Tuesday, June 11, 2002, 2:33 pm, Vancouver, BC
I finished reading Kuki Gallmann’s Night of the Lions, a fairly good book that induced a very large desire to be in Kenya again. From it:
Africa is a continent of extremes.
There is an Africa of tragedy and famine, of corruption and war, of blood and hunger and tears, of incurable disease and tribal clashes and political unrest. There are droughts and there are floods. There are crowded cities, glue-sniffing street children, child-prostitutes, bidonvilles where open sewage carries the lurid refuse of a hopeless conglomerate of people with no jobs, no homes, no future, roads littered with potholes and garbage heaps where skinny goats forage.
It is the Africa one reads about today in every paper, the one we daily see in reports on cable television. It is a captive Africa, dependent on the blackmail of foreign aid, constantly judged, constantly criticized and never understood. Here the rich West has imprinted its competitive, frantic image, created alien needs, imposed alien philosophies and financed impossible schemes, unsuited to the true spirit and potential of this troubled and fantastic continent, all too ready to take back that help and it in judgement of yet another failure….
There is a different side to this ancient land. It is the Africa that, since the beginning of time, has evoked in travellers a deep recognition, an inexplicable yearning to return. The place which still has what most of the world has lost. Space. Roots. Traditions. Stunning beauty. True wilderness. Rare animals. Extraordinary people. The land that will attract those who can still dream. (pp. 1-2)
In my small experience of that part of the world, these words describe the truth; the answer is in Africa, and to know reality one must keep its dream.
The book succeeds because it tells the stories of people; of people one has not met but would want to know. This is writing that is very difficult to achieve, for it is easy to leave within it one’s own effusions, one’s own misfortunes more than one’s luck, and the world, remarkable thing that it is, is impossible to describe, and so suggestion is our recourse. Difficult; very difficult.