Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2020. Tsitsi Dangarembga’s searing novel about the obstacles faced by the women of Zimbabwe asks one question: where do lives go when all hope has departed?

This Mournable Body continues the story of Tambudzai, the protagonist of Tsitsi Dangarembga’s acclaimed first novel, Nervous Conditions. After leaving a dead-end job, Tambudzai finds herself living in a run-down youth hostel in downtown Harare. At every turn, she is faced with a fresh humiliation. As a last resort, she takes an ecotourism job that takes her back to her parents’ impoverished homestead. A homecoming that culminates in an act of betrayal…

The 2020 Booker Prize
Published by
Faber & Faber
Publication date

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Tsitsi Dangarembga

Tsitsi Dangarembga

About the Author

Tsitsi Dangarembga is a Zimbabwean novelist. She is the author of Nervous Conditions, This Book of Not and This Mournable Body.
More about Tsitsi Dangarembga

Tsitsi Dangarembga on This Mournable Body

‘I’m elated at being longlisted for the Booker. I haven’t been longlisted for many prizes in my writing career and so this longlisting is a vindication of the hours and decades I’ve put into trying to be a good writer, one who has something meaningful to say for readers, that is also important to me and says it convincingly. It’s a relief finally to enjoy this kind of recognition.

‘This might sound odd, but the main challenge in writing the second sequel to Nervous Conditions was writing it. The characters and the general world were with me the whole time, but I had to find the head space to sit down and do it, while trying to earn a living with the arts NGO I set up, fundraise for my productions and bringing up my three children in the challenging environment that Zimbabwe is in a country where there is practically no literary community and books are difficult to come by. I also had to deal with the disappointment and horror at the slow implosion that’s taken place in Zimbabwe over the last couple of decades before I could write about it.’

Read the full interview here.

The characters and the general world were with me the whole time, but I had to find the head space to sit down and do it

What the judges said

This Mournable Body drew an immediate reaction like a sharp intake of breath from all of us on the panel. The breakdown of the protagonist and the breakdown of a country are inextricably linked in this arresting novel from a mercurial writer.’

What the critics said

Fungai Tichawangana, Chicago Tribune

This Mournable Body is a harrowing psychological journey. Dangarembga does not give her heroine any easy escapes. Like the period of Zimbabwe’s history this story is set in, the pain, false hopes and dashed enthusiasms come in large doses, and victory lies at the end of a very long road.’

K.L. Romo, Washington Independent Review of Books

This Mournable Body is a tale of desperation and hopelessness which filled me with a hollow sadness, a book that made me stop and consciously appreciate living in a country that offers security, education, and the never-ending hope for a better life.’

David Varno, StarTribune

This Mournable Body, which found its title from the Teju Cole essay “Unmournable Bodies,” is the final novel in a trilogy that follows Tambudzai (or Tambu) from girlhood to middle age. It is a staggering achievement, ambitious yet compulsively readable, a novel that feels like the culmination of 30 years of work and self-exploration even as it repeatedly shows how a life will always be a work in progress.’

Daily Trust

This Mournable Body is a sublime reckoning with the young, sparkling Tambu of Nervous Conditions by her wry, adult self, and by a young postcolonial nation with the betrayal of its convictions. Betrayal acts in the novel as a revolving prism. It is through distancing herself into the second person that Tambu allows her language to betray her, in this way letting us, and herself, into those places that are tender to touch. Three decades on, Dangarembga has written another classic.’

Vivek Tejuja, Verve Magazine

This Mournable Body gets you to see a different culture and at the same time realise that things don’t change for women anywhere – there’s the same old patriarchy, alienation, discouragement, the crushing pain, and some redemption – if they’re lucky. It wrings your neck and demands your attention, forcing you to see the world for what it is. The writing is so nuanced, however, that it borders on becoming too meta. Read the book, though. It is deeply evocative and grips you from the very first word.’

This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga

Sara Collins on Tsitsi Dangarembga's This Mournable Body

Actor Thandiwe Newton reads from This Mournable Body


Actor Thandiwe Newton performs a reading from 2020 Booker Prize-shortlisted author Tsitsi Dangarembga’s book, This Mournable Body.

This was originally streamed during The Booker Prize 2020 winner ceremony.

This Mournable Body