THIRD WORLD LITERATURES: A READER
The Third World: The Literature of Refusal
Dolores S. Feria If a poet from another galaxy were suddenly to burst in on our planet, and if he has a well developed sense of humor, he would find many things about our life and culture very droll. Prominent among them would be the feverishness with which our literati codify the writing of five or six cultural “mother” countries involving less than one third of humanity and draw from them all the premises about fine writing without ever having the slightest doubt that they are quite universal. It is this excluded two-thirds, many of whom cannot read at all, which less read rules about writing, that we call the Third World. Why Third World? For two thousand years the crude division of man into the civilized and the barbarian seemed sufficient, and still is in certain quarters; although the more socially aware have always seen through this fiction and would regard terms like the exploiters and their numerous victims as a more accurate subdivision. That the term, Third World, is largely a linguistic convenience, and a very fluid one at that, most would be forced to agree. We are reminded of how obsolete anthologies of literature put on the shelves of libraries about thirty years ago entitled, New World Writing. Today such a title might call to mind Asia, Alaska, the South Pole, or even Australia, but certainly not the United States or Latin America. Even today there are three basically divergent concepts about what the Third World is and none of them centers around pure geography. Each of these views is a different reaction to new forces which are changing old structures and attitudes, often with cyclonic impact. While the term, Third World, may be a verbalism still in transit, the spirit, like a fresh wind blowing across the literary threshold, is not. The first framework, which appeared by the early 50’s, was a direct outgrowth of the first successful socialist revolution and the emergence of the Soviet Union as a world power and the threat of new socialist states in Asia. Its most articulate promoter was Joseph McCarthy during the heyday of the cold war between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. with the CIA close at his heels. In a grouping system which saw the world no longer in terms of regions but in terms of ideologies, the first or “Free” World, was Senator McCarthy’s own domain, of course, where “Democracy” still prevailed. The Second World was the communist world—and here again the term was quite loaded, for no socialist state anywhere in the world feels that it is anywhere near the communist goal. The Third World was the world of the uncommitted nations who could still be rescued from the headlong plunge that the Soviet Union had taken or at best neutralized in the now raging game of international dominoes. The term third force was often used in conversation and it often meant regimes like India, which had proclaimed a strict neutrality from both worlds. The literature of the Third World was the literature of the Cold War and included such surprising items as poetry from Taiwan or short stories which testified that American Negroes were head and shoulders above their tattered black African brothers under American free enterprise system. This Third World framework was the reaction of a First World on the defensive and was frankly out to redivert entire regions back into the old order. The Cold War conception of three worlds was soon replaced by a second view which was much more objective and descriptive in its studies of the Third World. The second grouping is a classification based largely on economic structures and political economy, with capital investments, GNP, and types of economic parasitism determining
the division between each world. Here the First World is the capitalist world, including the former big powers, Japan, and members of the European Economic Community. The Second, or the socialist world is one for whom GNP is not a meaningful statistics, and one for whom dependency is no longer a major factor. China, Cuba, the USSR and newer small socialist countries belong to the Second World. The Third World then consists of the remaining poor nations who may have achieved political independence from former colonial masters, but not economic autonomy and are among the most impoverished nations in the world, and invariably the victims of domination in the cultural, economic and political sphere. The third grouping, which is the most heterogeneous, is on the basis of power capability and similar national and cultural aspirations. This newest index places both the United States and the Soviet Union, who together have masterminded space programs, achieved undreamed of scientific advances, and together control the bulk of the world’s military hardware, into the First World. Following them in the Second World power grouping would be all the former European powers, the Eastern socialist countries, Canada, Japan, and Australia. The Third World in this grouping includes the poor socialist countries who are still in the belt tightening stage like China, Vietnam, Cuba, and all of Asia except Japan, most of Africa, and all of Latin America. Admittedly, I find this division of the three worlds the only cogent one as far as understanding the directions in Third World literature is concerned; for the poet, the vagaries of power have always been the stuff of the poetic vision. The unique thing about this Third World is their growing sense of uniqueness. They do not wish to be absorbed into the other two worlds and their sense of cohesiveness is constantly growing. Multinational problems for them required multinational solutions and regional solidarity. Included in this view of the Third World on the literary level would certainly be the victims of what a group of Mexican sociologists call internal colonialism, or the exploitation of natives by natives, like the American Negro, the Chicano, the Pinoy, and what is left of the American Indian. Formal systems of political economy may find internal colonialism a contradiction which is unacceptable, but not on the cultural and literary level: not to the writer. If there are Third World pockets in Harlem and Wounded Knee, there are also First World pockets in every Third World urban center. In recognizing this we must make a distinction between regional writing, a national literature, and Third World writing. Consider, for example these excerpts from the two Filipino poets who were both born in the same generation and were once geographically identical:
GHAZAL ON THE DEATH OF MY MAIDEN AUNT Her green thumb conjured a garden without lovers And moonlight never stirred her unfermenting blood. All she knew of male spoor was a bumble of bees Diving into a bed of prim and proper roses. Yet little footfalls crossed turf like birds
yet his consciousness is consistently Third World. In the following excerpt. language identity is asserted by the manipulation of Taglish:
. Another disparity is that the first one remained physically in his Asian Third World society and should. The second writer was a Pinoy who died on the West Coast after twenty years in the United States as an expatriate. and both have contributed to its national literature. the Philippines. geographically.And she gave amply. essences anoint the ghostly air. But only the second writer interprets the Third World with any awareness in either language or imagery.
ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL Because I found him giving his eyes away To a dying relative who might have been my father He opened doors I had almost forgotten And I explored obediently to my own sorrow. Her nephews gather ‘round — long and lean like candles. have truer insight. Now as oils. attars.
Both of these writers come from the second poorest country in Asia. He came with the face of my brother who died In his private honor believing in words Or promises of words that haunted me And I took the face because it was mine too But the passage was small for my sorrow And the rooms were full of guns. communicating love like leaves. I rushed to the light and called for my comrades I called for the saints and for one who was beautiful In the world where war was unknown and not lonely But he led me to the door of departure And raised a hooked hand to take the eyes from me Those eyes that might have been mine or father’s And surely I wanted to stay in that darkness Where beauty of things is not the silence of death.
Rotten silences. Gathering the strong like sheep By the bayonet at the dead street Fenced in with orderly figures eager for fame. dead dreams. You start siempre with memories. Papatak yan sa papel..
Again.. For above all. from bamboo floor. From Lagos to Manila. but his poetic awareness in no ways reflects it. ‘Yung medyo malagkit. the imperious visitors calling names. Nine nights before. You sit up like the mother of anxieities. the first writer may be physically in the Third World. and all Manner of mourning basta’t murder. the Third World has at least one over-congested city in which teeming urban slums are realities which take second place to the chic districts where boutiques and shopping malls
. Kakagat ang typewriter keys. you let things take shape. from sleep. Pero sige and pasada ng images Hanggang makuha perfectly ang trick. Now lashing themselves with novena of lament. the Third World in literature has ceased to be place. Casting their commands from door to door. Parang pait. the men in black uniform. ano. It is a point in the writer’s consciousness.. kahit mais na mais: love lost.. Para bang nagpapatulo ng isperma sa tubig.. the black men came. Worried na worried hanggang magsalakip And oddas and ends ng inamag mong pag-ibig. This is not to deny the socio-economic base for that consciousness or to negate the fact that certain regions dominate Third World literature. Followed by naked. wounded men waving brown banners Of dried blood and muddy cloth Woven by their patient no wake-weakened women. So at the outset we must concede that there cannot be a road map to chart the sojourns of the Third World writer. Pulling down the fallen. but to stress that we are confronted with a decolonizing world within a world and a polarized society.SA POETRY Sa poetry.
Now let us contrast this kind of regional cuteness with the imagery of repression:
THE MASSACRE Nine nights after the massacre A man riding on a flaming horse Galloped on the bull path.
