moving moving forward and back


Going on a long journey, with a sack of clothes and books, hair-pieces and medicines, a map and a list of names and numbers. The odd appearance here might occur, but expect three months of peace and quiet from unstrung. Looking forward to your saudades, and a spirit so full there will be great advances felt on the return. Looking forward to leaving here. Thoughts on South Africa seem never to advance beyond the gloomy or cynical: that the times when I laugh from my belly are either in bed, or when I’m talking to people who earn little, own little and don’t have much power; that a lot of those people known here as Anglo-Saxons make promises they never keep, and smile whenever they make them (it’s like seeing England stare back at me all the time – the worst aspects of my own culture have come here and remain firmly intact); that Afrikaners are friendly and frank, and I now understand why a lot of Blacks say they seem to prefer them to the Anglo-Saxons because you never know where you stand with the latter; that my difficulties trying to understand my fellow white man are similar to the difficulties of black Africans who come here and struggle to understand their fellow black man; that the newspapers are disappointing – you know things are really going downhill when the Mail & Guardian run a poor piece of writing about Converse shoes on the main OpEd page; that there is even more nepotism and luvvy incest here than there is in the UK, which is really saying something; that it’s wrong to pinpoint white farmers only as the reactionary right; that a significant number of white people and a small number of black people here own far too much and still want more; that if I tell you that Ronald Suresh Roberts is not nearly as bad as the newspapers, academies and lawyers here would have it, I will become instantly unpopular and disrespected (but I say it all the same: he’s not nearly as bad as they insist and a lot of what he says about this country is in my foreign-British-inexperienced-foolish-female-anti-theover- riding liberal opinion accurate); that I can see why white people here feel unwanted and are confused and disturbed and disappointed by that; that the whites, as Pallo Jordan said the other day, are leaving irrespective of whether they are encouraged or not – they just want to go; that wealth and consumption seem to be the overriding concerns of the elite here, just like the elite everywhere else; that the amount of money spent on social security here leaves Cuba and Venezuela ailing, and yet I still feel negative about the place; that the Rainbow Nation is called the Rainbow Nation for a good reason – it’s a fairy tale, and fairy tales are fantasies that don’t come true. But worst of all, this place has produced in me cliché after cliché. I seem unable to see much beauty here, much goodness, much to make me happy. This place has produced in me a failure to plough energy into it, a refusal to give to it, and for that I feel deeply ashamed. Maybe the spirit of shame that is so omnipresent here has somehow seeped inside me, under my skin and into my skin, and I have become part of the white shame. Has my whiteness found itself here? Is that it? Something masochistic in the air here. Maybe. It’s good I’m getting away. I’m so glad to be getting away. Until the return, good bye.

P.S. All those interested in Naipaul ought to read this, as suggested some time ago by johng, himself a regular commentator over at Lenin’s Tomb.


2 thoughts on “moving moving forward and back

  1. It’s only when you read a piece like Nissim Ezekiel’s that you realise how crude most of what people write and say about culture is. Most conversations about Naipual, I guess, go something like:

    ‘He’s a bigot.’
    ‘Well, maybe, but he’s a great writer.’
    ‘Being a great writer is no excuse.’
    ‘He says things that are uncomfortably close to what crude racists say, but … there’s some truth there…’

    Ezekiel understands all that but goes way beyond it. His intimate criticism of Naipaul is another aspect of his attitude to India at large: an understanding, keen-sighted engagement without egotism but from a position of personal confidence. He knows who he is, or at least, he is comfortable with what he does and doesn’t know. So he doesn’t need to insist that Naipaul, flawed as he is – both a human being as a writer, as Ezekiel demonstrates – has nothing to say. He even shows how Naipaul’s very failings add force and authenticity to his criticisms.

    Ezekiel can share Naipaul’s disgust at much of Indian society and culture without needing to distort its image and nail the coffin lid down on it with hammer blows of disgust. But his scrupulous fairness doesn’t make him ineffectual or anaemic. Being a passionate, articulate moderate isn’t easy; the middle of the road is a dangerous place to be, ho ho.

    It’s also a great defence of the value of the outsider’s view – Lara. What matters is that the outsider can observe well – both the world around him or her and their own intellectual and emotional workings – can write, and is fair.

  2. Peace Lara!

    I am surprised to find out you still blogging. Well, I thought you were some remote area with no access to internet for next two-tree months. Anyway, I’ll write to you soon.


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