View the h-west-africa Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in h-west-africa's May 2010 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in h-west-africa's May 2010 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the h-west-africa home page.
X-Posted from H-NET List for African History and Culture <H-AFRICA@H-NET.MSU.EDU> From: Joyce Youmans <youmans@MAIL.H-NET.MSU.EDU> _________ REPLY 1 From: "Nicholas Rowe" <n.rowe@STAugustine.ac.za> Date: Fri, May 21, 2010 1:13 am I am very surprised that nobody has mentioned Sembene Ousmane yet; did I miss any posts? Many of his works have English translations (Il a ete Senegalais). *God's Bits of Wood* has been a winner every time I have used it with undergraduates. Nick Rowe St Augustine College of South Africa _________ REPLY 2 From: "Elaine Windrich" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Reply: Suggestions for political novels Date: Thu, May 20, 2010 6:53 pm The best "political novel" I have ever read is HUMAN LOVE by Andrei Makine, which is about the Angolan war and a Russian and Angolan view of it. I am including my review of the book which quite by chance appears as a H-Lusa submission this week. Andreď Makine. Human Love: A Novel. Trans. Geoffrey Strachan. New York Arcade Publishing, 2008. viii + 253 pp. $25.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-55970-857-9. Reviewed by Elaine Windrich Published on H-Luso-Africa (May, 2010) Commissioned by Philip J. Havik A Russian View of the Angolan War Although this is a Russian account of the Angolan war, it is "Russian" with a difference, because Andreď Makine writes from his exile in Paris, where he has been based since 1987 and where he has written several internationally acclaimed novels about his native land. Writing in French, he won both the prestigious Goncourt Prize and the Medicis Prize for his earlier novel _Dreams of My Russian Summers_ (1997). Too young for "the God that failed" generation of disillusioned Communists in the 1930s, Makine belongs to the generation that lived through the rise and fall of the Soviet Empire and the disintegration of the Communist dream. _Human Love_is an important novel, providing both an accurate and a very readable account of the war in Angola and the role of the Soviet Union in that conflict. The diplomatic and Cold War historians who fail to understand that war or appreciate its international significance will have much to learn from this book. The two main characters are the "hero," Elias Almeida, an MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) cadre who is sent to Moscow for training, and the narrator, an anonymous Soviet diplomat in Angola who becomes his lifelong friend. Beginning with their meeting in a UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) prison camp on the border with Zaire, from which they are soon rescued by Cuban soldiers, the book ends with the gratuitous death of Elias during the Somali civil war some twenty-five years later. Part 2 opens with a flashback to the Angolan revolution in 1961, which begins with the MPLA's attack on a prison in Luanda to free the political prisoners. At that time, Elias is an eleven-year-old child whose father, an MPLA activist, has fled to the Congo to fight with Patrice Lumumba and whose mother is beaten to death by Portuguese soldiers for being the wife of a "revolutionary." The orphaned Elias is rescued by a Catholic priest who finds him seeking refuge in the cathedral of Dondo, south of Luanda on the Cunene River. From there, the child is taken to the mission boarding school and offered an education that would enable him to become a linguist and scholar. Instead, Elias chooses to be a revolutionary, and four years later he follows in his father's footsteps by escaping to the Congo,where he also fights alongside Che Guevara. In part 3, the heart of the book, Elias begins his training as a revolutionary, first in Cuba (on Guevara's recommendation) and then in the Soviet Union to study at Lumumba University. It is here that he meets Anna, a Russian student at Moscow University, who rescues him from a racist mob of former political prisoners in a deserted Moscow suburb. She calls him "a knight in shining armour" because of his belief in "human love" and takes him home to her village in Siberia during the school holidays. There, at "Sarma," he finds salvation in a "humble existence that seemed perfectly emancipated from the capricious rhetoric of the age," a place where one would always be welcomed to return (p. 146). But this was not Anna's dream of the future. Instead, she uses her position as a Moscow University graduate to escape the past as the daughter of a political prisoner in Siberia, and she marries into an influential diplomatic family, thus ensuring a privileged position in the outside world. As such, she was able to renew her friendship with Elias, when he was representing Angola as a diplomat after the MPLA's accession to power in 1975. In part 4, the narrator goes back to Africa after fifteen years and renews his friendship with Elias at various diplomatic postings where their paths intersect. Anna also makes an appearance during these occasions, since her husband's diplomatic career has taken them to some of the same countries in Africa and Europe. Not until the last of these meetings between Elias and Anna, in Moscow in 1989, does he propose a "return to Sarma" as a way out of her loveless marriage and his disappointment with what his own country had become as a result of the corruption and the "30-year war" with Jonas Savimbi's UNITA. She, however, only declines, lamenting that "now it is too late, we can't go back anymore," leaving him to depart in silence (p. 225). The final part is mainly about political disillusion, as experienced by the narrator as well as Elias, against a background of the collapse of the Soviet Union. As the narrator describes the process, "the empire closed down the war in Afghanistan, was beaten hollow [by the South Africans] at Mavinga in southern Angola," and the "smiling Gorbachev" yielded to the blandishments of the West (pp. 214-215). For Elias, this meant that the Soviet Union no longer had any need for him, and his own country, governed as it was, would do everything in its power to make him disappear. Death comes in Mogadishu, where Elias is killed in the crossfire of the Somali civil war. And it is here that he becomes the "knight in shining armour" so admired by the woman he loves by plunging into the besieged Soviet embassy to retrieve her lost scarf and her husband's confidential diplomatic briefcase. As the other Russians are evacuated to safety, the narrator remains behind, to bury his "only true friend" while vowing to relate the story of "a young African who naively fought for a better world, loved without success and quietly disappeared" (p. 187). Citation: Elaine Windrich. Review of Makine, Andreď, _Human Love: A Novel_. H-Luso-Africa, H-Net Reviews. May, 2010. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=24084 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.