African Laughter: Four Visits to Zimbabwe



In This Portrait Of Doris Lessing S Homeland, The Author Recounts The Visits She Made To Zimbabwe In And , After Being Banned From The Old Southern Rhodesia For Years For Her Political Views And Opposition To The Minority White Government The Visits Constitute A Journey To The Heart Of A Country Whose History, Landscape, People And Spirit Are Evoked By The Author In A Narrative Of Detail She Embraces Every Facet Of Life In Zimbabwe From The Lost Animals In The Bush To Political Corruption, From AIDS To A Successful Communal Enterprise Created By Rural Blacks, And Notes The Kind Of Changes That Can Only Be Appreciated By One Who Has Lived There BeforeAfrican Laughter: Four Visits to Zimbabwe

Both of her parents were British her father, who had been crippled in World War I, was a clerk in the Imperial Bank of Persia her mother had been a nurse In 1925, lured by the promise of getting rich through maize farming, the family moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia now Zimbabwe Like other women writers from southern African who did not graduate from high school such as Olive Schreiner and Nadine Gordimer , Lessing made herself into a self educated intellectual In 1937 she moved to Salisbury, where she worked as a telephone operator for a year At nineteen, she married Frank Wisdom, and later had two children A few years later, feeling trapped in a persona that she feared would destroy her, she left her family, remaining in Salisbury Soon she was drawn to the like minded members of the Left Book Club, a group of Communists who read everything, and who did not think it remarkable to read Gottfried Lessing was a central member of the group shortly after she joined, they married and had a son.During the postwar years, Lessing became increasingly disillusioned with the Communist movement, which she left altogether in 1954 By 1949, Lessing had moved to London with her young son That year, she also published her first novel, The Grass Is Singing, and began her career as a professional writer.In June 1995 she received an Honorary Degree from Harvard University Also in 1995, she visited South Africa to see her daughter and grandchildren, and to promote her autobiography It was her first visit since being forcibly removed in 1956 for her political views Ironically, she is welcomed now as a writer acclaimed for the very topics for which she was banished 40 years ago.In 2001 she was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize in Literature, one of Spain s most important distinctions, for her brilliant literary works in defense of freedom and Third World causes She also received the David Cohen British Literature Prize She was on the shortlist for the first Man Booker International Prize in 2005 In 2007 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature Extracted from the pamphlet A Reader s Guide to The Golden Notebook Under My Skin, HarperPerennial, 1995 Full text available on www.dorislessing.org.

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  • Paperback
  • 442 pages
  • African Laughter: Four Visits to Zimbabwe
  • Doris Lessing
  • English
  • 11 June 2018
  • 0006546900

10 thoughts on “African Laughter: Four Visits to Zimbabwe

  1. says:

    I read this book in February 2013.Doris Lessing describes the country she left in 1947 and then revisited four times after 1980 when Robert Mugabe took over government She experiences the anger, numbness and shock of traumatized people looking in from the outside Although she lived there for 25 years, she never made a capital investments in the country meaning that she had nothing to lose when the shitzzzzos hit the fan, and couldn t care less what happened to those people who did invest in I read this book in February 2013.Doris Lessing describes the country she left in 1947 and then revisited four times after 1980 when Robert Mugabe took over government She experiences the anger, numbness and shock of traumatized people looking in from the outside Although she lived there for 25 years, she never made a capital investments in the country meaning that she had nothing to lose when the shitzzzzos hit the fan, and couldn t care less what happened to those people who did invest in the country During these visits she relives the time she was part of the freedom movement handing out Marxist pamphlets and promising a better dispensation if all the whites, including her own family, could be chased out of the country Now the results are in all wild animals were destroyed, erosion and overgrazing have caused the fertile soil to wash away, thousands of squatters invaded farms that cannot carry the number of people, blacks kill blacks, white people were murdered, others fled, famine is everywhere, AIDS have become a silent killer and chaos rules where inexperienced uneducated supporters of Mugabe replace the white civil servants in government offices Individual rights is frowned upon as anti Marxist.The country settles down in the new dispensation and hope emerges but is soon dashed by the reality of Mugabe s reign of terror She gets involved in Writers Association but must watch how it is destroyed by the government.Doris Lessing writes with candor, experience, and brilliance a much detailed, comprehenive book about the Zimbabwean landscape and all its people But, in my humble opinion, she did not have the guts in the end to resettle in the country ruled by an ideology she helped promoted, yet turned her back on, probably when the reality of communism hit home for her England was a much safer place where she could sit on the stand and watch the bloody game played on the field below A field very far away from her where she does not have to personally experience any of its pain and losses It is a good African read it becomes a bit tedious to finish ,by a person who knows how to criticize from the outside and benefit financially from the situation without being directly involved in it She uses the country to keep her England nest feathered She might be a good writer and selling many books, but that is not good enough, sorry.Given her age, she cannot be involved in it any, although she should have come back after 1980 and be in the country she claims to love deeply.I know I am a bit harsh here, but I often wonder how people find communism so attractive if many intellectuals, educated as well as ordinary inhabitants of those countries flee those places, even dying in the process to get away It is the ism that gotpeople killed than all the wars in the world combined Communist countries also do not have refugee camps for people leaving their capitalist countries to seek a new life in Stalinism or Maoism South Africa has a serious problem with literary millions of Zimbabweans fleeing their country.For this reason I am not impressed with Doris Lessing s book since it does not cover in detail the true atrocities that happened after 1980 as well But I do appreciate her description of the inhabitants, their energy, optimism, hope and willingness to try and make it work She describes their feeling of elation to be finally free from oppression very well indeed.She has gone to a lot of trouble to write a detailed account of the country, although cannot get away from her own subjective prejudices, which, in my humble opinion, lessen the value of the her effort somewhat I also detect an aversion to particularly the white farmers and attribute it to her own life as a poor farmer s daughter who were criticized, perhaps discriminated against, humiliated, and looked down upon by them Her family were regarded as similar to white trash , and that by her own British people She never forgave them and clearly had an ax to grind which she constantly does in her writings So much so, that it unbalance her thinking in her writings to some extend It is a pity really, since the book could have been ofvalue topeople if she was able to beobjective in her approach It s still a good account of the life in Zimbabwe after 1980

