By Doris May Lessing
African Laughter' is a portrait of Doris Lessing's fatherland. In it she recounts the visits she made to Zimbabwe in 1982, 1988, 1989 and 1992, after being exiled from the previous Southern Rhodesia for twenty-five years for her competition to the white minority executive. The visits represent a trip to the guts of a rustic whose historical past, panorama, humans and spirit come to mind via Lessing in a story of designated scenes. Swooping from the verandahs to the grass roots and again back, noting the categories of alterations that may be preferred purely via one that has lived there earlier than, Lessing embraces each aspect of lifestyles in Zimbabwe from the misplaced animals of the bush to political corruption, from AIDS to a communal firm created by means of bad rural blacks.
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The bush was nearly silent. Once, the dawn chorus hurt the ears. Lying in our blankets under the trees on the sandveld of Marandellas, or in the house on the farm in Banket, the shrilling, clamouring, exulting of the birds as the sun appeared was so loud the ears seemed to curl up and complain before–there was nothing else for it–we leaped up into the early morning, to become part of all that tumult and activity. But by the 1980s the dawn chorus had become a feeble thing. Once, everywhere, moving through the bush, you saw duiker, bush buck, wild pig, wild cats, porcupines, anteaters; koodoo stood on the antheaps turning their proud horns to examine you before bounding off; eland went about in groups, like cattle.
Someone trying to talk me out of what I knew was true, must have been the important thing that happened to me in my childhood, for I was continually holding fast to moments, when I said to myself, ‘Remember this. Remember what really happened. ’ Even now I hold a series of sharp little scenes, like photographs, or eidetic memory, which I refer to. So when I fought to retain a ‘view’, a perspective on a road, the little effort was only one on a long list. Time, like grown-ups, possessed all these slippery qualities, but if you labour enough over an event, a moment, you make a solid thing of it, may revisit it…Is it still there?
You may return from a several-weeks’ visit to Zimbabwe and realize, finding yourself again in the enervating airs of Europe, that you have been day and night with people, white and black, who talk of nothing else but how to make Zimbabwe work, of new ideas that may be adopted there, and who have an identification with the processes of government and of administration that means nothing can happen which does not at once attract the most passionate reactions, for or against. People coming to Zimbabwe after Mozambique, or Zambia, where nothing is a success, where cynicism poisons everything, say their faith in Africa is restored, and that Zimbabwe, for whatever reason, is unique in Africa because of the creative energies of its people.