“We are on our way to Budapest: Bastard and Chipo and Godknows and Sbho and Stina and me. We are going even though we are not allowed to cross Mzilikazi Road; even though Bastard is supposed to be watching his little sister Fraction, even though Mother would kill me dead if she found out; we are just going. There are guavas to steal in Budapest, and right now I’d rather die for guavas. We didn’t eat this morning and my stomach feels like somebody just took a shovel and dug everything out.”
Set in a shanty called Paradise, the irony of which is not lost on the reader, the story follows Darling, Bastard, Godknows with the peeking buttocks and the rest of the band through their childhood as they attempt to navigate the new life that they have after death and violence; as well as the big dreams they hold of finding better homes and building better lives in Dubai, America, and for Bastard, South Africa, because to him it is important “to be able to just get on the road and roll without talking to anyone; you have to be able to return from wherever you go.”
It sees them holding on to the abandon and joy that seems to be the exclusive property of children, even while fully aware of the ravages of their community. It is easy to step into Darling’s shoes and see clearly the situation of a people and their story of displacement told with such wit that the pain soon becomes a part of you.
“If you’re stealing something it’s better if it’s small and hideable or something you can eat quickly and be done with, like guavas. That way, people can’t see you with the thing to be reminded that you are a shameless thief and that you stole it from them, so I don’t know what the white people were trying to do in the first place, stealing not just a tiny piece but a whole country. Who can ever forget you stole something like that?”
Profound words like these are scattered throughout the book, showing up just when you get comfortable. With the sometimes shocking wisdom and clarity of childlike thoughts blended with simplicity of language, NoViolet’s ‘We Need New Names’ is a wonderfully original book; and with names like Bastard, Fraction and Mother of Bones, they really do need new names.