But historically. bemedalled. Pigmentation is not the decisive factor in Third World writing either. sees the problem metaphorically as the womb of the old dying system in which the writer has a choice: he may be either the midwife of the new order.. In point of time. In fact his sensibilities are shocked by violence.” are part of the process. or its executioner. when he urged the blanket repudiation of the solutions of the First and Second Worlds: “It is a question of the Third World starting a new history of Man. the total expression of those human and spiritual values of the peoples of Asia. This is not to say that such executioners are bad poets. These are the people of the Third World. poet Syl Cheney-Coker of Sierra Leone calls it “a new humanism. Indeed they are often talented. Epifanio San Juan. the Nicaraguan expatriate. and when they do so it is most often on the terms of the First World city pocket. The black writer who speaks to the First and Second Worlds always with visions of Nobel accolades dancing through his head and succeeds in identifying himself only with the extensions of the First and Second Worlds in his own society may be at the best be a national writer who speaks about the Third World but never to the Third Worlds. Third World literature follows the October Revolution of 1917. the factors that make the Third World a specific contemporary phenomenon did not exist until the end of the second decade of the twentieth century. Yet only a few kilometers away are the vast regions of the peasantry. or for that matter the writer who repudiates this commonwealth of poverty. a Third World writer in exile. These two worlds can barely communicate with each other. who excoriated Theodore Roosevelt’s view of progress as “wherever your bullet strikes. But this new humanism is less of an analysis of the merging society than a battlecry. and invariably recognized abroad. The anti-colonial writing of novels like the Noli or the bitter appeals of poets like Ruben Dario.. for imperialism is not a totally new phenomena. both heads of new African states as well as writers. like Leopold Senghor and Nkrumah. do we exactly mean? In speaking for African writers after two years of lecturing at the University of the Philippines.
. a history which will have regard to the sometimes prodigious theses which Europe has put forward. as Frantz Fanon first sounded it in 1961. then. But their vision has a Third World blind spot. but which will also not forget Europe’s crimes. Africa and Latin America. consciousness of what. so he simply focuses his poetic lens on the male spoor and scrupulously avoids the Maliwalu massacre or the long term rape of his culture. and consisted of the pathological tearing apart of his functions and crumbling away of his unity.are exactly like those in New York or London and where cultural life is chiefly on exhibition for the stranded denizens of the First and Second Worlds. not their sophisticated city cousins. proclaim the humanism of a new symbiosis. Humanistic Ferment If consciousness is the primary index to the Third World writing and if we must be more concerned with content than with form. The strangler of the Third World foetal possibility is rarely an intentional criminal.” Cheney-Coker. although the reader with a passion for thoroughness may go back centuries.” It is this humanistic ferment which I would term the literature of refusal which above all characterizes the best writing of the Third World. both foreign and native. of which the most horrible was committed in the heart of man. where men still haul their firewood in oxcarts and the women wash their clothes in the river.
Han Suyin posits herself as the symbol of the blunted vision of her generation. which in America is called the Protestant Ethic. and that for four thousand years cannibalism had been a normal state for mankind. millions of Chinese peasants had already risen in outright rebellion to destroy the old order that consigned millions to death by famine every year while the wealth of China was siphoned off to the far corners of the earth—some of it to finance professorial chairs in foreign universities.
How can a man like myself. a blind spot in the consciousness of the world in the educated prejudices of Han Suyin who herself had to
. after four thousand years of man-eating history — even though I knew nothing about it at first — ever hope to face real men? Perhaps there are still children who haven’t eaten men. the smart set with their scrupulously colonial education in foreign schools followed by long years of geographical exile away from the backwardness of the homeland. and would undoubtedly do the same with him in the event of his death.
Lu Hsun’s celebration of the four thousand year old lie is certainly the initial salvo in the Third World literary sensibility. Lu Hsun himself. “save the children!” incorporates not only the new humanism. like a willing ox. but the central Third World ingredient: that in fact mankind had consented to a gruesome choice either outright or unwitting cannibalism. Shortly. . in fact. a scholar in the old cannibalistic tradition. This story. it did not consist of either Lin Yutang or Pearl Buck. beginning with The Crippled Tree.The father of Third World literature who also first sounded to its central theme. takes a somewhat surrealist approach. I serve the children. and when it did. Head bowed. surprisingly. paid for by the chronic misery and humiliation of two-thirds of the human species. the new humanism born of struggle. Shortly before Lu Hsun was murdered by the Kuomintang in 1936 along with other progressive Chinese writers he wrote the epitaph for a Third World writer:
Fierce-browed I coolly defy a thousand pointing fingers. . which also marks the beginning of modern literature in China. it is traced with some minuteness in the four volume autobiographical history of revolutionary change in China by Han Suyin. completely unaware that only a few hours away from Yenching University. would continue the literature of refusal by teaming up with the students outside the walls of Peking University with his own character poster: “Down with the Old Literature! Up with the New!” Throughout his life he preferred to describe himself as a rickshaw-puller. back breaking labor which underwrites all her privileges. eaten up his sister after she died. only by tacit consent was there a universal cover up. Save the children. That Third World literary consciousness is not hereditary or easily acquired. both of whom are purely regionalists. the first phase came to light only during the 60’s because of the obscurantism of the Cold War. That the wealth and culture which distinguished the modern concept of progress was the progress of vultures and cannibals. It traces the crumbling of the writer’s sanity in discovering that his brother had. was Lu Hsun in “A Madman’s Diary” published in 1918. Her story is the story of the development of the average Third World writer and that world of feudal.
The appeal. This was China.
Negritude reaffirms its identity with the martyrs of the slave revolts as in Aimee Cesaires’ heroic apostrophe to Toussaint Louverture:
This man is mine a man alone. The subjects of Negritude are often a joyous celebration of the primitive. was to persist in centers in Senegal and Nigeria for almost two decades. that twilight
. who could distort Egypt into a mere Hellenic colony and debase the ancient empires of West Africa into mere points in the triangle slave trade. A second priority in the consciousness of the Third World writer is this perception of the factors that have produced and prolonged this estrangement from the real people of the Third World. the term “negritude” coined by the landmark of this period. and often of aggressive nationalism. This phase shifted in the 30’s to the Carribean where the Afro-Cuban rhythm of the Cuban poet Nicolas Guillen penetrated even into the harlem Renaissance and in Martinique. driven man. The writer must first rip apart all the historic half-truths of the First World historian. Death describes a shining circle above the man death is a gentle star above his head death. Perhaps because Negritude is the one phase of Third World writing which the post colonial world could always endorse most joyously. blowing in the ripe can plantation of his arms death. religious. as in the works of surrealist Afro-American poets like Ted Joans:
So remember that JAZZ is my religion but it can be your religion too but JAZZ is a truth that is always black and blue Hallelujah I love JAZZ So Hallelujah I dig JAZZ Yeah JAZZ IS MY RELIGION
Today contemporary Black African writers seem to have found Negritude as the celebration of ancient cultural norms as something of a dead end. imprisoned by whiteness a man alone defying the white cries of a white death (Toussaint. galloping through the prison like a white horse.. The racial celebration of man’s past identity.undergo decades of a painful and divisive process of rediscovery before she could move easily into the Third World.. Its initial phase is one of cultural reassertion on the racial and ethic level.
