Read This, Then That: Truth and Fiction in Namibia

January 20, 2015 by Tan Light

Read This, Then That features literary pairings for the voracious reader. As big readers ourselves we know you always want your next book picked out before you finish your current one, so let us help you out with a two-fer recommendation.

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Read This, Then That features literary pairings for the voracious reader. As big readers ourselves we know you always want your next book picked out before you finish your current one, so let us help you out with a two-fer recommendation.
 
Read This:  Counting Teeth: A Namibian Story by Peter Midgley (Wolsak & Wynn)

Then That:  The Witchdoctor’s Bones by Lisa de Nikolits (Inanna Publications)

Winter is here, fellow readers. If you find yourself swaddled in layers and still feeling a chill, we’ve got a cure for what ails you: travel to Africa for this month’s Read This, Then That.

Our first tale is a true-to-life adventure through Namibia, the birthplace of author Peter Midgley. Having left Africa as a young man, Peter never-the-less feels a connection to his homeland that he wants to impart to his teenaged daughter, Sinead. Namibia’s past is fraught with conflict, and Midgley explores this legacy with his daughter as they travel the byways of this southern African country. The past and future have equal hold of Namibia; Old German buildings butt up against new glass towers in the cities, and remnants of Apartheid occasionally catch the travellers by surprise.

“I no longer speak the language of taxis. So much has changed in my absence that I am a familiar stranger in this city.”

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Balance the weightiness of Counting Teeth with the dark comedy of Lisa de Nikolits’ The Witchdoctor’s Bones, a novel about an African Safari gone awry. Led deep into the Namib desert, the characters in de Nikolits’ fourth novel discover ancient magic, superstition, love, and murder.

"There is no such thing as a truly civilized man in the way you like to think there is. We all have the potential to kill each other and sometimes, for reasons known only to ourselves, we do."

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The details of life in South Africa and Namibia are just as clearly drawn in de Nikolits' fictitious adventure as they are in Midgley’s true tale, enveloping the reader in both delight and dread at times. Both authors are sharing ideas and memories of their motherland with a Western audience with honesty and keen observation. And clearly, both authors have a flair for dramatic storytelling and a delightful accent, as evidenced here and here.

 

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