I received an email today which stated, simply, ‘New heaven and new earth needed – Angola.’ At first, I thought, aha, this means that someone wants a new heaven and earth for Angola. I closed the email and carried on with my work. An hour or so later, I went back to the email, having been unable to get it out of my thoughts. Like a bad pop song it just wouldn’t go away. So I went back and reopened it and looked at the words again. They had not changed. New heaven and new earth needed – Angola. And I began to wonder if I had misunderstood it. In fact what it is saying that the world needs a new heaven and a new earth and the solution is Angola. The dash having altered the meaning in my head entirely. In fact, about a decade ago, I used to think something similar to that. I had this idea that if all the world were Angola it might be a better place because everyone would know what we might loosely call ‘the real’ is and in that knowledge, I then thought, they might be better bigger braver fuller people. We might all be better. But later I began to think that Angola is already what the whole world is, that Angola – with its oil and its diamonds and its forests and its gold and its poor people and its rich people and its droughts and its rivers and its dictators and its weapons and its army and its music and its dancing and its racism and its mortality rate (and so on) – is a complete representation of the world, just scaled down to one nation and about 15 million people. I wrote in my notebook about a decade ago, whilst in Luanda, This Is Hell. And then I frantically wrote a list of words that I thought were  Angola for me in that particular moment, that particular few set of minutes in which I was writing. And even when I look at that list today it makes me want to have a little weep. For myself or for Angola, I’m not sure. But that won’t be one of the books I burn.

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