A Better Life Imagined in his Eyes

The Belly of the Atlantic
Fatou Diome, trans. Lulu Norman and Ros Schwartz
Serpent's Tail
2006

the_belly_of_the_atlanticFatou Diome’s The Belly of the Atlantic is a passionate story about the dream of migration and its harsh reality.  Told from the point of view of Strasbourg resident Salie, the novel nonetheless focuses mostly on her brother Madické.  Madické lives on  the Senegalese island Niodior and dreams of being headhunted to join a big European soccer team.  This dream is shared by many of his friends, persisting despite the warnings of Salie and the teacher Ndétare that neither the road to nor the life in Europe is as good as they believe. Continue reading

The Face of Jesus in my Soup

The Book of Memory
Petina Gappah
Faber & Faber
September 2015

the_book_of_memoryThe Book of Memory is Petina Gappah’s first novel, a tightly woven tale of privilege and prison, of Zimbabwe, and of course memory.  It is the fictional memoir of the convicted murderer, Memory.  She has been asked to write in service of a potential appeal against her death sentence.

Memory is an albino woman.  Sent away as a child from her home in one of Harare’s townships to live with a white man, Lloyd, she struggles to find a sense of belonging and of self.  She feels neither black nor white; her birth family has rejected her; and with her Cambridge education she is at great odds with her fellows in the Chikurubi Prison.  We see as she pieces together clues from her life, trying to work out how it arrived at this ugly point.  Of course she professes her innocence of the murder. Continue reading

I Miss The Rains Down In Africa

THE POISONWOOD BIBLE

Barbara Kingsolver (Harper, 1998) ISBN: 0-06-017540-0 the poisonwood bible

Ah, Africa.  Africa, Africa, Africa.  Having re-viewed Binyavanga Wainana’s How to Write About Africa (which I have tried linking to, but cannot make it work–sorry!), I’m somewhat more satisfied that The Poisonwood Bible at least doesn’t commit the most egregious of authorial crimes against the continent.  And being aware that the book was written more than 15 years ago, for a white American audience, I should perhaps try to be more forgiving.  Nonetheless, this novel seriously rubbed me the wrong way.  I wanted to like it.  I wanted to love it, because it had been recommended me so many times by people whose opinions I trust.  I felt certain I would love it.  What a bitter betrayal.

Continue reading

Lynx

ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN FOR LYNX DEODORANTlynx

At some point we seem to have accepted that, as peasants, if a bank or other large company imposes on us a penalty fee, for instance for paying a bill slower than they’d like, that as long as the company does it following the company’s own rules, we should find it fair for them to charge it. The historian of the future must see us as sufferers of Stockholm syndrome – as forlorn hostages who’ve somehow come to feel they owe something to their captors.

Have we forgotten how we got here? While you and Daisy ran hand-in-hand in the garden, ecstatic in the rain, they set about to laying claim to all the best flowerbeds and fencing them off. Now they charge you for the flowers and have convinced Daisy’s mother that if you don’t send seven a week, you don’t respect her. The Shamshiel they’ve posted at the gate doesn’t even have a flaming sword, just a valium of meaningless apologies. Continue reading

Poor Pluto

of_mice_and_menOF MICE AND MEN

Steinbeck, John (Covici Friede, 1937, ISBN (reprint) 9780749717100)

The educational films they showed us in middle school seemed all at least twenty-years old. On flickering projector film, scientists in brown suits took us on a tour of the body’s respiratory system while sanitised hipsters with pompadours showed us how to resist peer pressure. Crew-cutted schoolboys discovered the power of lunchroom manners while other sons and daughters of white hegemony learned how quiet helps at school. Deep-voiced fabulists sold us a version of the American legislative process with no pharmaceutical or energy lobbyists. Other narrators, whose measured delivery somehow conveyed the vastness of space, described the then nine planets of the solar system as the viewpoint swept out towards poor Pluto (of late expelled from the League of Planets for conduct unbefitting a solar planet). Continue reading

  • You might also like

    • The Lady from Zagreb

      THE LADY FROM ZAGREB Hachette Australia RRP $29.99 It’s 1942 and Bernie Gunther, the wisecracking, Nazi-loathing detective continues to survive and maintain a passing acquaintance with his self-respect. The novel follows our German gumshoe through Berlin, Yugoslavia, Switzerland and back again, becoming involved with espionage, psychopathic ex-priests, murderers and movie stars, all while falling … Continue reading