Short Story #26. Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals (Yvonne Vera)

Deal Me In Reading Challenge: I drew the three of clubs.

Story: Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals, by Yvonne Vera (in The Granta Book of the African Short Story)  [Read in July; re-read and reviewed in October]

Comments: The online articles which top the list in a Google search for Yvonne Vera will tell you that she is renowned for her strong female characters – but this story features two men.  One is a carver, the other a painter, and they both sit and work outside an Africans-only hospital (in Vera’s native Zimbabwe, formerly Southern Rhodesia), producing cheap items to sell to those going in and out.  The carver carves elephants and giraffes, “bringing the jungle to the city”.  A central part of the story involves a somewhat philosophical discussion about the competition between the elephant and the giraffe for the highest leaves on the trees, which the giraffe accesses by his long neck and the elephant by his strength and long tusks.  The animals which the carver makes are lifeless, and he knows it.  He has never seen in reality the animals that he carves.  The painter’s work, on the other hand, is full of life, as he adds details of a couple eating ice-cream to a picture of the Victoria Falls – though he too has never seen the Falls in reality.

So – talent and attitude are what bring vibrancy, more than experience or opportunity (or the lack of it)?  Perhaps this is one theme in this story?  This could also be behind the giraffe /elephant competition-for-highest-leaves theme, though most commentators seem to relate it only to the politics of Zimbabwe at the time.

Yvonne Vera died in 2005 at the age of 40.  Her mother subsequently wrote her biography, which would surely be an interesting read: http://www.mazwi.net/reviews/mother-writes-yvonne-veras-biography

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One thought on “Short Story #26. Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals (Yvonne Vera)

  1. I like your take on this story that talent or attitude may count more than actual experience. Interesting to ponder to what degree that might be true.

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