Archive for July 15th, 2008

July 15, 2008

Africa Reading Challenge Review V: ‘Getting Rid of It’

Ten countries I want to visit before I die:

  1. Equatorial Guinea
  2. Mongolia
  3. Iceland
  4. Burkina Faso
  5. Belarus
  6. Bhutan
  7. Bolivia
  8. Tonga
  9. Haiti
  10. Mauritius

I was delighted when last week I found a work of fiction based in Mauritius lying on the shelves of The Bookend.  For me, Mauritius is an exotic and magical place.  It is a place where the beauty is as real as the poverty and where time and elements are in constant upheaval.  I know it is a romanticized view of the country, but still, it is the place of my dreams.


  • Getting Rid of It by Lindsey Collen
  • Paperback: 215 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; New Ed edition (13 Aug 1998 )


A few years ago I attended a book discussion in which The Rape of Sita by Lindsey Collen was being reviewed.  It was a feminist book discussion and so praise for Collen’s ‘groundbreaking’ work abounded.  She was hailed for her portrayal of the brutalities of rape and the consequences it can have on generations.  She was lauded for treating the subject sensitively, but with enough of a hard edge for it to remain on the reader’s mind months after the covers were closed.


In 1994 The Rape of Sita won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and I couldn’t help but have high expectations of my latest purchase.


To say I was deeply disappointed with Getting Rid of It is an understatement.  The writing is thick, the language stilted and the characters inconsistent and unrelatable.  It is a profoundly depressing book in which the three protagonists lug around a plastic bag with a slowly rotting miscarried fetus, contemplating their own misery and the misery of their beautiful country.


Getting Rid of It is an easy, but overwhelmingly boring read, which I managed to finish in one day because I was broke, sick and marooned in my house with nothing better to do. 


Throughout the story, you are promised redemption that never comes.  Any attempt to find salvation for the characters seems insincere since neither the author nor the reader really cares about them.


The blurb alludes to Mauritian myths and fairy stories interwoven with real life, but what you end up with are too many characters, too much detail and a plot that is as unrealistic as it is incomprehensible.


Still, I would like to read The Rape of Sita and yes, I want to go to Mauritius before I die.




Perhaps my experience of Getting Rid of It was sullied by the fact that just before I picked it up, I finished reading Sebastian Faulks’ Engleby.


Now, I know this is an African Reading Challenge post, but I can’t help plugging for Engleby.  I’ll be short.


Engleby reminded me of the wonderfully devastating On Chesil Beach by Ian Mcewan not in as much as it is devastating, but to the extent that it is wonderful.  When you spend good money on a book you hope that you are not just buying paper and print, but an experience.  A good, lasting experience.  Three days after I finished reading it, I’m still riding high on the experience that is Engleby.

July 15, 2008

(Not) The Seer

The Rev always told me show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.’


Still, I have no interesting analysis on the visit this week of South Africa’s de facto president-in-waiting, Jacob Zuma, to President Yoweri Museveni and the leadership of the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement.  This visit comes on the heels of the four-day state visit to Uganda by Swazi king, Mswati III




Jacob Zuma


Embroiled in a corruption related controversy after his financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, was convicted of corruption and fraud.  Charged with corruption by the South African National Prosecuting Authority


Served with an indictment to stand trial in the High Court on various counts of racketeering, money laundering, corruption and fraud. The trial is to proceed on 14 August 2008.


Charged with rape, but acquitted.


Admitted to having unprotected sex with his accuser but claimed that he took a shower afterwards to “cut the risk of contracting HIV”. Zuma at the time headed the National AIDS Council.



In an 2006 interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, he said about the situation in Zimbabwe, “Europeans often ignore the fact that Mugabe is very popular among Africans. In their eyes, he has given blacks their country back after centuries of colonialism. The people love him, so how can we condemn him?”


He changed his mind on the matter on 29 March 2008, when he described the delays in the Zimbabwe election as “suspicious”.  In a press conference on 24 June, he asserted: “We cannot agree with Zanu-PF. We cannot agree with them on values. We fought for the right of people to vote, we fought for democracy.”




Mswati III


In the year 2000, he announced in a parliamentary debate that all HIV+ people should be “sterilized and branded”.  In 2001, he tried to respond to the crisis by introducing a five year ban on sex in the country, to curb the tide of the growing pandemic. The king himself did not respect the ban; he took several new wives over the following five year period.


At a time when more than one third of the country was HIV+, and more than one third of the population was at risk of starvation, King Mswati attempted to use $45 million of the government’s money to buy a private jet. The amount was equivalent to the amount the government spent on health care for the whole country in a two-year period.


At a time when most of Africa shunned the then apartheid regime in neighboring South Africa, the kingdom invited the President PW Botha, to King Mswati’s coronation.




As I said, no interesting analysis from me.


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