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Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143035010, Paperback)Thomas Wolfe's trusted axiom about not being able to go home again gets a compelling spin through the African veldt in Alexandra Fuller's Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier. Fuller (Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight : An African Childhood) journeys through modern Zambia, to battlefields in Zimbabwe and Mozambique with the scarred veteran of the Rhodesian Wars she identifies only as "K." Intrigued by the mysterious neighbor of her parent's Zambian fish farm and further enticed by her father's warning that "curiosity scribbled the cat" ("scribbling" is Afrikaans slang for "killing"), Fuller embarks on a journey that covers as much cratered psychic landscape as it does African bush country. Though she and "K" are both African by family roots rather than blood, she quickly discovers that 30 years of civil war have scarred them--and the indigenous peoples they encounter--in markedly different ways. "K" is a figure of monumental tragedy, a decent man torn by war-fueled rage, a failed marriage, and painful memories of an only son lost to tropical disease. His adopted Christianity offers him only partial absolution, and Fuller details his gut-wrenching confessions of quarter-century old atrocities with compassion and rare insight. Her prose liberally salted with a rich, melange of Afrikaans and local Shona slang, Fuller nonetheless struggles with a narrative whose turns are often unexpected, yet driven by humanity. There's a clear sense that the author's fitful journey into the past with "K" has opened as many wounds as it has healed, and spawned more questions than it has answered. It's that discomfort and frustration that often reinforces the honesty of her prose--and reinforces Thomas Wolfe's adage yet again. --Jerry McCulley
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:32 -0400)
"A few years ago, on her parents' farm on the humid banks of a swollen African river, Alexandra Fuller met the man whom she comes to call "K." Neither of them will be the same again. In spite of being warned off by her father - "Curiosity scribbled the cat" - Fuller is intrigued by K, and comes to befriend him. He is, seemingly, a man of contradictions: weathered by farm work, K is a lion of a man, feral and bullet proof. A survivor of the land whose contours he has helped shape, K is also a product of the land which has shaped him. With the same disarmingly unguarded prose that won her acclaim for Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Fuller here recounts her strange, compelling, and troubled friendship with K." "Fuller is drawn to K by the hope that, in understanding this man, she may come close to answering questions about her own chaotic and violent history in this part of the world. For Fuller grew up during the Rhodesian War and has found herself cracked and chronically restless as a result of the experience. Most of the ex-combatants she knows won't talk about the war. There is a complicity of silence surrounding the subject. But K - a white African and a veteran of the all-white Rhodesian Light Infantry Commando Unit - is almost alarmingly willing to share his demons with Fuller. The demons are legion; for K's war, like all wars, was a brutal one, marked by racial strife, jungle battle, torture, and the murdering of innocent civilians - and K, like all the veterans of the war, has blood on his hands." "Driven by their memories, Fuller and K decide to journey into the lands that hold the scars of their war, by traveling from Zambia through Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) and into Mozambique. As they venture deeper into the countries' remote bush, they encounter other veterans: Mapenga, an ex-special branch officer who now lives with his half-tamed lion on a little island in the middle of a lake, and St. Medard who yells at the spooks of his war in his sleep."--BOOK JACKET.
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