Sunday, January 12, 2014

Books on Rhodesia/Zimbabwe

2013 in Review and Blogging Suggestions | Clarissa's Blog

So far as I am concerned there are two camps of writers in the world.  I am oversimplifying a little but I think this helps to clarify what seems to happen.  There are those who write from the perspective of the assumption that identities are good, that they are consistent and morally defined in almost an apriori way.  One has ideals, which may be disappointed, but one battles through.  Then there are those who write as if they don't know what their identities are; they feel themselves to be just an open eye looking out onto the world.  This affords them a very wide perspective on ethical and political issues.

I find it very hard to read books from the perspective of those who have a closed identity, because they alienate me politically.   I see what they are saying, and yes, lives are tough and the world is harsh, and people are manipulative and awful and do the wrong thing.  But I also feel that my own life has been in many ways unnecessarly tough and manipulated.  So I can't produce the reaction that may be expected -- that colonials are/were evil and non-settlers automatically authentic or good.

I think the better writers avoid making us think in overly simplistic terms.  Their writing is harder to read, certainly more painful, but it's more real.  If I want to know how it felt to be on the other side of the war, growing up, I read Marechera's HOUSE OF HUNGER.  Self-righteous people disparage the writer for his madness and his wildness, but the truth is they want a docile, Christian nigger whom they can poke and prod at:  "show us your wounds!"

Marechera, rather, makes you feel his wounds, as does the writer of WHITE MAN, BLACK WAR.  This gets beyond the narrow moralizing tendency that satisfies superficial people as it bolsters their sense of identity and so gives them something cheap at the writer's expense.

If you want to know what the war meant for the people in it, you would do well to try to understand these more complicated writers.  But this is exactly what Ango-Saxon readers do not want to do, as it spoils their nice view of there being good and evil in the world, along lines of well-delineated identities.

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