I finished a book late last night that I got out of Canterbury library when I was looking for guidebooks to Cape Town. It's the story of a woman who has grown up in Rhodesia who hitches up with an ex-Rhodesian fighter (from the notorious RFI - Rhodesian Light Infantry) to re-visit places in the bush - they call it the shateen - where he tracked and fought and killed/scribbled/slotted liberation fighters back in the 1970s.
It's a story about how the very dirty wars to preserve Rhodesia and apartheid wrecked countless lives and how the war and its aftermath got logded deep inside the souls of its white participants and supporters leaving no room for escape or forgiveness. It is brutal (although not needlessly) and pared down - the Portuguese are 'Porks' and the ex-fighters - 'Chinas' - they meet are all 'benzi' - mad. I wondered if I would finish it but I'm glad I have. The blurbs on the back say that it is funny but I didn't get that.
They wander across Southern Africa, with a jeepful of jerry cans of petrol, from Zambia into Zimbabwe and then into Mozambique, she looking for a story and he looking for salvation and release from the nightmares and the terrible things he has done.
It is an edgy and very honest look at the shattered remains of white dominance and the mindset of the settler class as it tries to hang on to it's fiercely independent small-farmer roots in a rapidly changing Southern Africa. It's by Alexandra Fuller and it's called Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier.
There is also a great glossary of Afrikaans, Shona, Zulu and slang at the back. She's also written an account of growing up in war-torn Rhodesia called Don't lets go to the dogs tonight: An African Childhood.
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