She savours her romantic experiences in the arms of an enigmatic, if somewhat eccentric genius and talented writer who captured the attention of literary critics at home and abroad in the early 80s.
But she also recalls how she loathed ever getting entangled in the world of this witty, tricky and complex character called Dambudzo Marechera.
Veit-Wild smiles when she retells how she would sneak into Marechera’s room using a backdoor late in the night or early in the morning to spend “quality time” with a young man who was to become an integral part of her life, even years after his death.
For the first time, Veit-Wild opened up on her romance with Marechera in an essay titled Me and Dambudzo published recently.
The German-based academic flew into Harare on Monday last week and The Standard caught up with her on Wednesday.
Her emotionally reflective essay reveals intricate personal details including the first night she made love to Marechera and how she discovered, after the controversial writer fell ill, that she was HIV-positive.
For more than two decades, researchers and academics sought to extract finer details of Veit-Wild’s relationship with Marechera to no avail. The question many may have asked after reading her essay was: Why is she opening up now?
“I was ready to open up at the end of 2010 when I finished writing the essay and handed it to publishers,” says Veit-Wild.
“Because of a lot of work on their hands the publishers told me in May last year that the essay would be published in March 2012.
“It was still a developing story. Of course it happened many years ago but I had to write this story. It is not only about my relationship with Dambudzo but something that had to do with my private life in general,” explained Veit-Wild.
“It is not easy to reveal such private issues like sexual relations and HIV status. It is something personal that one would not easily tell and it had to take long for me to reveal it.”
The only hint she gave about the timing was that she will be retiring from her university job in Berlin soon, which probably makes it proper for her to talk about her romance with Marechera without compromising her academic discussions about the writer.
Veit-Wild admits she owes what she has achieved academically to her close relationship with Marechera.
“I managed his estate until I left the country and handed over to his sister Florence Ndebele. There are now new editions to his books, House of Hunger and Black Sunlight.
Mindblast will be published for the first time outside Zimbabwe. We are still working on a number of Marechera projects.”
However, she concedes the 18 months she was in love with the late author were eventful.
“He had a rebellious spirit and many times I wondered why I had gone that far with him. I would at times swear that I would never see him again but I found myself looking for him after a few days. You know how it is with someone you love. I would miss him a few days after deciding to dump him.”
During their affair, Veit-Wild says she knew about some of Marechera’s girlfriends but did not mind because she felt he needed someone by his side when she was with him.
“He told me of how jealous the other girlfriends were when they learnt about our affair. He said I understood him better and when he died I was the only one with keys to his room and I feel it was a sign he trusted me more.”
Veit-Wild does not want to say much about Marechera’s many girlfriends and whether she thinks she got HIV from him.
“It does not matter who gave who (the virus). That also is not part of my story. Everything that I had to reveal about that relationship is in my essay. I do not want to say much besides what I have found proper to say.”
She said Marechera drank a lot as a way of escaping from the mental and physical insecurity that he always felt, yet the bottle many times turned him into a violent and unstable person.
“But he would always apologise for his behaviour the next morning and laugh at himself.”
Veit-Wild says she still dreams about Marechera. In her essay she noted that a few days after his death she would meet his violent character in her dreams but now he ‘comes’ with peace.
“I dreamt about him when I arrived in South Africa last week. I do not remember the details of the dream but he was not violent at all.”
My family is out of it
Veit-Wild refuses to discuss anything about her family and how they felt when she brought Marechera — her boyfriend — to the family house where she lived with her husband and children.
“My relationship with Dambudzo has nothing to do with my family. It is not part of my story and I cannot involve anyone else besides the two of us.”