  2. says:

    Not much is written about Zimbabwe during the decade following the Bush War in which the black majority overthrew the white minority British government, especially by white expatriate women who were thrown out of the country years before the war for opposing that white government Doris Lessing, a British citizen, immigrated to Zimbabwe then Rhodesia at age 5 with her family, and was exiled in 1949 at age 35 for her anti government activities After the long and bloody war for independence was Not much is written about Zimbabwe during the decade following the Bush War in which the black majority overthrew the white minority British government, especially by white expatriate women who were thrown out of the country years before the war for opposing that white government Doris Lessing, a British citizen, immigrated to Zimbabwe then Rhodesia at age 5 with her family, and was exiled in 1949 at age 35 for her anti government activities After the long and bloody war for independence was won in 1980, she returned to her homeland four times between 1982 and 1992 This personal memoir contains reflections of her childhood and young adulthood, and chronicles the dramatic changes both since her childhood and during the postwar decade Many of these changes revolve around race relations or the natural environment Note that Lessing was in her 70s when she made these journeys, and approaching 80 when she wrote this book She is extremely insightful about both people and places.Lessing s storytelling is somewhat uneven because she includes interactions with many sorts of individuals, and the reader is left to piece these diverse stories together into a whole Also, many of these characters undergo great changes during the time in which she is writing From interactions with her estranged brother who eventually takes the gap moves to South Africa where apartheid is still in place , to conversations with black people to whom she offers lifts in her rental car, to interactions with white landowners and their black servants on verandahs, to meetings with black schoolteachers trying to educate children within a corrupt system, many of the stories have an uncomfortable edge Still, the book project, where women, who have traditionally not been allowed to speak out in black society, come together to share and record stories is one of thehopeful themes.Of course, another theme is politics Robert Mugabe has been in power in Zimbabwe for decades now, and it is interesting to hear stories of his first decade, and the power struggle that led to his election The first inklings of his corruption in terms of wealth distribution are recorded, as well as a few hints that white farmers might someday be forced to give up their land 90% were in the early 2000s In addition, there is a fair bit of history about ancient wars and subsequent mistrust between Ndebele and Shona tribes, a bitterness that has pretty much resolved itself during the years since the book was published In fact, it s quite fascinating how fast history evolves during the decade that Lessing records, as the postwar generation grows up thinking that war stories are old men s stuff, not unlike what postwar children think of their fathers stories in America.Although there are lots of interesting details, this is not a particularly fun read There is much to rebuild after the Bush War, and not all is rebuilt The bush itself, which held all manner of bird and beast during Lessing s childhood, was forever changed It is rather fascinating to read of the creatures that used to live there Chapters and sections vary in length, like a true memoir It s a worthwhile read for history buffs and those who, like myself, are interested in traditional and modern Zimbabwean music and art

  3. says:

    A long time ago, Africa was an idyllic place where people lived in harmony with Nature and their deities Then came the angel with the flaming sword um, I mean the European colonists, taking away their lands and riches, enslaving and outlawing them After the colonists had pulled out, the Africans were unable to adapt to the system and infrastructure they had inherited, but they were also unable to go back to their old ways Many countries slipped into anarchy, and they have not recovered sin A long time ago, Africa was an idyllic place where people lived in harmony with Nature and their deities Then came the angel with the flaming sword um, I mean the European colonists, taking away their lands and riches, enslaving and outlawing them After the colonists had pulled out, the Africans were unable to adapt to the system and infrastructure they had inherited, but they were also unable to go back to their old ways Many countries slipped into anarchy, and they have not recovered since.In African Laughter, Doris Lessing presents the tough post colonial years of Zimbabwe former Southern Rhodesia through a series of vignettes She visits the country four times in ten years, mostly being a passive observer, though she helps locals now and then.The first visit presents the chaotic scenery of the first years after Mugabe came to power Lessing spends most of her time revisiting old places and talking with her brother The outlook is bleak there is bitterness and enmities, many people have fled The African countries are heading for crisis, and they are continuously sabotaged by South Africa, the last bastion of white supremacy.The second visit paints aoptimistic picture Against all odds, Zimbabwe is finding its feet after a decade of struggle, unlike its neighbours that had slipped further into chaos and violence There is still a lot to do though, especially in education and healthcare The third visit revolvesor less around the same themes, though it ismelancholic and philosophical.The fourth and last visit is in 1992 dreams are shattered as Zimbabwe is on the brink of collapse.A good book for those who wish to learn about the post colonial history and society of an African country

