Sunday, July 01, 2007

How much has Africa changed in 30 years?

Somehow I find myself simultaneously reading J.M. Coetzee's Life & Times of Michael K published in 1983 and Ahmadou Kourouma's Les Soleils des Independances published in 1970. Both are uncompromising and beautifully written bleak portraits of the human condition (what do you make of being, essentially, alone) in a particular context (Africa spiraling out of control). They both make me think back to Cormack McCarthy's The Road which I read earlier in the year. The sheer physical toll on the bodies of the characters is what is so true, commonplace and yet so absent from the life of the person/reader in a wealthy society. It is interesting how many people try nevertheless to recreate that human body experience with excruciating endurance feats... climbing mountains, etc.
Kourouma's writing is so assured... he's just totally in command of what he wants to say, you feel his prowess rippling through the pages. He can transition from sentence to sentence in a way that makes you realize, "He wrote that deliberately, that way, and he thought about it a lot, and it works beautifully."

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