Afrikaans writer Karel Schoeman commits suicide

It is a shock. The wellknown South African writer Karel Schoeman is longer among us. He committed suicide. Read more about this here.  

Karel Schoeman


Last Tuesday I drew your attention to the book ‘Life with Daktari, written by Susanne Hart. In this book she talks about people she met during her time in Kenya where she worked as a vet, specialized in wildlife. One of these people was George Schaller, reading this name, I thought: I have come across this name before. Indeed, a book by Schaller is on a shelf in my study.

At the end of the fifties (last century) Schaller got the opportunity to do research on the topic of gorillas.  In February 1959 (two years after the opportunity for this research was mentioned to Schaller) he sailed for Africa. He wrote a scientific study on his research, under the title ‘The Mountain Gorilla’ (1963). The book ‘The Year of the Gorilla’ is a popular book on his research and his personal life during the year he spent at the Virunga area.

The book starts with a short survey on the study into gorillas during the ages. Many stories circulated, in which the gorilla (especially the mountain gorilla) was a vicious monster, a danger to mankind.

At first Schaller spends time in travelling through areas in which there are gorilla populations. He makes clear that he is not very keen on the work of missionaries, but this attitude does not hinder him to accept the help of these people. Finally he decides to settle in the Virunga area, in the Belgian colony of Congo. The area is close to Uganda (British) and Rwanda (Belgian). He settles in a small cabin at Kabhara, where he lives with his wife and Andrea Batinihirwa, a local man who will do daily chores, like chopping firewood. Also a gamewarden was present, who would stay for three weeks and then another one would come.

On a daily basis Schaller moves in the jungle to meet with the different gorilla groups. At times he sleeps near one of these groups. He gets to know many gorillas and the animals seems to accept his presence. He makes notes and his wife in the little cabin in the woods converts these notes via a typewriter to a readable work. Schaller gets very familiar with these imposing animals and he notices that the stories about these ferocious animals are a far cry from the truth.

Near the end of the book the work of science is being disrupted by the troubles caused by clashes between Hutu and Tutsi, later on the surge for independence of the Belgian colony Congo is causing people to leave the area. Schaller does his utmost to continue his work, just as others who have a duty in the protection of wildlife. One of these is the Belgian game warden Jacques Verschuren, who tries to continue his works in the parks where he spend many years. Congolese game warden do their utmost to continue the work of protecting wildlife. In this way the story of the gorillas become a story of politics.

Schaller wrote an engaging book on the world of gorillas. Due to his scientific approach we get as readers a balanced view of these animals that have set the imagination of men at work. 

George B. Schaller – The year of the gorilla – 1963 

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor the year of the gorilla

Namwali Serpell: Being Zambitious

She teaches American literature to American Students, while coming from Zambia herself. This should not be a special things in a globalizing world. Just like an American teaching African literature somewhere at an African university or writing about it. The world is shrinking (in some ways) and we are getting closer. Even a man with a German grandfather and Scottish mother a man can become president of the United States of America. So there are endless possibilities.

In this article Aaron Bady writes about Namwali Serpell, who is heading for the great Zambitious novel.  

Photo of Namwali Serpell by Peg Skorpinski

Bessie Head’s Letters

I have some collections of letters on my shelves, a few by famous writers from different continents. These letters gave me an insight into the writing process of these writers. Sometimes there were letters about pencils and paperblocks. Other letters tell of the people they have met and have influenced the, Or contact with the publishing house. I have a collection of letters (not the original ones, mind you, but in a printed book) by Isak Dinesen, who wrote about her coffee plantation at Ngong, near Nairobi. 

One of the most important writers from Southern Africa is Bessie Head (1937-1986), she did some writing, not just books but also letters. Read more about these letters here

African literary correspondence- Bessie Head's Letters to Randolph Vigne

Durban book launch of

Another book is to be launched next month in the beachtown Durban (South Africa). The writer is Kobus Moolman and the title of the book is Swimming Lessons and Other Stories. The launch is during the daytime and please make a reservation if you want to attend. It is not needed to bring your swimming certificate. 

More information here

Maaza Mengiste talks about

Maaza Mengiste Talks about Ethiopian Women and her Forthcoming Book - Image 1Every picture tells a story. Some prefer to write stories, others prefer to shoot pictures. In the end both of them are storytellers, each in his or her own way. 

Maaza Mengiste is a storyteller with words, just have a look at her books. In recent times she has also included a look at photographs, that tell a story. In this article Aaron Bady writes about this move or expansion by Mengiste. 


The Border Is All Around Us, and It’s Growing

Borders are all around us. Borders bet5ween countries, between continents, beteen people, between groups of people.

There are walls, not just between Mexico and the United States of America. There are high fences between Morocco and small portions of Spain, on the African continent. 

Some people create borders by criticizing others, who are erecting borders. It seems an ongoing process, unless we want to be a person who does not build bricks with words or cement or any other material available. 

Read here what Laila Lalami has written about borders and the power of borders.