Silence, the Unsaid and the Unsayable in Yvonne Vera’s <em>The Stone Virgins</em>


Silence, the Unsaid and the Unsayable in Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins


The primary aim of this article is to think through how silence can be considered as generating meaning in literary prose. For this purpose, the article focuses on Zimbabwean author Yvonne Vera’s last novel, The Stone Virgins (2002a), which has often been described as ‘breaking the silence’ about the genocidal violence remembered as Gukurahundi. As a secondary aim, the article sets out to rethink Vera’s idea and argues that rather than ‘breaking’ the silence, her novel explores different forms of silence, some of which are necessary for healing and regeneration. However, silence is not just a theme or motif in the novel: Vera also uses silence in her own writing to generate new meaning. Using an essay by Elleke Boehmer as a point of departure, this article proposes a conceptualisation of silence through two terms: the unsayable and the unsaid, where the former refers to meaning that is suppressed and the latter to that which has not yet been said. It argues that the novel presents a poetics that aligns with its theme of meaning, generative silence, which uses opaque and imprecise syntax and referentiality in a way that maximises the possibility of the unsaid to be said.

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