Review of Stained Earth - German Version

Annelie Klother

Rezension: Derek Huggins: Stained Earth


Auf den ersten Blick hat es mich nicht gereizt, das Buch zu lesen: Kurzgeschichten aus der Sicht eines Polizisten über den Befreiungskrieg in Zimbabwe. Eine für mich ziemlich ungewöhnliche Perspektive, und schon wieder, noch immer blutige, den Schlaf raubende Geschichten über den Krieg, der ja sowieso Zimbabwes Literatur bestimmt?
Nach der Lektüre einer Kurzgeschichte von Huggins war ich aber neugierig geworden und ich wurde belohnt.
Huggins ist in seinem Leben ungewöhnliche Wege gegangen: mit 18 verlässt er England Richtung Rhodesien, um dort Polizist zu werden. 7 Jahre später heiratet er eine Galeristin, und nach weiteren 8 Jahren verlässt er die Polizei, um selbst eine Galerie zu eröffnen und sich für moderne Kunst zu engagieren. Und 30 Jahre lang schreibt er nebenbei. Freunde ermuntern ihn, auch zu veröffentlichen. Yvonne Vera gibt ihm schließlich wertvolle Tipps.
Wie Huggins in seinem Leben äußerst unterschiedliche Menschen und Milieus kennenlernt, beleuchtet er auch in seinen Geschichten die Welt aus verschiedensten Perspektiven: er kann sich in die Sichtweise eines weißen Polizisten oder Jägers versenken (an einigen Stellen ist mir das allerdings ein bisschen viel Männerromantik- me and my rifle), aber auch einfühlsam und respektvoll Leben und Denkweise der Schwarzen beschreiben. In „A Tribut to Magadza“ z.B. jagen ein weißer Farmer und ein schwarzer Farmarbeiter gemeinsam einen raublustigen Leoparden, der das Vieh bedroht. Der Farmer stellt zu spät fest, dass er auf den Rat des Schwarzen hätte hören sollen.
Wie hier beschreibt Huggins immer wieder Annäherungen zwischen den Angehörigen entfernter und sogar verfeindeter Gruppierungen und Beispiele von Zivilcourage: In „The Lowveld“ z.B. legt sich der Protagonist Greg Stanyon mit Farmern an, die einen Viehdieb einfach erschossen haben.  In „ Sent to Coventry“  setzt sich ein Soldat für einen Schwarzen ein, den ein Kollege misshandelt hat. Er akzeptiert dafür die böse Konsequenz der vollständigen Isolierung.
Wir sehen  Auswirkungen des Krieges auf die Zivilisten, die Schwachen, die Kinder: Jahre nach dem Krieg verletzen sich Kinder an einer explodierenden Granate („The sting“). Ein Mann ist blind und traumatisiert  von einem Überfall der Befreiungsarmee („Blind terrorism“). Wir erleben in den Geschichten die existentielle Angst von Farmern weißer und schwarzer Hautfarbe, von Soldaten und  Flüchtlingen. Der Protagonist zeigt Mitleid mit allen gequälten Geschöpfen, selbst Tieren.
Die Geschichten werfen Zweifel auf, ob Krieg notwendig ist, sagt der Verlag in seiner Ankündigung. Und trotz der erschütternden Einblicke in den Alltag des Krieges in Zimbabwe hinterlässt einen das Buch nicht im Düsteren. Mitleid, Einfühlung in den anderen und mutige Auflehnung erscheinen möglich. Das gibt Hoffnung. Und die kann Zimbabwe brauchen.

ISBN : 1779220324 .  120 Seiten .  2005 Weaver Press. Harare Zimbabwe.  Ltd £6.95 /$14.95 – Paperback. Über das Internet (http://www.africanbookscollective.com/ oder amazon) und  den deutschen Buchhandel  zu beziehen.

Review of Stained Earth - The Zimbabwean

Book Review - Stained Earth

Title: Stained Earth Author: Derek Huggins Publisher: Weaver Press, Harare. Zimbabwe. Distributed in UK by African Book Collective Ltd The Jam Factory 27 Park End Street. Oxford. OX1 1HU
BY CHIKWAPURO


