ASSIGNMENTS IN AFRICA: Reflections, Desertions, Guesses by Per Wastberg

ASSIGNMENTS IN AFRICA: Reflections, Desertions, Guesses

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A mixture of political commentary and personal observations about Africa by a Swedish newspaper editor. Wastberg, also president of International PEN since 1979, provides a novelist's insight to his reportage. The bulk of his commentary is reflection upon the situations in Zambia (""where the average income of black workers is considerably higher than that of South Africa"" yet where ""between three and four children out of every ten still die before the age of five""); Botswana (where the author finds ""a kind of idyll, the idyll of poverty and effort, the first pages in an infant primer""); Mozambique (where independence has brought about an experiment in self-sufficiency); and Swaziland. Wastberg uses his journey as an occasion for numerous digressions (the art of the novel, the boring nature of Indian movies, his native Sweden, explorers). But it is in his perceptions of the changes--good and bad--brought to Africa over the past several decades that he shines. Whether he writes of the economics of Africa (""Growth. . .every ruler's justification, motto and banner. He kills, tortures, and oppresses for the sake of the great dream of growth. . . Can growth be sold like Coca-Cola?""), or the inner stresses on the continent (""Modern Africa rejects Carlyle's view of world history as biographies of great men. But at the same time, illiteracy makes it almost necessary to have one or two constant faces to embody history, development and hope for the future.""), Wastberg is always on target. Persuasive, sensitive observation.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux