, last time I went, that crazy Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mborro shook me and shook me until I vomited pink things. I thought I was going to die a real death. Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mborro was trying to get the spirit inside me out; they say I’m possessed because they say my grandfather isn’t properly buried because the white people killed him during the war for feeding and hiding the terrorists who were trying to get our country back because the white people had stolen it.

If you’re stealing something it’s better if it’s small and hideable or something you can eat quickly and be done with, like guavas. That way, people can’t see you with the thing to be reminded that you are a shameless thief and that you stole it from them, so I don’t know what the white people were trying to do in the first place, stealing not just a tiny piece but a whole country. Who can ever forget you stole something like that? Nobody knows where my grandfather’s body is, so now the church people say his spirit is inside me and won’t leave until his body’s buried right. The thing is I’ve never really seen or felt the spirit myself to say if it’s true or people are just lying, which is what adults will do sometimes because they are adults.

Extracted from We Need New Names, published by Chatto & Windus, R265. Read more here.



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