“Departures. They give birth to waiting”

I have just finished reading Njabulo Ndebele’s The Cry of Winnie Mandela.  An outstanding book!  It portrays the life of four women, who like Odysseus’ Penelope, endured long periods of waiting for their husbands to return home. I’m waiting a while before I attempt a review of the book.  But here is a paragraph from the book:

Departures!  They give birth to waiting.  In that indeterminate space of waiting, women live through unending spells of anxiety, loneliness, longing, wishing, desiring, hoping, doubting.  Day-to-day life becomes an effort of continuance: endurance without consolation. Waiting. Sitting at the edge of a bed after a bath in the evening.  Alone in the bedroom. Waiting…  In these moments, a woman feels so vitally in the presence of her body.  Feeling clean without the promise of joy.  This is it.  One of the many definitive moments of waiting.  Moments of intimacy defined by cravings without definition.  Where is he?  When will it end?  This waiting.  This unending sensation of uncertainty.  This love increasingly without object….

Is there a point at which the hope-for-return begins to be dreaded?  When endurance becomes its own end, with nothing beyond it, when a woman caught in waiting no longer requires the return of a companion who departed so long ago he has become a memory that no longer evokes passion?  Or when passion, experienced as something a woman ought to feel for an absent husband, is evoked by guilt, only to die out immediately?  When the drift of a life-in-waiting has created numerous diversions of its own?… Why should a man gone for so long ever return?  Why shouldn’t a woman-in-waiting begin to make permanent plans, without her man?

Should she make permanent plans? Or should she continue to wait?



  1. I’m looking forward to reading the review. The quote you provided seems quite powerful and I can only start to imagine what waiting for a husband to return for so long would feel like.


  2. this sounds great ,like amy look forward to full review ,this subject has made great books little women ,cold mountain ,march all similar about the wait and what might of change


  3. Oooh looking forward to the full review, though the book is already on my wish list now. Such a great sentiment in that quote, I can only expect that being alone and waiting for so long you would end up going on with your life. When the husband returned things would be quite different.


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