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  • By bartwolffe
    Jan 25, 2007
    "Bart Wolffe's "Persona Non Grata "- An independent review" Bart Wolffe, Persona Non Grata, 286 pages, 2006 ISBN-10: 1430304774 ISBN-13: 978-1430304777, 286 pages WAS THE STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM IN SOUTHERN AFRICA IN VAIN? Can one be white and an African? Whites came to then Rhodesia as settlers, soldiers or missionaries. Many of them retained the mentality of the conqueror and invader. Many never really sank roots in the country. Swathes of whites left the country at the time of independence. Many of these were recent arrivals, with shallow roots in the country. But many did undoubtedly form ties to the country and of those who left, many consider themselves exiles, not emigrants. But Mugabe’s pursuit of indigenisation was always implicitly predicated that whites could not be African. His definition was racial, predicated on the belief that the differences between the races could not be overcome by a non-racial, inclusive definition of ‘African’, based on a... More > shared residence and love of a particular locale, but would always rest on an irreconcilable genetic difference. Bart Wolffe’s short stories feature a variety of white characters that find themselves marginalised in their own homeland – Africa. His characters belong to that group which generally tends to merit the least sympathy among cultural critics – the white male. Discourses of the oppressed normally have the white man presiding at the top of the oppressive hierarchy. But the situation of Wolffe’s characters is anything but. As the title indicates, his characters are a collection of marginalised fugitives, lost souls who frequently drink too much and are hunkering down for the day of reckoning. A sense of impending demise looms over many of the characters, with little else but drink and sex available to provide temporary distraction. These white men are not the lords of the land but spiritual paupers who subsist on sufferance, permanently teetering on the edge of a drunken oblivion. Frequent references to the contemporary situation in Zimbabwe in the 1990s anticipate the dénouement of 2000. But one derives the sense of unease that the malady of the white man in African did not derive from the specific policies of Mugabe in 2000. Perhaps their malady lies in some fundamental clash of cultures, where the white man. deracinated from his European roots, has no other place to reside but Africa but in the same instant cannot truly settle there. His characters are pincered on this dilemma. But they have nowhere else to go. If they are not accepted in Africa, it is still where they belong. On occasion the baroque style of his writing makes this book an unnecessarily difficult reading experience. The occasional extravagance of prose could benefit from pruning. One thinks of the leanness of JM Coetzee’s prose in Disgrace in representing similar depictions of the new, post minority-rule order. Nonetheless, his book is rich in ideas and bristles with intelligence. His choice of the unfashionable white male as a vehicle for examining the vexed issues of difference raises broader questions of inclusion and belonging. For wasn’t the heart of the freedom struggle in Rhodesia and South Africa directed at rejecting the proposition that difference could only be overcome by one group’s expulsion, exclusion or extermination of the other? The answer given by the culmination of the so-called indigenisation programme in Zimbabwe was that, in the last analysis, this is in fact the only solution. Will this be the answer in South Africa in due course? If the answer turns out to be yes, then the freedom struggle in both nations will have been in vain. Franco Henwood for “The Zimbabwean” independent newspaper< Less
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Product Details

Second edition
July 22, 2010
Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink
Black & white
1.08 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
6 wide x 9 tall
Product ID
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