About another book – ‘Glory’

Here is another book, one I read last year when it was on the short list for the Booker Prize. I’ve never read another book like it.

The author uses language differently. The novel seems to crescendo and ebb around the animals at its centre, often repeating whole phrases and sections to make a point. I kept having to pause and re-read, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Much like Animal Farm, the story is about the damage and awe that surround egocentric, brutal power. There are headings and situations that swing me from laughter to frustration, and back again. Then, in the middle section of the book, the tempo suddenly changes. Here the story aims straight. Simiso Khumalo tells her daughter about their family, and how it was suddenly ambushed by horror. The words are simple and the scenes shocking. I could barely breathe as I read this part for the first time, and its intensity lingered as the injustices multiplied towards the end of the book.

For me this is a storyteller’s story. Trapped on the page Glory almost feels too alive, too big, as though it needs to burst out on to the stage. I hope it will find itself there one day, because I don’t think it’s an average novel, nor is it any old tale. It’s a challenge to all of us – a reminder – and so worth reading.

Here’s a quotation from the novel:

“If I don’t write, then who will I blame when I wake up one day to find myself in the belly of a crocodile that calls itself History, that devours the stories of everyone else and goes on to speak for us?”

Grandfather in ‘Glory’ by NoViolet Bulawayo

ISBN: 978-1-784-74429-8

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

About a book – ‘The Bottom Line’

The first book I finished this year was The Bottom Line. It was the cover that attracted me, the red soils and farmland taking me back to my childhood, spent on a farm not far from where Richard Winkfield was writing.

The book is made up of short articles, written by the author some three decades ago, for The Farmer magazine in Zimbabwe. As well as being a columnist, Richard Winkfield used to run the Agricultural Research Trust (ART) farm, outside Harare. He was the director there from 1985 – 2000, the years covered by this collection of articles, years that began with such hope for Zimbabwe’s farmers.

I know about that time, but for much of it I was outside the country. I missed the day to day, and was not present during the destructive years that ripped the farms and the farming communities apart. Reading The Bottom Line took me back there.

The stories and advice are aimed at fellow farmers. Minimum tillage is a big theme, alongisde personnel issues, and glimpses of what’s going on in the rest of the world. The book is full of resilience and hope, and refuses to let go of that hope, despite the anguish it refers to at the end.

I found the read both easy and unsettling – a bit like watching a storm develop off a shore that cannot see what is about to hit it.

If you’re interested in Zimbabwe’s farming story I hope you’ll be able to find a copy of the book. I only wish I had bought more than one. In case it might be of use here is the ISBN: 978-0-7974-4688-5.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Book Update: Innocent Victims – Rescuing the stranded animals of Zimbabwe’s farm invasions – by Cathy Buckle

What a book!

Here’s the update: the book, first published as a hardback in 2009 by Merlin Unwin, has been published again this year as a high quality paperback. The publishers say that “it is most readily available throughout Africa via The Book Depository which has the title available for £14.99, with free delivery worldwide”.

Innocent Victims is a true story, based on the first hand accounts of the Chief Inspector for the ZNSPCA (Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Meryl Harrison, who, in the early 2000s, travelled widely around the farming districts of the country as they were being wrenched apart by land reform. Supported by a small team, her mission was to rescue the animals from farms where the owners had been forced off by unpredictable, aggressive mobs, often in situations that had spiralled violently out of control.

It was an emotional, empowering read for me, as much about courage and loyalty, as it is about mayhem, and at its core is Meryl’s persistent, brave determination to help the stranded animals.

In the audio clip below I say a little more about the book, and read the first four and a half pages of Chapter One. These start with the dog that inspired Meryl and her team to begin their rescues.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2021