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The Night of Knives by Jon Evans
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The Night of Knives (edition 2007)

by Jon Evans

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This is a truly appalling book. I picked it up at Jo'burg's O R Tambo airport as I'm always interested in books about Africa, especially when they are set in locations that I know.

But it's not a book about Africa. It's a thriller about north Americans and Europeans set in an "exotic" African backdrop. A few Africans have bit parts in it. The picture it paints of Africa is overwhelmingly negative, almost a caricature. And it perpetuates the myth that the only hope for Africa is if rich white people come and give aid - in this case a nursing school which our heroine opens in the epilogue.

About the only things I agree with in the book are the author's criticism of aid agencies in general, and that externally orchestrated regime changes aren't the answer to anything.

The Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina recently published an article entitled "How to write about Africa", a tongue-in-cheek or maybe satirical look at books about Africa. Jon Evans's Night of Knives might almost have been written using Wainaina's essay as a guide.

Wainaina's piece can be found at http://www.granta.com/Magazine/92/How-to-Write-About-Africa?view=articleAllPages ( )
  johnthefireman | Dec 10, 2008 |

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