The Tony-Jane chronicles at the beginning of Scrapiron Blues are a kind of Marecheran joke. Whereas the writing in Scrapiron Blues is not quite shamanistic — which would involve, as in previous Marechera writings, the writer trying to change the course of history by acting as cultural and historical mediator, the stories in this book are certainly animistic. Animist thinking is related to shamanism in its approach of giving a human face and meaning to nonhuman entities or nonhuman objects. According to an article on “Recovered Animism” [Medical Hypotheses (2007) 68, 727–731], animist ways of thinking avoid the alienation that is necessarily a part of more advanced, rational society.
The humour of the Tony-Jane chronicles is entailed in the author’s recognition that the kind of suburban lifestyle that Tony and Jane are living is divorced from the pulsating forces of animistic vitalism that surround them. It should not have to be said that Marechera disapproved of such a normative lifestyle. Hence he sees that Tony is castrated by his lifestyle even in his aspirations to be a writer. In fact it is the wall that makes lascivious love to Jane whilst Tony is oblivious.
“Had the walls lips and tongue they would have kissed her all over and licked her juicily. She looks like that. [...]She likes her eggs soft, with just the edge of the white slightly crispy. It feels like the walls like them that way too.” ( p 9)
To Marechera, the suburban lifestyle chosen by Tony-Jane characters everywhere involves an embrace of psychological and social stasis. Jane — a schoolteacher but actually a woman who embraces the reality and necessity of trauma and war and one who believes in the power of fantasy is able to see the castration involved in this, although Tony does not see it and believes he is merely being mocked. Jane is having an affair withe the author ( p 17) — someone who is not so castrated into civil life and conformity as is Tony. Marechera’s point is that such a lifestyle it does not even equip its adherents to do more than have the illusion that they are keeping trauma at bay. Thus, the motif of Tony’s washing of the walls — the blood on the walls representing the traumas accumulated through historical process.
“Tony is trying to wash all the blood from the inside walls of his flat in Montague. He uses a stiff brush, soap and a bucket of water.” ( p 5)
“He is trying to wash the walls. It is hard work trying to wash invisible blood from perfectly clean walls, Jane thinks.” ( p 6)
“Tony, scrubbing loyally away at the blood and gore of history, is covered from neck to foot by his blue tracksuit.” ( p 6)
“In the bedroom Tony is running on the spot. He needs exercise to have the muscles to wash the walls. He likes running on the spot. It somehow represents the purpose of life. It is shomehow the answer to the overwhelming riddle looming in each individual’s life. Running on one single spot.” ( p 9)
–(And in relation to Tony’s working for the Man — a condition of extreme alienation, in Marechera’s books): “The Man reads the draft. The Man nods. The Man gives Tony an envelope. The Man departs. With a strangled sigh of relief Tony turns around. The Gory details of the walls hit him. He clutches his chest.” ( p 10)
“You’re making it out like I am an idiot. An imbecile armed with stiff brush, soap and a bucket of water.” His stutter had come out. I had not noticed it before. That was interesting. It would perhaps bring in a Freudian significance.
“What’s wrong with washing walls, Tony?”
“There’s no point to it!”
“Three points, in fact. Clarity, cleanliness, conscience,” I pointed out.
“He clenched his pitiful feminine fists. “The point is you know that I am a serious writer. A poet.” ( p 16).
(Finally — a total Orwellian assimilation without conscience):
“Tony has bought a house in Brightwood, a quiet suburb on the outskirts of Harare. he has also bought a car. Gone are the days of the tracksuit, the golfing cap and the tragic washing of the walls. Tony is now something in the Ministry of Information. He still doesn’t know exactly what but he has an office, a telephone, a secretary and several big ideas.” ( p 26)