Wednesday, September 7, 2011

African reading ...

I've been reading a lot lately, mainly about Africa, Zimbabwe to be precise, in an effort to understand a bit more about where I come from and where my father came from. I guess it is partly to understand my father a little better, seeing as he is no longer around for me to ask questions. Also because some of the people described in these books remind of some of the people who came to my Dad's funeral - they all seem to have a certain look about them. In a review I read of one of these books, the reviewer intimated that the last thing the reading public needed was another white man's view of the situation in Zimbabwe but they did go on to say that the book in question did add something to the oeuvre. From my perspective these books did add something to my knowledge and understanding of my past and of the recent past of Zimbabwe. All three books resonate with a love of country and a bewilderment regarding the current state of affairs in Zimbabwe. The absurdity of day to day life in a corrupt third world country is highlighted as well.

The three main books I have read are:

The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe
by Douglas Rogers
It was funny and sad and absurd all at once and the tenacity of the author's parents is to be admired. Rogers now lives in New York, but was born and grew up in what is now Zimbabwe. From goodreads: "The Last Resort is an inspiring, coming-of-age tale about home, love, hope, responsibility, and redemption. An edgy, roller-coaster adventure, it is also a deeply moving story about how to survive a corrupt Third World dictatorship with a little innovation, humor, bribery, and brothel management."

Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness
by Alexandra Fuller
The author's brother was born in the same hospital I was born in, the Lady Chancellor Maternity Home in what was then Salisbury. Fuller now lives in Wyoming with her family. She tells a moving tale of her family's long engagement with Africa, from Kenya, to Zimbabwe to Zambia. She clearly loves her mother, despite her mother's complaints that she is going to put her in 'another awful book'. "A story of survival and madness, love and war, loyalty and forgiveness, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is an intimate exploration of the author's family. In the end we find Nicola and Tim at a coffee table under their Tree of Forgetfulness on the banana and fish farm where they plan to spend their final days." - goodreads.

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa
by Peter Godwin
Written by another Zimbabwean who lives in the US, Godwin is a bit older than the other two writers and actually served time in the Rhodesian army. The book starts with his father's heart attack which really resonated with me given my father's heart condition and his recent death from heart failure. Like the other two books this concentrates on the recent collapse of Zimbabwe following the start of the farm invasions and land grabs that ultimately resulted in the destruction of the economy and looks at how the author's friends and family cope in the aftermath of this. His sister ends up having to leave the country and his parents remain in Harare sinking slowly into a poverty stricken old age.

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