Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa (Anglais) Broché – 5 janvier 2007
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Book I, which comprises half of the book, is seen through the eyes of a child and told in that voice. As such it is reminiscent of 'Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight' by Alexandra Fuller. Both authors grew up in the eastern highlands of Rhodesia, near Umtali and the Mozambique border. One is a boy's story, the other a girl's and the differences are largely stylistic. They were separated by about ten years and 'Dogs' focuses only on one family, with the bush war only in the background, whereas 'Mukiwa' gives a broader picture of life in the remote, often dangerous, areas of the country. A preschool boy accompanies his mother, a doctor, to various bush clinics where she is both GP and pathologist. Before long he can recognize not only dead bodies, but also malaria, TB, leprosy and other ailments. In this lonely place he forms close relationships with the various African staff and describes the harshness of their life there as well as the miseries of boarding school for a young child.
In Book II, the author's hopes dashed that he cannot leave the country to attend university because of the compulsory conscription policy, finds himself in the midst of a brutal guerrilla war. His job is made harder by his ambivalent feelings as he frequently sympathizes with the `terrorists'. He leaves finally only when defeat is conceded.
In Book III he returns to the country, now with a law degree from Cambridge. Joining a distinguished firm in the capital, he is put to work defending prominent, former `freedom fighters' of the Matabele tribe. The new Mugabe government, dominated by the Shona tribe, ignores the fact that the Matabele had fought alongside them to win the war and are now moving against them, re-establishing the age-old hatred and rivalry between the two groups. With a bitter-sweet outcome of the trial, the author decides to become a journalist with a London newspaper. In this capacity he is urged to investigate reports of genocide and acts of brutality in Matabeleland, again perpetrated by government forces. His reports are largely ignored by both the Zimbabwe government and the international community.
Published in 1996, the book naturally does not cover the more recent atrocities metered out by Robert Mugabe. It is disappointing that very few dates are given, so that the whole story sort of floats in an indistinct time. However, it is ever-absorbing, sometimes shocking and by the last part, a totally gripping tale. I even thought it would make a very good movie.
tactics that Mugabe and his hencemen are employing as I write this, in the current 2002 election campaign. Fraud is fraud, black or white, and Mr. Godwin illustrates this point so well.
Further, he exposes the good and bad of european rule, examines the concept of duty, and handles the affairs of his family with honor and love. This book is for all people, all races, all time.
And in the ultimate salute, Mr. Godwin is kind of person who I would love to share a pint with, and have a good chat up. Well done Sir.
One of the books many strengths is that it works on so many levels; as a story of Africa, of childhood, of colonialism and the end of Empire, as a war memoir and a study of inhumanity. The threads of each aspect wind around each other to produce a story as colourful, complex and mysterious as Africa itself.
The tales of Peter Godwin's childhood are by turns funny, poignant and suffused with the warmth of Africa and its people. By contrast, the description of the "war years" matches the very best writings on Viet Nam (David Donovan's execllent "Once a Warrior King" is an interesting counter-point from that war)and, without sensationalism or dramatisation, fully conveys the banality and brutality of "bush fire wars". The final, post-war, section is deeply moving and provides a gruelling illustration of ethnic conflict.
Although this is an important book with a powerful message, the author tells his story with a lightness of touch that never allows language to obstruct the narrative. I have not had the slighest hesitation in recommending "Mukiwa" to anyone, whether or not they are interested in Africa. There is much here to satisfy any reader but this outstanding book should be required reading for anyone who has ever been to Zimbabwe or ever plans to go there.
I have always wanted a book to give to my foreign friends and relatives, relating a true impression of Africa, and I'd recommend this book in a heartbeat. It gives such vivid impressions of life in Africa, I can hardly do them justice - you'll just have to read the book yourself. The only problem with the book is that it portrays much of the country as "mud-hut" territory, which it is not. The cities of Zimbabwe remain fairly up-to-date, with the ability of experiencing the wild side of the former Rhodesia. I don't recall if the book mentions it, but Peter Godwin's younger sister, Georgina, is a popular radio dj! Many facts such as this are so vividly familiar to my mind, that this book spelled out a great panoramic view of my country, and to anyone vaguely interested in Zimbabwe (formerly known as Southern Rhodesia), I strongly recommend this book - the parallels are amazingly accurate.