Q&A: Words on the Times – Lizzy Attree

AiW note: Earlier this week we published Lizzy Attrees’s review of They Called You Dambudzo: A Memoir by Flora Veit-Wild (2021, Jacana Media). At the book’s centre is the double heartbeat of Veit-Wild’s relationship with the late Zimbabwean writer, Dambudzo Marechera. You can read Attree’s review here.Dambudzo

“The issues of entanglement, which many academics who come from Europe to study “Africa” will recognize, go beyond the usual ethical issues around “native informants”, “eurocentric criticism”, and insider-outside dichotomies. Veit-Wild goes to great pains to show us that Dambudzo was loved not just by herself, but by her whole family, her husband and her children, who accepted him into their lives with great generosity.” – Lizzy Attree, AiW.

Jacana Media is hosting the South African launch of Veit-Wild’s book today – Thursday 25th Feb, 2021: 6pm SAST/ 4pm GMT – with a panel conversation about “the art of intimate biography” between Veit-Wild, writer, Marechera scholar and new member of the AiW team, Tinashe Mushakavanhu, and Shaun Viljoen, literary academic and author of Richard Rive: A Partial Biography (2013). See below for details of how to register.

Ahead of the panel today, as well as Attree’s review, you can catch up with our Words on the Times mini-series around the launch of Veit-Wild’s They Called You Dambudzo.  Words on the Times is an AiW Q&A series inspired by the spirit of community and resilience, intended to connect the blog’s communities through their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Yesterday, Tinashe Mushakavanhu – who has researched and written on Marechera extensively – shared his Words with us.
  • And following Attree’s review, we are delighted to offer her Words on the Times today … (details of how to register for the launch are at the foot).


AiW: Could you tell us a bit about your work and the ways that the pandemic has affected your plans?

Lizzy Attree: I’ve been working from home for Blake Friedmann and have been furloughed a few times, which has worked out well, but my university teaching has disruption+collagebeen on hold during the COVID-19 outbreak due to lack of students (Richmond is an American university so it relies on students travelling to the UK to study. While the student numbers have fallen, optional liberal arts courses like mine have been dropped from the syllabus temporarily). I hope this will change by the autumn as I really miss teaching. The Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize was suspended last year, but has recently re-opened for 2021 submissions and the Short Story Day Africa ‘Disruption’ Prize has been delayed (ironically) by Covid too. However, during the delay we were able to secure a US publisher, Catalyst Press, for the ‘Disruption’ collection of longlisted stories, so this has been a bonus.  Fundraising has been more difficult during the pandemic and members of the SSDA team have been affected by the virus directly too which has been really difficult on a personal level. I try to remember this when I want to complain about not being able to travel. I flew to Nairobi just before the UK lockdown in February 2020 and really miss the ‘real life’ connections and excitement of travel. 

In what ways are you working now that you weren’t before?

Well today I am under my duvet typing on my laptop as the snow falls outside!  I think I am working more flexibly and with broadband wi-fi things aren’t too difficult.  I’ve been able to do a bit more writing in the last year, which has been rewarding and I have been lucky to have my children in school as their father is a key-worker. I run three times a week, now that I’m not commuting to work, and probably eat slightly less biscuits…

What have you found most supportive and/or heart lifting in this time?


Lizzy’s cat

My cat! Zoom (finally video conferencing tech for all) and staying in touch with friends on WhatsApp groups, as well as the endless memes on twitter (four seasons total landscaping especially). The American election was exciting and uplifting, particularly because America will re-join the Paris Climate Agreement. And Call My Agent on Netflix was such a heart-warming gem, I think my French may actually have improved. I wouldn’t have survived without books and tv.

How can our blog communities support you?

Mainly by supporting the projects I work on. Short Story Day Africa really needs a boost funding wise, so any reviews or connections that can be made through the blogging community would be a great help. You can also donate directly to Short Story Day Africa https://shortstorydayafrica.org/donate or buy one of the anthologies https://shortstorydayafrica.org/books As a non-profit organisation SSDA relies on donations from readers and businesses. Publishing, especially on the African continent, is difficult at the best of times, so any help we can get is much appreciated. The Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize is looking for support too, particularly with translation, and wider support for books in translation would be most welcome.


Lizzy GlassesLizzy Attree teaches World Literature and Contemporary London Literature at Richmond, the American International University in London and works part-time at Blake Friedmann Literary Agency.  She is the co-founder of the Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize, the UK director of Short Story Day Africa and sits on the board of Wasafiri magazine. She was the Director of the Caine Prize from 2014-2018. She is the Producer of ‘Thinking Outside the Penalty Box’ (an African Footballers project funded by Arts Council England and supported by the Poetry Society) and a freelance writer, reviewer and critic.


Register for the launch of They Called You Dambudzo, The Art of Intimate Biography – 25 Feb, 6pm SAST/ 4pm GMT – crowdcast.io/e/they-called-.

And get Attree’s insights in her review of the book for us in full at this link.

Tinashe Mushakavanhu’s Words on the Times are here – and for more in the series from our blog friends and communities, check out the entire blog category.


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