At its worst Negritude becomes an innocuous “Black is Beautiful” sloganeering. At its best. exotic natures. Toussaint Louverture) A man who fascinates the white sparrow hawk of white death a man alone in the sterile sea of white sand an old nigger standing upright against the waters of the sky. Negritude is a blanked refusal to accept the values of the white man and to celebrate that for which the white man has in the past shown contempt. Aimee Cesaire’s magnificent Return to My Native Land. and tribal rituals.
where decolonization is now seen as national liberation in an explicitly revolutionary sense. Walt Whitman was his acknowledged idol and his poetry became defiantly political as in:
THE DICTATORS An odor has remained among the sugarcane. if it was ever taken seriously. That powerful Peruvian Indian sensibility that was Cesar Vallejo also left Europe for a time. He has power. The Filipino writer has from time to time toyed with this phase in poems like R. rather than Madrid or Barcelona. the native rhythms. The tiny palace gleams like a watch
. and collars. This is an inevitable consequence of the factors that make up the Third World. the Chilean poetic giant who testifies that the Spanish Civil war was the turning point not only in his life but in his literary style. The delicate dictator is talking with top hats. a penetrating petal that brings nausea Between the coconut palms the graves are full Of ruined bones. the Cuban jazz and the “pure” poetry which people of all persuasions will read without prodding as the partisan literature of political struggle emerged. for the writer has been swept along with the gigantic new insight of the Third World citizen in the 70’s: he is huge.world of ancient poetry with its aura of mystery and exoticism never rocks the boat or threatens any system. as Frantz Fanon points out—would the black slave lament be offered up for the admiration of the oppressors. for we must not forget that the resurgence of Third World literature after 1917 was. Gone now was the exoticism. Zulueta de Costa’s Like the Molave or Romulo’s I Am A Filipino. In fact it is often expropriated by the First and Second worlds as a campy and exotic fad. Neruda was now completely preoccupied with writing Odes to Washerwomen. Fighting Phase The central theme moves decidedly left of center to the literature of liberation. of speechless death-rattles. The collapse of the Republican armies in Spain in 1939 sent a flurry of literary exiles fleeing back to new centers in Latin America like Buenos Aires. gold braid. This same discovery rocked the United Nations only a few years ago when 120 new countries proved that they could effectively out-vote any move of the former big powers at the United Nations through a show of solidarity. The literature of refusal now ignites as a consciously contrived tinder. This assertion of national identity still occupies a large place in the USIS financed anthology where it can produce a charming. The third stage of Third World writing is the partisan stage. a mixture of blood and body. Among them was Pablo Neruda. For it is seldom polemical. No more. Here the solitary search is abandoned once and for all. in fact. Out of this sense of human solidarity in suffering and deprivation has grown the literature of liberation. to Dead Millionaires and a switchbladed bit of verse called The United Fruit Company. Even what is left of Negritude ceases to be the mere celebration of non-whiteness. one which succeeded and another which failed: the October Revolution and the Spanish Civil War. but utter stalemate for the more mature ferment at work in the Third World. spawned by two historic national liberation struggles.
I turn my thought into verses. Whose large blind leaves grow even without light. With snout full of ooze and silence. Gonzalez Vidala. Carlos Bulosan. So long as the dream lives the death is dead. Wild geese cry under the frosty morning moon.. My heart travels a thousand Li toward my native land. Blow on blow. I said. in the ghastly water of the swamp. .
The fighting phase of Third World literature which seldom equates Third World countries with their governments. While the mosquitoes form squadrons attacking like fighter planes. has proliferated since the 40’s. from a hospital bed. tattered Mao Tse Tung writes of Loushan Pass during the historic Long March:
Fierce the west wind. He has his father’s dream to live. Under the frosty morning moon Horses hooves clattering. I have now endured a whole year in prison. was also deeply moved by the same sense of solidarity with the bedraggled Spanish republicans and their lost cause.
. Pablo Neruda himself wrote some of his best political poetry while fleeing on horseback across the Andes after being charged with treason by the right-wing Chilean dictator.and the rapid laughs with gloves on cross the corridors at times and join the dead voices and the blue mouths freshly buried the weeping cannot be seen. . more often they are in prison or in hiding.My husband died in Teruel.
In Los Angeles. The bedbugs are swarming round like army tanks on maneuvers. Above. I remember his laughter. the guard stands with his rifle.
About the same time. My dream intertwines with sadness like skein of a thousand threads. From this decade on we are less likely to find the Third World writer in exile in New York or Paris. Using my tears for ink. untidy clouds are carrying away the moon.. Somewhere in Asia. looking at the tenements. like a plant Whose seeds fall endless only the earth. she said. she said. Innocent. I said. emaciated. Ho Chi Minh scratches out his Prison Diary on frayed notes to be hidden with cunning for a later time:
In front of the gate. In “Biography Between Wars” he speaks of those who are left to articulate and to defy oppression:
. touching the child.
My Country by Patrice Lamumba. Soyinka enplaned to London into permanent exile. Congo. completely removed from the moving world and. While in Johannesburg. It is ourselves The hope of life recovered. The dying sun blood-red. Agostinho Neto was writing of Angola and home:
We the naked children of the bush sansalas Unschooled urchins who play with balls of rags On the noonday plains ourselves hired to burn out our lives in coffee fields ignorant black men who must respect the whites and fear the rich we are you children of the native quarters which the electricity never reaches men dying drunk abandoned to the rhythm of death’s tom-tom Your children who hunger who thirst who are ashamed to call you mother who are afraid to cross the streets who are afraid of men. though still alive. poet Kim Chi Ha waits for the execution of his death sentence for violating the national security law and writes:
.000 other titles which included Nkrumah’s I Speak of Freedom. The Man Died. Amado Hernandez was recording his testament for a new generation who no longer remembered the fifties:
I was imprisoned in a cruel fort of stone. an article “The Peasant War in the Philippines” and another. With firm strides we are crossing its summit. We are crossing its summit. steel. . Idle boast the strong pass is a wall of iron. bullet. two novels of Nadine Gordimer had been banned from publication along with 8. In the Philippines. considered dead . and even Gorky’s Mother. Jean Paul Sartre’s On Cuba. In Seoul today. The rolling hills sea-blue. .
In South Africa.bugles sobbing low. novelist Doris Lessing had already been deported from Rhodesia. playwright Wole Soyinka.
Somewhere in a Portuguese jail. “Homage to Lamumba” triggered a red witch hunt at the University of the Philippines in the 60’s. who had defended the Ibos in the violent civil war of 1967 was in solitary a stinking cell in Kaduna where he constructed his powerful prison opus. fierceness of the guard. within a few hours of his release.
In Muntinglupa. In Nigeria.
Father. like its writing. Now it’s pitch dark. Africa and Latin America. the Third World has now evolved into the polemical sphere of outright refusal: the refusal to take seriously the solutions of the First and Second Worlds. the new objective correlative for Third World writing in our time which sees the writer as participator as well as interpreter is now apparent. the refusal to take seriously the aesthetics of the privileged where poems and novels are for people who read them with full stomachs. Carlos Bulosan and many of the new breed writers in Pilipino. For the literature of refusal is the testament of a new faith. it soon becomes too cramped for him. The writer has become the collective unconscious of the two thirds of mankind who live in deprived villages and ghettos and have seen the spectre of liberation throughout Asia. We find a poem here. but on the whole most writing is dictated by the values of the First and Second Worlds and voiced for their consumption. he is both Bantu and Afrikaner. and above all the refusal to accept the freaked out cynicism of the over-developed world.P. he is Chinese and New Zealander. scientific acumen and literary insight merge into one overwhelming passion. Where you died wrapped in a rice-sack When the trouts were jumping along the Pujun brookside.. and who dismiss the Third World writer’s confrontation with the hard facts of his world as “propaganda”.. he is brown from Palestine to Bontoc. This diverse blend of race. The Philippines has as yet few writers who have consistently opted for the recognizable point in consciousness that we recognize as Third World. only the sun scorches. I am going. When he is black.
Participator and Interpreter That the third phase in the consciousness of the Third World writer is embodied in these new myths. a few short stories. Lu Hsun’s vehement “save the children!” still motivates the fighting literature which the last phase of Third World writing must logically become. While the writer begins with his own national mold. By the late 70’s the third World has achieved a sense of its own identity. Father. Lopez’s Literature and Society. The hot sun burns sweet and tears and rice paddies Under the bayonets through the summer heat. he is black from Harlem to Johannesburg. but it is the humanism of the dispossessed. Hands are barbed-wired. language. a play there. if it ever was.
