“Two thousand comrades. Until she was fourteen she had never heard the word ‘comrade’, but now it was everywhere in her life. She remembered clearly the day when she first heard it. A still, bright, sunny day. Her village was quiet and there was a heat haze over the field. (…) Her mother and Kundiso were at one end of the field, talking, hoeing. Nyanye was at the other end. She stretched and looked up into the sky, shading her eyes with her hand. Two big brown birds flew above her. Eagles. Circling, then going away, coming back, circling, going, coming.”
Zimbabwe, guerrila war, late 1970s.
Three women, Susan, Beth and Nyanye, of European and African origins, are caught in a maze of violence, insecurity and loss. Although they have very different backgrounds and lead very different lives, their experiences intertwine and reveal similar paths and very similar suffering caused by human savagery.
Kay Powell tackles a complex and controversial topic because women’s experience of war (rape, torture, pregnancies, childbirth) is less documented in history and literature. As the writer says, “for women, war means loss, fear, waiting, displacement, the destruction of homes, the burden of protecting children and the elderly and feeding them – there are no compensations.” Besides constituting the background of the narrative, war is also almost constructed as a character because it is nuanced, complex and has a universal dimension ; one of the core ideas of the book is that both conflicting parts of the war are equally violent when it comes to human damage.
Then a Wind Blew is a beautiful narrative written in a sober and structured style. Based on true facts, deep reserach work and personal experience, Kay Powell’s writing is a very promising first novel in the line of Doris Lessing’s legacy of writing on Zimbabwe.
Then a Wind Blew by Kay Powell
978-1-77922 / Weaver Press (2021)
Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She has a PhD in Nigerian postcolonial literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She is also the author of a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. Trilingual in Romanian, French and English, she teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.