Nervous Conditions is a fictional book written by Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangerembga. This book was first published in United Kingdom in 1988. It was listed among BBC’s top 100 books that changed the world in 2018 and it won the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1989. The book was published by The Women’s Press and has 204 pages. Nervous Conditions is a semi-autobiographical novel which focuses on the story of a Shona family in Post-colonial Rhodesia during the 1960s. The book is the first of a proposed trilogy, with The Book of Not as the second novel in the series. The novel illustrates the dynamic themes of race, colonialism, and gender during the post-colonial conditions of present-day Zimbabwe. The book’s title is taken from the introduction by Jean-Paul Sartre to Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth.
Tambu (main character), Nyasha (Tambu’s first cousin), Babamukuru (Tambu’s uncle and head of her family), Maiguru (Nyasha’s mother), Chido (son of Babamukuru and Maiguru), Jeremiah (Babamukuru’s brother), Mainini (Tambu’s mother), Lucia (Mainini’s sister), and Nhamo(Tambu’s brother).
The novel opens up with the news that Tambu’s older brother, Nhamo, had just died. Tambu is not upset about this because Nhamo studied at a Missionary School away from home with his uncle Babamukuru and his family. The only thing she desired is education. She eventually replaced her brother at the Missionary School while living with her celebrated uncle Babamukuru. She forms a good bond with her cousin Nyasha and completely focuses on her studies.
Towards the end of the term, there is an exam administered at Tambu’s school. The exam is to test the students and offer them scholarships to proceed to a well known Missionary school. Tambu excels on the exam and is offered a scholarship to attend this well known school. She was introduced to many cultural changes in this school; however, she remains resistant to the changes. As always, she is fully focused on her studies. Consequently, she remains cautious of her daily situations and nervous of the conditions that surround her.