At the base of the continent of Africa is a little tea pot-shaped country that goes by the name Zimbabwe. She was born on a Friday, the exact date being the 18th day of the month of April approximately three decades ago, in the year 1980. The same geographical tract of land was previously known as Rhodesia, a country run by imperialistic and racist Caucasians who broke away from Great Britain in 1965 after unilaterally declaring independence from the clutches of the Queen of England. Zimbabwe’s independence (the second independence of 1980) brought to a halt a protracted war between the white Rhodesians and the black guerillas. A ceasefire was agreed upon by both parties and an election was called for and conducted with Robert Gabriel Mugabe emerging as the outright winner to assume the office of Prime Minister.
What eludes the minds of many is that Mugabe was not the first president of Zimbabwe. It was a homosexual clergyman by the name of the Reverend Canaan Sodindo Banana whose only memorable act was to introduce Zimbabweans to the world of alternative lifestyle. Naturally this was his downfall. Prime Minister Mugabe, who was in reality the true ruler, exposed Banana’s closet sexual deviations until the latter was officially thrown out through the State House window on the 31st of December 1987. While Mugabe was busy shooting down the President, a civil war was raging on in the south-western provinces of the young nation. This dichotomy of attack revealed Mugabe’s true nature; that of a man hell-bent on assuming power at all costs. The world largely ignored these early acts of truancy since they were still mesmerized by the erudition of the relatively young demagogue. The Queen of England even went as far as calling him a fine African gentleman! Perhaps she was right. A gentleman can still be a despot as much as a wolf can be considered as a type of dog.
The end of 1987 ushered in the black version of Dr Frankenstein’s monster. Unlike the literary monster who had no name, this black monster had a name; ZANU-PF, with Mugabe being Dr Frankenstein of course. 1987 was the year that Mugabe finally got what he had been fighting for since the 60’s – absolute power. The ceremonial President was deposed of with the help of the Intelligence Organisation, the only serious contender to the throne – Dr Joshua Nkomo (leader of the equally powerful ZAPU) – was forcibly assimilated into the communist matrix with the help of the Fifth Brigade and a one-party state was enforced on the 22nd of December 1987. The golden rule of Zimbabwean politics was written in stone on that day; if you dare touch Mugabe’s iron fist you’ll be crushed to death. A long list of names can be drawn from the pages of history of people who lost their lives for breaking this golden rule.
A brief perusal of the course of elections held in this tiny country right from its inception till date reveals a very consistent pattern which everyone can see but none can correct – the trail of violence. The man himself confirmed this at the turn of the millennium when he boasted that he had a PhD in Violence. All elections from 1980 right up to 2013 have been a farce. The people of Zimbabwe have never had a ‘free and fair’ election which is exactly how Mugabe wants it. He has always fed on fear and worship like a mythical Greek god. That is how he got to be where he is and that is also the reason why he can never be dethroned by anything less than a revolution. He actually has a lot of people who love him and worship him as much as he has people who hate him and fear him. All these people vote for him despite the reasons being disparate; whether it is out of fear or out of love and everything in between he will always win any election.
Can he be removed then? Most certainly!! The answer is very clear and even he has given us the answer over and over and over again. Only the people can remove him. This is where the problem lies. Who exactly are these ‘people’? They are not the voters of course because their vote have never amounted to anything. The ‘people’ are those who are ready to die for a cause. Those are the only ‘people’ Mugabe respects and fears – warriors. This explains why every dissenting voice is crushed even before they say what they are thinking. He knows what it takes to unite a people for a common cause. After all that is how he rose to power. Until these warriors organise themselves into a ‘people’ Mugabe will always be Mugabe. The 2018 elections are no different; there are no ‘people’ who are loud enough for his senile ears to hear and with the look of things none will follow.
If you have read any of Michael Palmer’s books and have an aversion to surprises then this book is perfect for you. Just like all the other works by the author the book follows the typical ‘hot-shot doctor who is framed for medical negligence and seeks revenge while falling unexpectedly in love’ plot.
The ‘hot shot’ doctor in this book is Sarah Baldwin a resident in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Medical Center of Boston who also has had impressive alternative medicine training. The hospital at which she works is ridiculed by a local newspaper columnist who has a vendetta against everything the hospital stands for; a blend of scientific and alternative medicine. Three patients die under exactly the same circumstances and the only connection among them is Sarah’s alternative medicine prescriptions. She seeks vengeance and pacification all the while falling in love with her attorney. The ending is as much surprising as it is heart-wrenching.
