From her point of view, the Africans' whole life was spent escaping death. They did not even seem aware that it surrounded them. It ran in rivers seething with worms that covered the children's skin in ulcers. It was in the water they drank, in the pools stagnating outside their huts, sending clouds of mosquitoes to cover the world at nightfall. Death was everywhere in the filthy poverty of Africa. Death was everywhere in the ignorance of peoples, and death was in the traditions; it was in these necrophiliac customs that often involved keeping dead people's skulls; in the witchcraft they practiced when potions would be concocted from crushed human bones or innards; in certain rituals that were liable to end in bloodbaths, and no one was unduly bothered when a woman died because she was not tough enough to restrain the flow of blood she lost at her excision. Death had made Africa its dominion. You had only to see the clouds of flies casting their shadow over whole lands to know that, for the fly was death's keeper. Yet it seemed to Ayané that the African who laughed at this multifaceted death, laughing and prancing behind its back, cowered as soon as it appeared in the shape of a chief. Death took human form, held the fly swat, bore the panther-skin fez and spawned itself crazy.