Book Review: Things Fall Apart

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anachy is loosed upon the world.
 
W. B. Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’
After a second reading, Things Fall Apart has firmly cemented itself as one of my favorite books. The novel by Chinua Achebe is the first installment of the so called African Trilogy including No Longer At Ease and Arrow of God. The book explores the customs, rituals, and life of the Umuofia tribe through the lens and life of Okonkwo, a Igbo tribesman, (making up part of modern day Nigeria) leading up to the tribes encounter with European imperialism.
Chinua Achebe’s novel so aptly captures the collision of cultures as white Europeans set up a mission outpost in Umuofia by first bringing us into the live of Okonkwo. He is an ambitious man who has quickly risen to take his place among at the top of traditional Igbo society. In fact it’s only in the wanning pages of the book does Achebe introduce us to the missionaries who signal the beginning of imperialism in Nigeria. Okonkwo’s failure to adapt to the changes brought by the Europeans ultimately lead to his tragic downfall and the book’s conclusion.

 

Riebeek-Kasteel

The past weekend I made a trek to Riebeek-Kasteel with Anomien, Michael, and Stephenie. The town is one of the oldest in South Africa and was described by Wikipedia as the Franschhoek of 15 years ago. It was an hours drive up the scenic N7, the same highway the epic Namibian adventure was launched from.
Anomien had made reservations at Bar Bar Black Sheep for lunch, but on arrival we pushed out our reservations in order to do a bit of exploring. We did a bit of wine tasting in a quirky little wine shop next to the restaurant. The shop was owed by very interesting fellow who at one point led us to his wine making shed (adjacent the store) where he proceeded to use his month to siphon wine from a plastic tank into a nearby glass for tasting. I hope the alcohol killed the worst of whatever was in the glass.
Lunch at Bar Bar Black Sheep was quaint and well enjoyed. We spent the remainder of the day after lunch walking around the town before ending with a tea on the stoop (porch) at South African’s oldest hotel, The Royal Hotel. All in all a great trip to one of the Western Cape’s less known destinations.

The life and times of Betts

I wish I could begin to describe the intense love / hate relationship I have with Betts, my Land Rover Defender 110. It’s the quintessential African vehicle: Spartan interior, rough looking exterior, and all around beast. It was made for gear and equipment to be lashed down on the roof rack and fording rivers with reckless abandon. There’s no other truck I would have rather crossed from Tanzania to South Africa in … not because I always needed the off road capabilities, seating for 9, or frequent petrol stops but because it’s honestly the one vehicle one should do such adventures in. However, as anybody reading this blog is acutely aware of, Betts is a trouble maker. I long since lost count of the breakdowns. Since I’ve gotten back from the Christmas holiday, she’s managed to find her way to the shop 3 times and is still leaking oil and on the verge of collapsing. That’s why with great sadness I’m announcing she is in search of a new home. I put her on South Africa’s version of Craig’sList and have already gotten a few hits. I am renting a older model Mazda 323 for the time being. I must admit it’s nice to be able to squeeze into parking spots and zip around town, but nothing can replace Betts no matter how much more practical it is.

Treason in South Africa

FNB bank just released a series of adverts as apart of a ‘You Can Help’ campaign. The commercials contain unscripted responses from 1600 children interviewed by FNB asking them their hopes for the future of South Africa. The children’s interviews I heard contained a mix of optimism for where the country has come from and concern for real issues such as corruption  facing the country.

The ANCYL (the youth league representing South Africa’s ruling party) has called the advert ‘treasonous’ and called for ‘harsh action’ against the CEO of First National Bank, Michael Jordan. “FNB, in an obviously lame attempt to recreate an Arab Spring of some sort in South Africa, uses children to make unproven claims of a ‘government rife with corruption’,” ANCYL spokesperson Khusela Sangoni-Khawe said in a statement.

This episode reveals the ANC’s absolute intolerance for dissent and South Africa’s tenuious relationship with free speach. I’ve often remarked that government in South Africa resembles the Memphis School Board abet with higher stakes. Real issues are rarely addressed and the stock vilification of those addressing the issues is the norm.