. culture. Indeed the Third World writer now functions as the midwife of the new humanism.Following the vivid blood. where you died. blood on the yellow road I am going. S. where you died. For. he is Peruvian Indian and Creole. Exceptions would be Amado Hernandez. its dream is no longer diffusion into the First and Second Worlds.
efficient — even handsome. but you’ll find room in the zenana. and waved a goodbye to the mirror. She sat down on her steel trunk (which the coolie had put down) and started talking to him. As soon as he had gone. the suit from Saville Row with the carnation in the button hole. the coolie sat opposite her on his haunches. She wore a dirty white sari with a red border. she hailed a passing railway coolie. old chap. He glanced at his watched. dirty. Outside the waiting room Sir Mohan Lal’s luggage lay piled along the wall. Lachmi. and moved down the platform. “You are so very much like everything else in this country — inefficient. On a small gray steel trunk. “Ek chota. “You are a bit of all right. The red oxide at its back had come off at several places and long lines of translucent glass cut across its surface. Lady Mohan Lal. the aroma of eau de cologne. talcum powder. old fellow. The mirror was obviously made in India.
.” The coolie flattened his turban to make a cushion. There was still time for a quick one. “Koi hai?” A bearer in white livery appeared through a wire-gauze door. and she had several gold bangles on her arms. and sank into a large cane to drink and ruminate. indifferent. smoothed his Balliol tie for the umpteenth time. That neatly trimmed mustache.” Sir Mohan threw out his chest. drawing lines in the gravel with his finger. you are a bit of all right. While she ate. She was short and fat and in her middle forties. “Are the trains very crowded on these lines?” “These days all trains are crowded. sat chewing a betel leaf and fanning herself with a newspaper. Lady Lal picked up her brass tiffin carrier and ambled along behind him.” ordered Sir Mohan.” Lady Lal opened the brass carrier and took out a bundle of cramped chapattis and some mango pickle. “Distinguished.” “Then I might as well get over the bother of eating.Karma
Khushwant Singh Sir Mohan Lal looked at himself in the mirror of a first-class waiting room at the railway station. On one side of her nose glistened a diamond nose ring. and scented soap all about you! Yes. The mirror smiled back at Sir Mohan. She had been talking to the bearer until Sir Mohan had summoned him inside.” it said.” he murmured. “Where does the zenana stop?” “Right at the end of the platform. hoisted the steel trunk on his head. Sir Mohan smiled at the mirror with an air of pity and patronage. On the way she stopped by a hawker’s stall to replenish her silver betel-leaf case. and then joined the coolie.
still licking the stone of the pickled mango. The arrival of the train did not disturb Sir Mohan Lal’s sangfroid. so I keep to my zenana interclass. Lachmi found herself facing an almost empty interclass zenana compartment next to the guard’s van: at the tail end of the train. masters. Nor was he loud. Her husband never had any time to spare for her. He rarely spoke Hindustani. and Sir Mohan was eminently well-bred.” Perhaps someone would recognize his Balliol tie. The Times always attracted attention. The rest of the train was packed. Sir Mohan had acquired the manners and attitudes of the upper classes. politics. He never showed any sign of eagerness to talk to the English. belching and thanking the gods for the favor of a filling meal. it was like an Englishman’s — only the very necessary words and properly anglicized. He just ordered her about in anglicized Hindustani. and meets so many officers and Englishmen in the trains — and I am only a native woman. It was a cantonment and some English officers might be on the train. I can’t understand English and don’t know their ways. he could talk on almost any subject — books. and hurry were exhibitions of bad breeding. She emitted a long. He did not like her poor. I am with my master.“Are you traveling alone. In his five years abroad. and opinionated like them. minced betel-nuts. and Rugger matches. He was fond of conversation.” Lachmi chatted away merrily. boat races. He went about his business with an expressionless matter-of-factness. Whisky never
. These she thrust into her mouth till her cheeks bulged on both sides. The train steamed in. Someone would like to borrow it when he put it aside with a gesture signifying “I’ve finished with it. She got up. He is a vizier and a barrister. loud belch as she went to the public tap to rinse her mouth and wash her hands. If both The Times and the tie failed. How frequently had he heard English people say that he spoke like an Englishman! Sir Mohan wondered if he would be traveling alone. He wanted everything “tickety-boo” and orderly. borne no fruit. She then opened her betel case and made herself two betel leaves charged with a red-andwhite paste. however. He came up to her once in a while at night and stayed for a few minutes. She lived in the upper story of the house and he on the ground floor. Lady Lal hurriedly finished off her meal. He is in the waiting room. After washing. These nocturnal visits had. aggressive. tutors. When he did. and walked back to her steel trunk. He travels first class. bustle. so they never came. and cardamoms. as most Indians did. She was fond of a little gossip and had no one to talk to at home. He would retire to his corner by the window and get out a copy of The Times. people. He would fold it in a way in which the name of the paper was visible to others while he did the crossword puzzle. finished and refined at no less a place than the University of Oxford. His heart warmed at the prospect of an impressive conversation. But he fancied his English. bulky frame through the door and found a seat by the window. which he always wore while traveling. and like a cultured Englishman. Then she rested her chin on her hands and sat gazing idly at the jostling crown on the platform. She heaved her squat. dons. she dried her mouth and hands with the loose end of the sari. illiterate relatives hanging about his bungalow. brother. sister?” “No. Sir Mohan would “Koi hai” his bearer to get the Scotch out. Excitement. He continued to sip his Scotch and ordered the bearer to tell him when he had moved the luggage to a firstclass compartment. The signal came down and the clanging of the bell announced the approaching train. That would open a vista leading to a fairyland of Oxford colleges. She produced a two-anna bit from a knot in her sari and dismissed the coolie. and she obeyed passively.
His face lit up as he saw two English soldiers trudging haver-sacks slung behind their backs. English cigarettes in India? How on earth did he get them? Sure he didn’t mind? And Sir Mohan’s understanding smile — of course he didn’t. of nocturnal visits to the upper story and alltoo-brief sexual acts with obese old Lachmi. he sat down in a corner and opened the copy of The Times he had read several times before. “I’ll have you arrested. and The Times. Then followed his thermos flask. Then followed Sir Mohan’s handsome gold cigarette case filled with English cigarettes. preposterous.” exclaimed Jim. and walked unsteadily. They picked up Sir Mohan’s suitcase and flung it onto the platform. but they knew better than to trust their inebriated ears. He was dismayed. Sir Mohan decided to welcome them. The engine whistled and the guard waved his green flag. I say. surely. “’Ere Bill” he shouted.failed with Englishmen. also looked in. of dinners at the Inns of Court and nights with Picadilly prostitutes.” protested Sir Mohan in his Oxford accent. tripped on his bedding. With a sigh. “Preposterous.” he muttered to his companion. and landed on the suitcase. “Ek dum jao — get out!” “I say. half-protesting Sir Mohan. The engine gave another short whistle and the train began to move. “Toodle-oo!”
. Army — fauji. hoarse with anger. The soldiers paused.” he shouted. “Jan’a — reserved. The compartment was empty. They opened the door. pointing to his khaki shirt. smelling of sweat and raw onions. bedding. vulgar countrymen. Five years in India with his dirty. It almost sounded like English. He would speak to the guard. The soldiers caught Sir Mohan by the arms and flung him out of the train. and turned to the half-smiling. with sordid details of the road to success. “Reserved!” yelled Bill. Sir Mohan’s thoughts were disturbed by the bearer’s announcing the installation of the sahib’s luggage in a firstclass coupe next to the engine. but it was too much of the King’s for them. But could he use the Englishmen as a medium to commune with his dear old England? Those five years of gray bags and gowns. of sports blazers and mixed doubles. and looked at Sir Mohan. It did sound like English. Guard. Sir Mohan looked out of the window down the crowded platform. He reeled backward. “One ‘ere.” His companion came up. “Keep yer ruddy mouth shut!” And Jim struck Sir Mohan flat on the face. Sir Mohan walked to his coupe with a studied gait. guard!” Bill and Jim paused again. He surveyed the compartment and noticed the unoccupied berth. Sir Mohan was livid with rage. One of the soldiers came up to the last compartment and stuck his face through the window. “Get the nigger out. even though they were entitled to travel only second class.
