It is a great experience to find one’s self taken over by a book, and that was my experience of BORN A CRIME by Trevor Noah. There’s no more fascinating a relationship between mother and son anywhere, to my mind, than that between Trevor and his mother, Patricia. I can only wonder if she finds it as priceless as I do. But there is so much more, and I will get to it after I’ve done morning chores. Since this could take a while (weeks?) I will just recommend you get the book on audio (Trevor reading) so you can hear a lot that will surprise and shock and delight you about human ingenuity and stick with it-ness in our (ancestral, maybe) birth home of South (Southern) Africa.
After listening to more of this book with a twelve year old that I love, I think it fair to issue a warning: Some of it could be quite troubling to young readers; it is troubling to me, and I accept life and other people’s experience of it without much strain. Because there’s so much that’s fantastic maybe grown-ups can share sections of the book with their children, and save other parts of it for later on. Which makes me think how great it would be if adults paid more attention to what their children read, or what they watch, on their various gadgets. I sometimes have the sense they’re being stolen in front of our eyes.
I just finished reading Chigozie Obioma’s astonishing first novel, The Fishermen, set in Nigeria between the reign of a”big man” and a dictator, which maybe isn’t fair to say but I read the story as a parable about life in a “dwindling country” as the author expresses it, where the attempt of the people to limp after a British/European mode of life has left them psychically, morally, even physically stranded. The foreign imposition of religious values on traditional belief systems seems particularly ill fitting. Though some of the systems in question definitely deserved to be retired. The writing is so crisp, the story so unusual, that I couldn’t put the book down even though it disturbed me. It was written to disturb. Four brothers, conceived by their parents to become happy and successful men, become instead harbingers of immense torment and grief. Someone must have observed that it is our children who can break us, when all other systems of oppression have failed. That is part of the tidings of this remarkable, mythic, book.