I have never been to the African continent, but somehow I have come to be deeply fascinated by it and very much hope to get the chance to discover its beauty one day. Because of that, I am drawn to books about Africa, especially non-fiction.
This is why I bought this one from the reuse centre. A wonderful memoir discovery. As in many memoirs of the kind I found in it the love for the beauty of one’s home intertwined with the utter heartbreak of the war within it. This time from the perspective of someone caught right in the middle of it.
Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa is the story of Peter Godwin’s experiences growing up in Rhodesia. He recounts the story of that country’s violent transformation into Zimbabwe, as well as his own personal metamorphoses from a privileged boy to a reluctant soldier to an investigative journalist.
It is wonderful how Godwin manages to get his childhood across evoking a child’s view of the world and growing the writing as he himself grows. Right to a tough and desperate time as an 18-year-old soldier and on to grown-up life with similarly distressing stories.
As someone living in a former Soviet country, I can imagine some of the things that happened here, but every place has its own flavour of evil. Having been born in the 80s, I can vaguely remember some of the shortages we faced but have spent most of my life in a very privileged time and place. It was physically hard for me to read some parts of the book, and to be reminded of the pure evil that exists in people.
And some of the things that happened to Godwin were just too much like fiction, things that can’t possibly happen in the real world. The atrocities, but also the good things and a fair amount of luck every now and then. But as he says:
“Although Mukiwa is a work of nonfiction it is not a work of forensic research. /–/ In Mukiwa I have written as I remember, with all the foibles and imperfecions brought on by the passage of time.”
Next time I see a book by Peter Godwin, I will certainly buy it. And so should you, if you are interested in life in Africa… from a white boy’s point of view.