Her mouth was bloated with betel saliva that she had been storing up to spit as soon as the train had cleared the station. on whose nose the diamond ring glistened against the station lights. fair and fat. standing in the open doorway with flags in his hands. He stared at the lighted windows of the train going past him in quickening tempo.
. Lady Lal spat and send a jet of red dribble flying across like a dart.Sir Mohan’s feet were glued to the earth and he lost his speech. The tailend of the train appeared with a red light and the guard. As the train sped past the lighted part of the platform. In the interclass zenana compartment was Lachmi.
robberies increased to one per second. the Parque Nacional. drug lords operated uncontrolled. but tax revenues were nowhere to be found. Someone proposed to him that he pray to La Negrita.
. at the top of their lungs. were squatting in the Parque Central. the air was a part of the government’s patrimony. impeccably tailored meritocracy. the line for foreign exchange was wound four times around the capital. to light the way to a better future and happier tomorrow.” was all the treasury minister could say a few days ago as he got out of the jeep after seventy kilometers of jouncing over dusty rutted roads and muddy trails. who shortly before the elections. Gangs were the threatening to invade the national theater. and the IMF was stubbornly insisting the country could expect no more loans until the interest had been paid up. surrounded by a toothily smiling. The sea of poverty that was engulfing cities and villages contrasted with the growing number of Mercedes Benzes. In the marketplace. but after all. There was untold suffering of civil servants suddenly unable to travel even once a month to the great cities of the world! A special budget might be the solution. he did and nothing happened. Somebody else suggested that he reinstate the Virgin of Ujarrás.” “Doesn’t anyone in this whole goddamned country have an idea that could get us out of this?” asked the president of the republic. even though the entire cabinet implored her. Strangely enough. they raise our water bills but don’t give us any water even though it rains every day. BMWs and a whole alphabet of trade names of gleaming new cars. The hunger and poverty could no longer be concealed: the homeless. the prices of a few items went down: whiskey. The minister announced to the press that the country was on the verge of bankruptcy. “We can’t even buy beans—they’ve got us living on radish tops. had boasted that by virtue of his university-trained mind (Ph. His advisor agreed: there wasn’t a cent in the treasury. imports reduced. They were camping along Central and Second Avenues and in a shantytown springing up on the plains outside the city. The Public Welfare Agency was rationing rice and bans as if they were medicine. The poor were complaining. and gambling was institutionalized in order to launder dollars and attract tourists. public spending curtailed. and social programs cut. and all nationalized banking headquarters. caviar and other such articles of conspicuous consumption. in developmental economics) he was the best candidate. bananas and garbage. Ten colones per breath would be a small price to pay. domestic production increased. and the Plaza de la Cultura. Business and government were sinking in sleaze. the pretty little virgin had gone deaf and ignored the pleas for help. unless a compliant public were to go along with the president’s brilliant idea of levying a tax on air—a minimal tax.And We Sold the Rain
Carmen Naranjo “This is a royal fuck-up. But after so many years of neglect. and travel became impossible. salaries frozen.D. and homes were burgled at the rate of one per half hour. the Banco Central. even though there wasn’t any water in the pipes then either. The airlines were no longer issuing tickets because so much money was owed them. even official junkets were eliminated. to be sure. pockets empty. and on top of that they add on a charge for excess consumption for last year.
she was indeed the fairest of the fair. and they hold
. and spread his legs somewhat to transnationals. at nine thousand feet above the ground. “Oh. things are even worse. because they don’t know that everywhere else or almost everywhere else. even the people. When one of the radio transmitters was finally repaired. The prosperous Emirate of the Emirs sent its designee. without a change of shoes for when they’re shipwrecked. air-conditioned cabin. Now even these lean cows were dying. maybe a little uglier. the dampness. stood watching people run for cover. the lack of news. the president was able to broadcast a message: He had inherited a country so deeply in debt that I could no longer obtain credit and could no longer afford to pay either the interest or the amortization on loans. Everything is green. my lord.” The solution came from the most unexpected source. a number of fungal colonies that were taking over the territory under her toenails and fingernails. if your Arabian highness could see how it rains and rains in that country. began to rain iside and to increase the baby population—that is. who probably have never even thought about selling their most important resource. the AID and the IDB. encouraged by the International Monetary Fund. naturally. and lumber.” thought the minister. all this on top of the catastrophe itself. A people without news is a lost people. and one afternoon a minister without portfolio and without umbrella. they are green people. rain after rain. the fat ones were on the way. She returned in a rush to the Emirate of the Emirs. He had to dismiss civil servants. The poor fools think about coffee. for she had acquired with unusual speed. close offices. and on her left cheek. I few could only export the rain. Meanwhile. people living in leaky houses. all my poor colleagues with colds. naked babies began to cry in concert every time it rained. from the multitudes of skinny. along with the newspaper plants and the radio stations. the cold. to try to increase the odds that one of their progeny might survive. The fact was that the government had faded in the people’s memory. Those neighbors were simply not to be trusted. By now no one remembered the names of the president or his ministers. in a first class stable in a pressurized. all of them are flooded. Father Sultan. Poor people without umbrellas. The great danger was that the fat cows had to cross over the neighboring country on their way. “Yes. people remembered them as “the one with glasses who thinks he’s Tarzan’s mother. and it was possible that they would be eaten up—even though they came by air. It rains day and night.” he thought. round-shouldered. you would not believe it. innocent and trusting. Lacking neither eyeteeth nor molars. depressed by the heavy rains. behind her ears. lord of the moons and of the suns.” to be elected. all the poor deputies with laryngitis. short-legged. girls suffering from parasites and God knows what else. The country had organized the Third World contest to choose “Miss Underdeveloped. cut off services.” or “the one who looks like the baby hog someone gave me when times were good. sugar. rice. suspend public works. they get drenched. “here it rains like it rains in Comam like it rains in Macondo. half-bald girls with cavitypocked smiles. widened her enormous eyes—fabulous eyes of harem and Koran delights—and was unanimously elected reigning Queen of Underdevelopment. sheets of water. not to mention the EEC. And here. It rains day and night. without a change of clothes. A mass of hungry. noticing that it had started to rain.July arrived. like a theater with the same movie. the rain. who in sheer amazement at how it rained and rained. No TV station is broadcasting. vegetables. dusky. the president with that worrisome cough. the people. and their hunger and despair without their sitcoms and soap operas.
