So there are many Africas. There are as many Africas as there are books about Africa... Whoever writes a new one can afford a certain complacency in the knowledge that his is a new picture agreeing with no one else's, but likely to be haughtily disagreed with by all those who believe in some other Africa.
I just dusted off a crisp book that has been sitting on our shelf for several years now, cracking open the cover and creating the first creases that accompany a first read of a paperback. The book: West With the Night by Beryl Markham. The inspiration: my husband was recommended this book after asking for a good read on Africa several years ago.
Only on page eight, and I found the above quote and much comfort (not to mention a vortex of consumption that takes over when you find a book of such excellent calibar!) Though I don't intend on writing a book about Africa, I have felt apprehension in trying to share its food and people, as it will only be "my Africa", my interpretation, my impressions. I cannot try to claim new insight, or even completely accurate ones, but I now feel at liberty to share despite those obstacles.
I'm on page 67 now, and I'm hooked. Get this book! There may be an underlying bias or European haughtiness to the author, but it must be noted that the book was written in 1942, still seeped in the general acceptance of such things as colonialism, hunting, taking Africa's resources, etc. I haven't figured out the author's take on these things yet, but it is clear her life mingles within them.
One more quote to share that I liked: Africa is mystic; it is wild; it is a sweltering inferno; it is a photographer's paradise, a hunter's Valhalla, an escapist's Utopia. It is what you will, and it withstands all interpretations. It is the last vestige of a dead world or the cradle of a shiny new one. To a lot of people, as to myself, it is just 'home.' It is all these things but one thing - it is never dull.
Well, there's just one more Africa sumation she makes that I was intrigued with: It is still the host of all my darkest fears, the cradle of mysteries always intriguing, but never wholly solved. It is the remembrance of sunlight and green hills, cool water and the yellow warmth of bright mornings. It is as ruthless as any sea, more uncompromising than its own deserts. It is without temperance in its harshness or in its favours. It yields nothing, offering much to men of all races.
But the soul of Africa, its integrity, the slow inexorable pulse of its life, is its own and of such singular rhythm that no outsider, unless steeped from childhood in its endless, even beat, can ever hope to experience it, except only as a bystander might experience a Masai war dance knowing nothing of its music nor the meaing of its steps.
For an overview and comments about this book, read here.