TO ASMARA by Thomas Keneally


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Keneally turns with clear sympathy to the Eritrean guerrilla war against Ethiopia--in this unusual-for-him reportorial novel. The protagonist here, an Australian journalist named Darcy, goes to East Africa intrigued by the confusing politics of famine and territorial irredentism going on there. He arranges to be smuggled into Eritrea along with three other Westerners: Christine, daughter of a French folk-hero cinematographer who has documented the savage Ethiopian bombings against the rebels; Lady Julia, an English noblewoman with a crusading interest in the abolition of female circumcision; and Henry, an American professional private-aid worker. Henry is the only character of some mystery--and the book's slender portion of suspense will concentrate on him solely--with Darcy and the others mere foils for an accumulation of impressions and understandings. As such, the book has a very flat way about it: alternations of exposure and reaction (mostly admiration for the Eritreans' self-sufficiency). Toward the end, Keneally has Henry give a summing-up speech that lays out all the cards: ""'The emergency is that if you guys succeed, you'll be an embarrassment to Africa. Who wants a setup like yours?. . . Colored folk who can look after themselves? It isn't viable. It upsets the world picture. Don't you know the West has to believe famine's an act of God? If they believe that, they only have to make a donation. But if they believe it's an act of bloody politics, they have to really do something, and that's too, too complicated.' "" Too, too complicated, Keneally's tract definitely is not.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1989
ISBN: 0446391719
Publisher: Warner