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A Good Man in Africa: A Novel by William…

A Good Man in Africa: A Novel (original 1981; edition 2003)

by William Boyd (Author)

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9731814,067 (3.71)72
Escapee from suburbia, overweight, oversexed... Morgan Leafy isn't overburdened with worldly success. Actually, he is refreshingly free from it. But then, as a representative of Her Britannic Majesty in tropical Kinjanja, it was not very constructive of him to get involved in wholesale bribery. Nor was it exactly oiling his way up the ladder to hunt down the improbably pointed breasts of his boss's daughter when officially banned from horizontal delights by a nasty dose... Falling back on his deep-laid reserves of misanthropy and guile, Morgan has to fight off the sea of humiliation, betrayal and ju-juthat threatens to wash over him. 'Wickedly funny.' The Times… (more)
Title:A Good Man in Africa: A Novel
Authors:William Boyd (Author)
Info:Vintage (2003), Edition: Reprint, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd (1981)

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English (15)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
[A Good Man in Africa] - William Boyd.
That Good Man in Africa is Morgan Leafy; sexist, racist, usually drunk and very British who gets to play the hero in the end, but it's all OK because it's satire. The black Africans are either corrupt or stupid or both, while the white British consulate staff are just as stupid, but know when they need to assert their authority. This book comes from a long line of British satire writers on the lives of their hard pushed countrymen who are trying to make sense or make their way in the Dark Continent. Boyd who was educated at Gordonstoun and Oxford follows in the footsteps of successful authors such as Evelyn Waugh, and Kingsley Amis, but Boyd writing his first novel in the 1980's has no excuse in treading this well worn path.

Satire as I understand it is the use of humour, irony, exaggeration or ridicule to expose and criticise peoples stupidity or vices. It seems to me that Boyd works very hard to convince his readers that for the most part a small African country that was under imperial rule is just like he says it is. Our hero Morgan Leafy is quite content as long as he has a steady supply of beer and sex and he doesn't have to work too hard or think too hard to keep the supply coming. He is open to corruption, he throws his ever increasing weight around and thinks only of himself. I felt that Boyd wants his readers to have a soft spot for this racist, misogynist. Poor Morgan Leafy with all the weight of the world's troubles on his shoulders largely caused by his own actions is just looking to survive. This is not a bildungsroman or a novel about redemption, the satire does not bite it is just played for the readers amusement, with plenty of sexual titillation.

I suppose you should know what you are getting when British journals like The Times call it "Wickedly funny" or the Spectator 'Splendid rollicking stuff' and the novel won the 1981 Whitbread Literary Award and later the 1982 Somerset Maugham Award. The writing is certainly of a good standard and Boyd furnishes plenty of detail while keeping the story moving along. It is easy to label this novel as just good fun, but good harmless fun I don't think it is, I might have enjoyed this forty years ago, but not now; I almost felt like I needed to take a shower to wash away the underlying sleaze that rises up from this book. 2.5 stars. ( )
1 vote baswood | Jan 6, 2020 |
Morgan Leafy is a civil servant in the early 1970s Foreign Service posted to the small (mythical) country of Kinjanja in Africa. He simultaneously has inferiority and superiority issues -- he walks around with a huge chip on his shoulder but feels innately more important than any of the Africans. While this dicotomy is exaggerated in this satire, I suspect that it is not uncommon in people with Foreign Service postings in out-of-the-way places in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. However, Boyd's satire didn't entertain me the way Evelyn Waugh did in his African satires -- the humor is more caustic and felt more mean-spirited. ( )
  leslie.98 | Aug 31, 2016 |
A comic Heart of Darkness for the post colonial period, mocking much of the pretension of the European in Africa and reminding us that, whether we recognise it or not, Africa's heart (or better said, our understanding of it) is still shrouded in darkness. I ended up grudgingly feeling some sympathy for the struggles of characters I initially held in mild distaste as the author skillfully revealed just how out of depth they were in their African environment. 15 November 2015 ( )
  alanca | Nov 20, 2015 |
What a brilliant novel! I first read it in the early 1980s, perhaps not long after it was first published, and thought it was marvellous. Thirty years later it still seems just as entertaining, with a dazzling mix of humour and tragedy, with a healthy dose of parody of the overwhelming self-satisfaction and unassailable rectitude of European diplomats in post-colonial West Africa.

Morgan Leafy, the central figure, is a brilliant creation. Dissolute, lazy and prey to rampant frustration, he spends most of his days struggling to get by doing as little as he can get away with. (I wonder why I identify with him so well!) He is, however, a decent man at heart, though for most of the book he finds little opportunity to demonstrate his inner qualities.

Life has not gone to plan for Morgan. As the novel opens he is in his third year in Nkongsamba , a quiet region in the hinterland of Kinjanja, an independent West African state that until recently had been under British suzerainty. He works for the odious Arthur Fanshawe who represents all the hidebound attitudes and prejudices that proliferated in the 1970s. Morgan is sinking into ever deeper despair: he is being blackmailed by an ambitious and relentlessly corrupt local politician, the woman whom he had had visions of marrying has just announced her engagement to his younger, better looking junior colleague, and he has contracted gonorrhoea. And then things start to get worse …

Boyd relates the story with his customary pellucid, gripping prose. This was his first novel but he seemed to hit mid-season form almost immediately. Morgan Leafy is not a particularly nice man, but Boyd conjures huge empathy for him as everything seems to go wrong. Corruption abounds. The High Commission is far from blameless in its interventions in local elections, but then most (though not all) of the local politicians are equally opportunistic with an eye on their financial gains rather than the interests of their long suffering electorate. .Overall the novel is exceptionally funny though there are also moments of great poignancy and sensitivity, and even Morgan manages to rise to some occasions and act for the greater good.

This was a fine start to what has proved to be an illustrious writing career. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Sep 3, 2015 |
Not as good as later Boyd novels but a good read with laugh out loud moments and plenty of farce. ( )
  sianpr | Feb 17, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Finally, I decided to go back to the beginning and compile my own index to Boyd's novel. ... Here are some sample entries ...
added by KayCliff | editNew Writing 9, Robert Irwin (Dec 12, 2010)

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Boyd, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pennanen, EilaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vammelvuo, HannoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'Good man,' said Dalmire, gratefully accepting the gin Morgan Leafy offered him, 'Oh good man.'
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