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Nervous Conditions

Characters

Tambu

Characters Tambu

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 presence.