  4. says:

    Reading Lessing s fascinating accounts of modern Zimbabwe made me first glad, then ashamed, that I have not been back to Angola I lived and worked there in the early 1980s, since when it has turned from a pseudo Marxist idealistic basket case into a run of the mill kleptocracy drowning in corruption The parallels with Zimbabwe as Lessing describes it, are many, but Lessing goes beyond the obvious and the political to look at how people are transforming their own lives and their society irrespe Reading Lessing s fascinating accounts of modern Zimbabwe made me first glad, then ashamed, that I have not been back to Angola I lived and worked there in the early 1980s, since when it has turned from a pseudo Marxist idealistic basket case into a run of the mill kleptocracy drowning in corruption The parallels with Zimbabwe as Lessing describes it, are many, but Lessing goes beyond the obvious and the political to look at how people are transforming their own lives and their society irrespective of politics You end up thinking that Zimbabwe will make good thanks to the sheer vigour of its people, and that means there is hope for everyone else Lessing brings lightness and humour to the heaviest of matters she is never patronizing, and her prose is magnificent If you want to understand today s world, or just one part of it, together with the best and worst of the human spirit, read this book

  5. says:

    Doris Lessing detailes the differences between the Zimbabwe she knew as Southern Rhodesia in her childhood, and the country she visits several times, after the African majority win the Bush war over the Whites She s a Noble Prize winner and I suppose is good at story telling, but I found this book very repetitive and poorly written sometimes I had a hard time telling when she is talking about somebody s else opinion and when it was her own opinion She does not use punctuations in the usual wa Doris Lessing detailes the differences between the Zimbabwe she knew as Southern Rhodesia in her childhood, and the country she visits several times, after the African majority win the Bush war over the Whites She s a Noble Prize winner and I suppose is good at story telling, but I found this book very repetitive and poorly written sometimes I had a hard time telling when she is talking about somebody s else opinion and when it was her own opinion She does not use punctuations in the usual way we are used to and she threw me off with her way of writing However, I must give her credit for chronicling that era in the history of Zimbabwe I also think her book is a good chronicle of the environmental changes Not only in Zimbabwe, but in the whole continent of Africa I think environmentalists must benefit from her insights on that topic

  6. says:

    An excellent narration of Zimbabwean history Lessing takes the reader from the colonial times of Rhodesia to Zimbabwe of today.She gives insight on how the Rhodesians looked at indepence and black rule The attitudes and the mass exodus that follow to South Africa She describes the loss felt and shows other families choosing to return She depicts the difficulties they face when they leave to other places She also looks at he Zimbabweans after independence their views hopes and frustrations An excellent narration of Zimbabwean history Lessing takes the reader from the colonial times of Rhodesia to Zimbabwe of today.She gives insight on how the Rhodesians looked at indepence and black rule The attitudes and the mass exodus that follow to South Africa She describes the loss felt and shows other families choosing to return She depicts the difficulties they face when they leave to other places She also looks at he Zimbabweans after independence their views hopes and frustrations I truly loved the book I love her works

  7. says:

    Powerful book The visits of Doris after being banned from the country for 25 years for her voice against minority rule It depicts the struggles that Zimbabwe faced after her Bush War, the plight of the blacks and also the effects of the War it had on the people His brother Harry being an ex combatant is really struggle and keeps it to himself about the challenges he faced being in the war It clearly highlights the struggles of the blacks government inheriting the Rhodesian system It seems m Powerful book The visits of Doris after being banned from the country for 25 years for her voice against minority rule It depicts the struggles that Zimbabwe faced after her Bush War, the plight of the blacks and also the effects of the War it had on the people His brother Harry being an ex combatant is really struggle and keeps it to himself about the challenges he faced being in the war It clearly highlights the struggles of the blacks government inheriting the Rhodesian system It seems much has not changed from the policies of Ian Smith regime into the Mugabe regime

  8. says:

    Doris Lessing is a fantastic writer and I got a lot out of reading this book I did choose not to finish it because it was depressing racism, white supremacy, extreme poverty and because too many good and easy to read mystery novels came available on my local library holds shelf Tant pis.

  9. says:

    Decided to read her non fiction as a prelude to her fiction Really enjoyed this, but have yet to open that Golden Notebook One day.

  10. says:

    A rather long series of essays on the culture and events of Zimbabwe since the Liberation War Lessing is a keen observer with an eye for detail and a broad understanding of the complexities of this country.

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