12 February 2008

Don't Let's go to the Dogs Tonight

I just finished reading Don't Let's go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. It's a memoir of her childhood in Africa. I have to admit to having mixed feelings about it, especially Alexandra herself. She seems quite self-involved and it's interesting to see how little she develops the characterizations of the rest of her family. Sometimes it's as if they're really not interesting to her at all, except how her mother's alcoholism and depression made her life difficult or how she was jealous of the attention her sister was getting from boys.

On the other hand, her writing really evokes a time and a place and an attitude that is quite unique. Imagine being a white African, which is essentially what she is, who she is. We (I) have such difficulty thinking about African as anything other than black, that it becomes interesting to read another side of the story. The details of daily life both on the various farms and during war times, are quite fascinating. Her sense of ownership and superiority are so palpable as to seem natural. Yet the fact is that she was living a colonial legacy. Later in her book, she seems to become more aware of that fact, but her sense of entitlement seems to remain.

It was an interesting read, no doubt. Unfortunately, I haven't read much African literature (must change that). However, I would recommend either of Algerian Frantz Fanon's books, Black Skin White Masks or The Wretched of the Earth for a black African perspective on colonialism and truly spell-binding prose. I know I've also read Nigerian Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, which is a classic. Unfortunately, I can't recall what it's about. Finally, for another white African story, there's the classic Out of Africa by Karen Blixen (alias Isak Dinesen. Both the film (starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford) and the book (including illustrated tale of the bird (stork?) that I love) are worth the time.


  1. hey, is that my copy?!

    was interested to hear you felt the rest of her family was very absent in the book as i didn't experience that at all. do you think she may have wanted to keep that private?

    alamak, jetlag lah!

  2. oh, and i enjoyed and learnt so much from chimamanda ngozi adichie's 'half of a yellow sun'. must read!

  3. Copy was a gift from my sister. I didn't get the feeling that she wanted to keep anything private - quite the contrary. Would allow for family not wanting to be written about, but it seems her choice to me.


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