and the right to traffic in anything and everything illicit. would build the rain funnels and the aqueduct.Ali Baba’s treasure in their hands without even knowing it. which in a few months looked worse than the dry Pacific. instructed him to buy up rain and construct an aqueduct between their countries to fertilize the desert. the tuna. lifting import restrictions. first class stable and all. A little less rain would be agreeable to everyone. dessicated palm trees. dusk to dawn. Sales will be unlimited. He wanted to hear over and over about that greenness that was forever turning greener. of showers bringing forth flowers. Another effort: a funnel was installed in the center of the country. am I speaking with the country of rain. It now stopped raining forever. The trade minister grew radiant when Sultan Abun dal Tol. The president added with demented glee. The people smiled. which paralyzed brains. those guardians of European meritocracy. the IMF. ruined orchards. The Embassy. a guarantee of honesty. A little more effort was needed… Another funnel was added in the north and one more in the south. its production costs us nothing. since accepting them meant increasing all kinds of taxes. razed
. What we would give to have such abundance!” Sultan Abun dal Tol let her speak and made her repeat the part about the rain from dawn to dusk. poisoned aromas. given the danger that they might be stolen in the neighboring country. and effective transfer of technology. not the rain of marijuana or cocaine. changed the climate. The news filled five columns during the dry season. it would be necessary to structure the cabinet a certain way. along with the forests and all Indian artifacts. The checks did not arrive. the dolphins. as some ministers were viewed by some legislators as potentially dangerous. who were more than a little oppressive. spreading one’s legs completely open to the transnationals. What happened? The IMF garnished them for interest payments. his face garlanded in sappy smiles. which was now a little higher. destroyed the coffee. altered behavior. when obstacles like floods and dampness could be overcome. paying the interest. The first funnel was located on the Atlantic coast. warming to his subject. that French technicians. especially those on consumer goods. Both zones immediately dried up like raisins. And as if this were not enough. for months on end. He loved to think of it raining and raining. Another call. air-conditioned cabin. The first payment from the emir arrived—in dollars!—and the country celebrated with a week’s vacation. We will make you a fair and just agreement. efficiency. and the best part was not having to deal with the six fat cows. The price will be reviewed every ten years. not that of laundered dollars. Also our talent. the World Bank. With the earnings we will regain our independence an our self-respect. A long distance phone call was made to the office of the export minister wasn’t in. sovereignty. devastated canefields. By then we had already sold. where formerly it had rained and rained. the International Development Bank and perhaps the EEc would stop pushing the cows on them. you are speaking with the export minister and we are willing to sell you our rain. The president himself made the announcement: We will sell rain at ten dollars per cc. the AID. and amortizing the debt that was increasing at a rate that was only comparable to the spread of an epidemic. of singing in the rain. defoliated the corn. it is a resource as natural to us as your petroleum. Moreover one couldn’t count on those cows really being fat. the thermal dome. to our great disadvantage. as extremists. but the rain that falls naturally from the sky and makes the sandy desert green? Yes. dignity. Of course. yes. Hello.
the only animals left alive in large numbers. In that country we were second class citizens. people circulated photographs of an enormous oasis with great plantations. We lived in a ghetto. the price of oil began to plunge and plunge. “Come and visit us. One fine day there was nobody left.” The first one to attempt it was a good awimmer who took the precaution of carrying food and medicine. Then a whole family left. even the deputies. sugar cane. and animal sanctuaries fullmof butterflies and flockes of birds. eventually he had to beg and beg for money to service the loans. parks. or at the very least. We got work because we knew about coffee. and truck gardens. with the exception of the president and his cabinet. They have cut off the water because of a default in payments because the sultan had the bright idea of receiving as a guest of honor a representative of that country that is the neighbor of ours. that the rain still belonged to us. The emir asked for a loan. ants.truck gardens. at the bottom of which was printed. Everyone else. and narrowed faces. followed the rest by opening the coverof the aqueduct and floating all the way to the cover at the other end. then whole villages. and cockroaches. then many. The story sounds all too familiar. large and small. cotton. something we were already accustomed to. then another. Now the IMF has taken possession of the aqueducts. To remember what we once had been. fruit trees. doorway to the Emirate of the emirs. making people look like rats. The Emirate of Emirs is a paradise. The population dropped considerably. Translated by Jo Anne Engelbert
. In a short time we were happy and felt as if these things too were ours. A few years passed.
then automatically shifted her gaze to her broken nail. stacked high ith hts and overcoats. oppressive smell of flowers. Mavis looked up quickly. overflowing. And of course. and Mavis. Now they have raised their voices and sang for Ma. Hangs my helpless soul on Thee…
Flowers. And Ma had been that Maria Loupser who must now rest in peace. Those eyes that had asked questioningly. Coming to have a look at Ma. Ma.P. Maria Wilhelmina Loupser. stuffy. Ma. Fussily. Occupying a tiny place in the centre. Mavis. With people crowding around and sharing seats and filling the doorway. Nothing registered.
Maria Loupser 1889-1961 R. hot. People bustling in and out. but she could feel the old woman’s presence. crammed. Ma. Then opening hymn books and singing a dirge for Ma.Resurrection
Richard Rive And still the people sang. and busily hurried out again. Maria Loupser.the voices joined in and the volume rose. and ten swelling till it filled the tiny dining room. The boy in the Eton collar laboriously followed the line with his finger. And she had spat out at the Old-Woman. pulsated into the two bedrooms. A florid. Ma of the gnarled hands and frightened eyes. passed a brief word with an overdressed woman nearest the door. Mavis vaguely recognized Rosie as she fussily hurried in with a tray of fresh flowers.No one noticed her self-absorption. red-faced man in the doorway singing so that his veins stood out purple against the temples. Squezzed in. “Mavis.
. To put a flower in the coffin for Ma. till her mouth felt hot and raw. death and the people singing. Poor deceived Ma of the tragic eyesa and twisted hands who had given birth to White children.
Rest in peace. Hangs my helpless soul on Thee…
they began the second verse. Pride of place in a coffin of pinewood which bore the economical legend.I. Tremulously at first. becoming full of Ma. Hot oppressive. Mavis sensed things happening but saw without seeing and felt without feeling. but you gave birth to white children. and the singing continued uninterruptedly:
Other refuge have I none. why do they treat me so? Please. why do they treat me so?” And Mavis had known the answer and had felt the anger well up inside her. to see if the plaque was really there. overbearingly overcrowded. And one by one. could feel the room becoming her dead mother. thin and tenuous. white children! Mavis felt dimly aware that the room was overcrowded. A last look at Ma. White children. swirling with Ma. and spent itself in the
Other refuge have I none. “Because you’re coloured! You’re coloured. The fat woman had sufficiently recovered to attempt to add a tremulous contralto. Flowers.
and had only stared cruelly into the eye of the Old-Woman. I belong to you.Leave. And now Ma was back in the dining room as shadows crept across the wall…
. Ma. why did you make me black?” And then only had a vague understanding strayed into those milky eyes. Onder engele vannag…
And the voice of the Old-Woman had become stronger and more perceptive as her dull eyes saw her childhood. They also want me to stay in the kitchen and use the back door. It’s true. You’re a nuisance. I don’t want to go in the dining room. “You’re no longer useful. We embarrass them. “Ma. their friends must not see us. Jim and Rosie and Sonny are white. a bloody nuisance. because you made me black like you. Ma. Mavis.” But she had not said so. why do they treat me so?” And Mavis had become angry so that her saliva had turned hot in her mouth. Mavis. Ma.” And as she spoke the tears flooded her eyes and she whimpered like a child who had lost a toy. broken voice the songs she had sung years before she had come to Cape Town. white! And you made me. and the broken-down church. Ma. Mavis. And Ma had understood and rocked Mavis in her arms like years before. “Please. We must not be seen. You’re a bloody nuisance. so they hate us. my kindjie. and your children want you out of the way. It’s my dining room. slap sag. and Ma had taken her youngest into her arms and rocked and soothed her. “Mavis. ah leave me not alone. You might come out of your kitchen and shock the white scum they bring here. They hate us because we’re black. white. “You’re black and your bloody children’s white. and the stream running through Wolfgat.” And yet what Mavis wanted to add was: “They want me out of the way too. why do they treat me so?” And then she had driven the words into the Old-Woman with a skewer. a bloody black nuisance.” And Mavis had felt a dark and hideous pleasure overwhelming her so that she screamed hysterically at the Old-Woman. and looked helplessly at Mavis. Still support and comfort me…
And it had only been a month earlier when Mavis had looked into those bewildered eyes. You and me. I am also your child. it’s true. Ma. Ma. And crooned to her in a cracked. “Because you are old and black. Ma. and the moon rising in the direction of Solitaire.” But still the Old-Woman could not understand. “It’s my dining room. You made me black!” Then Mavis had broken down exhausted at her self-revealing and her cried like a baby.