Michael Palmer, just like his rival Robin Cook, was an accomplished physician who blended his diverse medical knowledge with drama to produce multiple novels which have shaped the course of the medical thriller genre. It is difficult to analyse the author without comparing him with Cook just as it is exacting to review Isaac Asimov without collating his works with those of Arthur C. Clarke . All four however have oftentimes been caught up with the redundancy that bedevils serial writers.Natural Causes bares testimony to that. It is in itself a good thriller provided you have not read any of Palmer’s other books.
This is the first book I have read written by Hemingway. I decided to start with this particular piece because it is widely regarded as the one that put this Nobel Prize winner on the literary map.
Published in 1929 the novel is about an American ‘Tenente’ (tenente being the Italian equivalent of Lieutenant) who endures and absconds the first World War. The title of the book serves as an artistic dual depiction of a soldier’s loss; arms of a woman and fire-arms. The plot is very simple but not so predictable; a soldier falls in love with a woman, loses faith in the war he is fighting and deserts the army to be with his lover.
The literary style is also simple; short sentences, limited vocabulary, short paragraphs and first-person narration. In fact it is Hemingway’s literary style that set him apart from his contemporaries especially James Joyce. Hemingway belonged to the ‘Beat Generation’ who adopted the simplistic prose which was at that time a new genre of literature. James Joyce on the other hand adopted the steam-of-consciousness style which was also revolutionary. It is safe to say most of today’s novelists make use of Hemingway’s literary style.
I could not help but notice the striking resemblance of the book’s protagonist with the author himself. Both served in the Italian army as ambulance drivers, both had an intimate relationship with alcohol and so forth. I have since learnt that this was in fact a conscious pattern which the author followed throughout his career.
I have only one problem with the book; the romance was downright childish. I found the romantic aspect of the book as a nonsensical distraction. The dialogue between the lieutenant and his lover, Catherine, was devoid of any depth or versatility. It sounded like this; ‘I love you’ and ‘I love you too’ – over and over and over again and nothing more. In my opinion the book would have been a much better read without the romantic aspect.
In conclusion I would say this is a book written by a respected author which can only pique the interest of those who know more about the author than his work. In other words if this book was to be published today it would just pass under the radar. However if one were to read the book with the preconceived perception of its significance in the history of literature then they would understand why Hemingway is the legend that he is.
While cleaning my bookshelves I came across an old little book with the boring title, “Prague Spring: A report on Czechoslovakia 1968” written by an obscure historian by the name of Dr Zbynek Anthony Bohuslav Zeman. I was genuinely taken aback by the parallels in the Czechoslovak uprising and our own Zimbabwean situation. I was inspired by the tenacity of the intellectuals in that communist country in fighting against their oppressive and redundant regime. Writers, university students, lawyers, doctors and professors of every imaginable field outwitted the Novotny regime all the way to General Svoboda’s regime until they prevailed over the greater majority of injustices imposed on them. Naturally I began wondering why Zimbabwe’s intellectuals have not and are not doing the same. Of course the MDC conceived the struggle in 1999 (remember the MDC was a coalition of intellectuals mainly lawyers) but that struggle has since dissipated into an uncoordinated attempt at shelving a colossal regime deeply entrenched in all spheres of power. I believe there is still room for a ‘Zimbabwe Spring’ led by the intellectuals in our middle-aged nation. Fortunately for us the greater majority of citizens in the peripheries of the centers of power (Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Masvingo) are full-fledged intellectuals in their own right by virtue of them being unemployed University graduates. All we need is a way to unify and harness that fierce intellectual fire power. Where there is a will there is a way.
The Scholars (William Butler Yeats – 1917)
Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love’s despair
To flatter beauty’s ignorant ear.
All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbor knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk that way?
Those moments when you look over your shoulder and see those crossroads where you took the wrong turn. That sordid feeling of rue that rouses you from amity; pacific bliss that only sleep can bestow. Agony becomes your only friend. When the morning light pierces your very soul; a soul ravaged by despair. That perfect one you lost by losing grip of the reality that deluded your destiny. That one person you forgot to cherish. When the passage of the day tyrannizes that elusive emotional gem the demented call ‘happiness’. Only silence bears witness of your pangs. When rhetoric of ‘be positive’ evokes tinnitus; a shrill that only translates to a sweet melody to the elect – those annoying narcissists who had the good fortune of taking the right turn. Some zealot coined this refutable ‘truth’ – life is all about the choices that we make. What a repertoire of nonsense. Life is an attempt at rectifying the choices imposed on us by fate. What could have been can never be. Penitence. Penitence. Penitence.