§ion=&combo2=&text1=&text2=&SocNetUsername=&SocNetPassword=&authCode=& 7th Decade Thoughts: Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

7th Decade Thoughts

Thoughts about books, politics and history (personal and otherwise), pictures I've taken and pictures I've edited.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

Years ago I read Mukiwa by Peter Godwin, about growing up in Rhodesia as it became Zimbabwe and expected something similar from this book. But Alexandra Fuller’s book is nothing like Godwin’s in that while he writes a sensitive, fair-minded memoir of a white family who wanted to support the country even after majority rule, Fuller’s book recreates a Rhodesian childhood, maybe a decade later, in starker terms. She writes exactly what she experienced, warts and all, without even a nod in retrospect to “political correctness”. Alexandra, or “Bobo” as she was called as a child (after the baboons), was actually born in England, between her parents’ sojourns in Africa, moving to Rhodesia when she was a toddler and growing up a patriotic white Rhodesian, through wars and insurgencies when white Rhodesians were fighting for their lives and their land and school children learned how to react to terrorists in order to survive as well as how to deal with gunshot wounds and indeed how to fire guns. When the war was lost, the family farm was sold off to Africans and they moved, first further south in Rhodesia, then to Malawi and finally to Zambia.

Life was always hard. Electricity was spotty and both excessive rain and drought were problems. Her mother was often drunk and depressed—and then manic (in later life she was diagnosed as manic depressive). Three children died, one in a drowning accident when the children were staying with a neighbor and Fuller felt responsible. Fuller and her older sister Vanessa survived despite malaria and dehydration to say nothing of various disease-carrying insects, spiders, scorpions, and the monitor lizards which could be 6 feet long. Her mother once shot a spitting cobra in the kitchen with an Uzi on automatic. There were always lots of dogs, usually horses (her mother was a superb horsewoman), and various other “pets” including a wounded owl who had to be fed dead rats and mice purchased from the African children on the farm.

The writing is stark and immediate, unmediated by later understanding. The weather. The wild life. The African employees who were not always loyal. The dictators. The poverty and waste and violence and injustice. Her love for Africa shines through it all, even as part of you is thinking what a horror of a life for a child.


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