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Throughout Nervous Conditions, the adult Tambu looks back
on her adolescence and her struggle to emerge into adulthood and formulate the
foundation on which her adult life would be built. There are essentially two
Tambus in the novel, and the narrator Tambu successfully generates tension
between them. Tambu is a crafty and feisty narrator. She explores her own
conflicted perceptions not only as a teenager but as an adult reexamining those
years, a dual perspective that gives the novel richness and complexity. Tambu
introduces herself to the reader harshly, proclaiming the fact that she is not
upset that her brother has died. As the presiding voice in the novel, she can
manipulate how she is represented and perceived, but under the tough exterior is
a hardworking girl who is eager to please and eager to advance herself. Her
self-portrayal, with its unflattering as well as praiseworthy elements,
represents the adult Tambu’s effort to convey the challenges faced by
impoverished yet talented women in central Africa in the 1970s. A figure of
those tumultuous and ever-changing times, Tambu emerges not as a flat and
one-dimensional symbol but ultimately as a fallible and triumphant human