Slaap. “But I don’t want to go in the dining room.
and Ou Kaaar conspicuous in borrowed yellow shoes. and a glossy-eyed Mavis. And the moon rose rich and yellow from the hills behind Solitaire. Help of the helpless. Mavis. As deep as Ma’s ignorance. Lord with me abide…
Shadows filtering through the drawn blind. “Mavis. sizes too small.” And Mavis had sighed helplessly at the simplicity of the doddering Old-Woman and felt like saying. singing. why do they tell my friends not to visit me?” And Mavis had shrugged her shoulders indifferently. a cowed timid group round the fire. “Mavis.Abide with me .
When other helpers fail and comforts flee. they’re all I got. Shadows grey and deep. speaking the raw guttural Afrikaans of the Caledon district. Mavis. And Leuntjie and Eva. And now the singing rose in volume as still more people filed in. Of the Caledon district. “I only want my friends to visit me. fast falls the eventide…
Shadows creeping across the room. Sonny. Please. speaking of Ma. and lost itself near Grootkop. Where the Moravian Mission Church was crumbling. And now they sat frightened and huddled round the stove. O abide with me…
they sang to the dead woman. and the sweet water ran past Wolfgat. cutoff from bustling Capetown. Even the Old-Woman was paler in death. and past Karwyderskraal.
. “Do you want Soufie with her black skin to sit in the dining room? Or Oukaar with his kroeskop? Or Eva or Leuntjie? Do you want Sonny’s wife to see them? Or the white dirt Rosie picks up? Do you want to shame your children? Humiliate them? Expose their black blood?” And the Old-Woman had blubbered. I want my friends to visit me. Jim who had left his white wife at home. Pointedly ignoring Mavis: speaking in hushed tones to the florid man in the doorway.” And now Ma’s friends sat in the kitchen. frightened group around the stove. Mavis. Ma’s friends in the kitchen. The only other brown face in the crowded dining room besides Ma. a Mavis who scratched meaninglessly at her broken thumbnail. Rosie tight-lipped and officious. Tant Soufie ina new kopdoek . And in the dining room sat Dadda’s relations. “And what of my friends. They spoke of Ma and their childhood together. Dadda’s white friends and relations. even if they sit in the kitchen. Dadda’s friends who had ignored Ma when she had lived. Ou Kaar and Leuntjie and Eva and Ma.
The darkness deepens. why do they tell my friends not to visit me?” And Mavis had turned on her. my coloured friends? Must they also sit in the kitchen?” And tears had shot into those milky eyes and the mother had even looked older. A huddled. a small inconspicupus brown figure in the corner. They can sit in the kitchen. “Please.
Now she sat tortured with memories as they sang hymns for Ma. to your house. seen but never heard. the simple bewildered eyes of Ma. and he had attended the funeral only because his brother’s wife had died. and told me to stay in the kitchen. There was the Old-Woman. flowers. Her own soul ate her up. have tried to stop the petty tyranny. And now this. Who could not understand. that others might not see. She had never pleaded with them. dominating everything. you bloody black bastards?” She could then have cleared out. She was afraid they might openly say. torturing herself with memories. The first time was Dada’s funeral.” those milky eyes had told her a week before.Mavis could have helped Ma.” “They are my children but they do not treat me right. So Mavis had covered them with two pennies. Annoying. sought a room in Woodstock or Salt River and forgotten her frustration. And you had a black skin yourself.” And she had tormented the Old-Woman who could not retaliate. Mavis had never spoken to them. who sat with eyes tightly shut near the head of the coffin. A coloured girl. Living in sin! A Loupser married to a Hottentot! He had boasted of his refusal to greet Ma socially while she lived.”
. The feelings bottled up inside her. You’re the cause of all this.” “Ask your white brats to bury you. But there was Ma. The room assumed a sepulchral atmosphere. the bubbling volcano below. explained to them that the Old-Woman was dying. “You encouraged them to bring their friends to the house. You were proud of your white brats and hated e didn’t you?” And the mother had stared with ox-like dumbness. except Mavis. Sonny. Rosie. A vague entity. his niece he believed. Gnawed her inside. But she had never tried to reason with them. Tears. Shadows deepening. If only they could somehow be aware of her emotions. and. Preferred to play a shadow. Ma.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power…
Sang the boy in the Eton collar. There’s no one to blame but you. “I think I am going to die. handkerchiefs. She was afraid of their reactions should they notice her. and Jim. bewildered even in death. sitting completely out of place and saying nothing. could have given the understanding she needed. whose mother had not yet quite recovered from the shock that Mr. grey then darker. should then have cleared out. You slaved for them. This was the second time he had been in the dining room. “You sent them to a white school. part of the furniture. hated me! And now they’ve pushed you into the kitchen. “Why don’t you both clear out and leave us in peace. “I am going to die. All sang. but had vented her spleen on her helpless mother. You hated me. He had bitterly resented Dadda’s marriage to a coloured woman. most annoying. Mavis. could have protected Ma.
I need Thy presence every passing hour…
sang Dadda’s eldest brother . Loupser had had a coloured wife.
and your white children will thank God that you’re out of the way. they sang hymns. “Because they are ashamed of you.” “You will die in the backroom and will be buried from the kitchen.” “Yes. because we are too black to go to St. and Tant Soufie holding Ou Kaar’s trembling hand. don’t let me die so. appeared. let Father Josephs bury me.” So now the Priest from Dadda’s church stood at the head of her coffin. And you are going to die. in death. Mavis. sharp and thin.” “What’s that you’re saying?” Mavis gasped. you encouraged them. Mavis.” “They are your brothers and sisters. “Please. while his right held and open prayer-book. They had removed the table from the dining room and had borrowed chairs from the neighbours. Let them see Father Josephs for a change. afraid the world might know of their coloured mother. you raised me.” And Ma had not understood but whimpered. “But you are my children. Mavis. Let them enter our Mission and see our God.“Do you know why? Shall I tell you why?” And she had driven home every word with an ugly ferocity.” “But I did my best for them. and earth’s vain shadows flee…
sang the boy in the Eton collar. There was an expectant bustle at the door. abide with me.” But they had not buried her from the kitchen. St. and you taught me my place! You took me to the Mission with you. amazed at the hypocrisy. and then the priest from Dadda’s church. “What’s that? I hate them and I hate you!” And the Old-Woman had whispered. John the divine. weren’t you? So now we share a room at the back where we can’t be seen. see that Father Josephs buries me!” “It’s not my business. clutching his cassock with the left hand. you are all my children. my girl.
The florid man sang loudly to end the verse.” the Old-Woman had sobbed. Please. Afraid of you. but you were ashamed of me. See them ask a black man to bury you!” “Please. Mavis. O Lord.
In life.” “You did more than your best. “Please. ask Father Josephs at the Mission to bury me.
. “I raised you. Mavis.
Heaven’s morning breaks. those who were making wreaths. you fool! You did nothing for me!” “I am your mother.” “Ask your brats to fetch him themselves. All now crowded into the dining room. And now while they waited for the priest from Dadda’s church. John’s.
strangely. becoming one with her. Walking the streets.
My heart was hot within me.
Mavis felt the cruel irony of the words. Thinking of the dead woman in the room.
I held my tongue and spake nothing. Write. becoming a living condemnation. It was true. “Misbelievers!she screeched hoarsely. Maria Wilhelmina Loupser. unbearably hot. that thy days may be long…” Mavis felt hot. I will keep my mouth as it were with a bridle: while the ungodly is in my sight. tufted hair Kopdoek : head scarf
. take Thy servant. “Liars! You killed me! You murdered me! Don’t you know your God?” Notes Koppies : low hills Kroeskop : curly-headed. yea even from good words But it was pain and grief to me…
The fat lady stroked her son’s head and sniffed loudly. Meet Father Josephs. dominated the room. her mother’s eyes. and while I Was thus musing the fire kindled. Let them go to the Mission and see our God. soul. but she had turned on her heel without a word and walked out into the streets. for they rest from their labours… “Lord. and at The last I spake with my tongue…
Mavis now stared entranced at her broken thumbnail. The room was filled with her mother’s presence. the Old-Woman with her. But they had gone for Dadda’s priest who now prayed at the coffin of a broken coloured woman. followed by the Old-Woman’s eyes. and walked and walked. Rosie had consulted her about going to the Mission and asking for Father Josephs. From henceforth blessed are the dead which die in the Lord: even so saith the spirit. into Thy eternal care. A mother married to a white man and dying in a back room. “I heard a voice from heaven. Her saliva turned to white heat into her mouth and her head rolled drunkenly. Through the cobbled streets of older Cape Town. I kept silent. Grant her Thy eternal peace and understanding. for they have heeded thy commandment which is Honour thy father and mother. Flowing into her. up beyond the Mosque in the Malay Quarter on the slopes of Signal Hill. body. Send thy eternal blessing upon them. filling every pore. Eating out her soul. Saying unto me.I said I will take heed to my ways: that I offend not in my tongue. The words seared and filling. Thou art our refuge and our rock. And the back room was empty. Look kindly upon her children who even in this time of trial and suffering look up to Thee for solace.
” The girl began her gymnastics. and her joints disjointed. and cooking pots. When you are rich you will surely sleep even on a mattress. if he hadn’t. In order to hasten his preparations. and vice-versa. each one on his own mattress. Meanwhile.” “No. Filomeninha was crumpling up for all to see. his ears hunted for clues as to the whereabouts of his savior. He roamed the country and everyone ran to see him. where? And so he took the decision. The impresario was amassing riches in some unknown location. She looked like a hook without any more use. he would come near and capture conversations. you’re going to practice bending yourself. “Father I can feel a lot of pain inside me.” When they unbound her. At night he would tie his daughter to the drums so that her back and the curve of the recipient would cling to each other like a courting couple. You’ll see.The Girl With the Twisted Future
Mia Couto Joseldo Bastante. In vain. She was almost unable to walk. For one whole week. All these. She complained of pains and suffered from dizziness. to get your head as far as the floor.” was her father’s reaction. He ordered his daughter: “From this moment on. Joseldo thought about his life. She seemed to want to cast her body out through her mouth. “You can’t wish for riches without sacrifices. It was in this way that he managed to hear of some prospects for his eldest daughter. She began to suffer from bouts of vomiting. And so the young man earned enough money to fill boxes. little daughter. At the garage. an abandoned rag. her blood flow irregular. his children. In the morning. suitcases. used his ears to seek an answer to his life’s problems. Where would he find a future to share among them? Twelve futures. They even went as far as to tell how. Filomeninha was getting worse. news kept coming from the city of a young man who was achieving great success twisting and truning his body like a snake. The impresario had helped to untie the knot. to be flexible. he had tied himself up with his own body. When a traveler passed by. The contortionist was mentioned time and again by lorry drivers and each one added a twist to the elastic talent of the boy. the village mechanic. Let me sleep on the mat. we’ll only wake up in the evening. then the lad would have been belted up to this day. as if it were a strap. thanks to his being able to fold and rotate his spine along with other regions. he would pour hot water over her before she had woken up properly: “This water is for your bones. Filomeninha. Here at home we shall all lie in comfort. in one show. Joseldo Bastante brought from the workshop one of those enormous petrol drums. displayed and advertised along the highways and byways of afar. Filomeninha would be a contortionist. She progressed too slowly for her father. The lad had been engaged by an impresario to show off his skill at turning his rear into his front. to be soft. Her father warned her not to succumb to such weaknesses:
. after the bats have stirred.” Time passed and Joseldo was still waiting for the impresario to pass through the town. when a car stopped. the girl was bent over backwards.
the fortune of those who are immortal. “Don’t worry. The mechanic left his work and rushed home. it will get warmer. and it was obvious that their sizes were not the same. Yours. woman. He told his wife: “Make Filomeninha put on a new dress!” His wife replied. Until one evening Joseldo heard form a lorry driver news of the appearance of his lucky star: the impresario was in the city preparing a show. puzzled. Time went filling up with nothingness. Joseldo Bastante continued to surrender his little daughter to the fate of the stars. between passing from sourgreen to ripe-sweet. as others wanted. If he had looked for an answer. When we get some smoke in here. Wife. not a vomitist. they left for the city. He asked her the matter.” “I’m thinking of your new dress. You’re supposed to be a contortionist. An event is never native.“If the impresario turns up. he must not find you in this state. Nor did the oversized dress hide her shuddering. heightened by Joseldo Bastante’s anguish. To those in a hurry. The world possesses places where its timeless rotation stops and rests. where’s the cold?” And he searched for the cold as if temperature had a body which might come and touch him in the twinkle of an eye. He looked at the girl and he saw that she was trembling. It was big and long. Lulled by the rhythm of the carriages. “What cold? With all this heat. he would have lost this opportunity. little girl.” The weeks went by. Artists don’t cover their heads. In such a small place.” But the girl’s shivers became even more extreme. until they were even stronger than the rocking of the train.” “Where are you going to get the money from?” “That’s none of your business/” “Joseldo?” “Don’t keep on at me. he replied proudly: to wait for is not the same as to sit around waiting. “Take off your scarf. It always comes from outside. put her hair in plaits while I go get the money for the train fare. “But the girl hasn’t got a new dress. Filomeninha complained of the cold. It takes its time.” They stood the girl on her feet and clothed her in her mother’s dress. inflames time and then beats a retreat. Her father took off his coat and placed it around Filomeninha’s shoulders.
. what happens is just whatever passes through. On the train the mechanic gloated over his thoughts: a fruit is not harvested in a hurry.” Some hours later. it shakes souls. woman. This was such a place. It goes away so quickly that it doesn’t even leave embers with which the residents might rekindle the fire if they so wished.
Filomeninha.” They arrived in the city and began to look for the impresario’s office.” Joseldo smiled humbly and said he was sorry that he couldn’t be of service. not my teeth. Suddenly. twisted and weightless. amused by that girl. On the way back. that’s all. now it’s teeth they want! Beside him Filomeninha dragged herself along. They went in and they were told to wait in a small room. “Filomeninha. you have strong teeth! Isn’t that what your mother says?” And as he didn’t get an answer.“Now try and stop trembling or you’ll make my coat burst in stitches. He did not beat about the bush. or rather a rubber one.” Finally. Filomeninha fell asleep in her chair. “Hell. He appeared to be watching the bustle of the station. but his gaze did not reach beyond the murky glass of the window.” “The only ones I’m interested in now are guys with steel teeth. Taking his daughter by the hand. They boarded the train and waited for it to pull out. strong enough to gnaw wood and to chew nails. The impresario remained sitting in his big chair. so many street corners! And all the same. they came across the house. Those sets of teeth you people sometimes have. his face lit up. stand up straight. The impresario received them only at the end of the day.
. It was then that Filomeninha’s body fell. it’s no longer a sensation.” “It isn’t? Just look at what my daughter can do with her head…” “I’ve already told you. without looking at her: “It’s true. so skinny in her borrowed dress. She’s just tired from the journey. he asked. Contortionism is out. Her father gradually became calmer. This girl is sick. stumbling into her. that’s all. that’s what she is. while her father entertained himself in a dream of wealth. “I’m not interested. onto her father’s lap.” “The girl’s what? This girl’s got an iron constitution. Teeth. he shook the child’s arm. I use my hands to fiddle about with screws. sir…” “There’s no point in wasting my time. They walked down endless streets. They’ll surely think I’m taking you to the hospital. shuffling her steps.” They left. Joseldo bemoaned his fate.” The mechanic dragged his daughter along. daughter. I’m not interested.” “But. “I’m a mechanic.