This reads like a book from the past, written in some distant historical period. It is set deep inside an unreconstructed Rhodie mind. It features Greg Stanyon, best viagra a policeman in most of the stories. It begins well when Greg was a boy with The Sting, and follows with Sent to Coventry when he arrives in Rhodesia as a policeman. However, Gregs white liberal sentiments are stifled in the crucible of ferment that Rhodesia descends into soon after his arrival. The only concession to any grievances Africans may have had is in Sent to Coventry. A white policeman slaps a black man for pissing in public. Another policeman urges the black man to make a formal report, that he would was prepared to be witness, for which the former is sent to Coventry. For the rest the black policemen are mostly nameless voices and without character or form. They always seem to be speaking from some void. The good blacks are weak, fearful, collaborating with the police and afraid of their own people. The elders are ancestralised, looking to the past and afraid of the power of white people. The freedom fighters are murderers, cruel to their hapless own, envious of what the white people have. It is the black nationalists who are violent; the white government is just intransigent while the army and police are maintaining law and order. It is hard to read such a book in 2005.
Peter Godwin, who grew up in Rhodesia was in the Rhodie army and actually talked to the blacks he knew. They were real people to him. It is sad there are no white Africans in these stories. Greg himself is a Brit, others are Germans, South Africans etc. These people are killing Africans because it is nice here. There are no soldiers, farmers or police with a sense of belonging, who are not there as pillagers. While all the stories have a sense of reality, of first hand experience, Robert Mugabe will pick this up and say I told you so. Placed side by side with the writing of Freedom Nyamubaya, Alexander Kanengoni and others they are part of a picture of Zimbabwes gaping sore, a country not at peace with itself. The names of the Africans are interesting. The freedom fighter who deserts and is handed to the police by his father Maguma [the end] is called Takundwa [we have been defeated] in Sacrificial son of the soil. In Sell out the sell out is Mashonganyika [suggesting wealth] while the local nationalist businessman suspected of burning the property of rivals is Tafirenyika [dying for the country]. In Blind Terrorism we have Panganai [conspirator] who is an agricultural advisor and works for the government, is accused of being a traitor by the guerrillas, beaten and shot, losing his sight. The guerrilla who is running scared and for his life after his unit has been wiped out is called Ticharwa [we will fight], in Fredom Fighter. At the end of the liberation war, the Rhodie army felt that they could have won the war. The same militarist spirit, of out gunning and out killing the freedom fighters infuses these stories. It is ironical that in Sent to Coventry, it is the barmen in the police bar who are keeping the nationalists informed about what the police are up to. In a documentary about the struggle for independence in Zimbabwe some years ago Emmerson Mnangagwa reports that it was the waiters at the army mess who alerted them to the coup attempt General Peter Walls was plotting against the new government of national unity in 1980. The cover image by Helen Lieros of Lava Flow is an apt image of the bleeding earth. There is animal blood and human blood flowing in these stories, driven by forces out of control.

Review of Stained Earth - Annelie Klother

Stained Earth
Derek Huggins
2004: (pp: 161) 205 x 136 mm
ISBN: 1779220324

Zimbabwe Netzwerk Rundbrief (www.zimbabwenetzwerk.de)
No. 48, May, 2006
Reviewer: Annelie Klother


At first sight I didn’t find this collection of short stories about the liberation war from a policeman’s point of view very tempting. Although it provided a rather unusual perspective, they were once again war stories (already a very dominant theme in Zimbabwe’s literature) which would keep me awake at night. But after reading one story I became curious, and the book turned out to be very worthwhile reading.

Huggins took unusual paths in his life: As an 18-year-old he leaves England for Rhodesia to become a policeman. Seven years later he marries a woman who owns an art gallery. Eight years later, he leaves the police force, opens a gallery of his own and commits himself to promoting art and artists in Zimbabwe. And throughout his life he writes. Friends encourage him to publish. Yvonne Vera supports him with valuable advice.

As Huggins came to know very different people and social environments in his life, he could examine the world from various perspectives: he can immerse one in the attitude of a white policeman or a hunter (sometimes then there is too much of male romanticism for me – 'me and my rifle') but he can also describe the lives and the way of thinking of black people in a sensitive and respectful manner. In, for example, 'A Tribute to Magadza', an elderly white farmer and his black farm worker hunt a leopard together – it has been killing the cattle. The farmer learns, too late, that he should have followed the black man’s advice.

As in this story Huggins describes again and again how people who belong to distant, even estranged groups, may still become close and he gives examples of courage and friendship. In 'The Lowveld', for example, the protagonist Greg Stanyon opposes farmers who simply killed a cattle-thief. In 'Sent to Coventry' a soldier fights for a black person who has been mistreated by a colleague. He even accepts the negative consequence of total social isolation.

We see the effects of war on civilians, the weak, the children. A man is blinded and traumatised during the attack of the liberation army ('Blind Terrorism'). In Huggins' stories we experience the existential fear of white and black farmers, soldiers and refugees. The protagonist shows compassion for every tortured being, even animals.

The stories make us doubt whether war is ever necessary, says the publisher on the blurb. And although the book gives distressing insights into the daily life during war times in Zimbabwe, it doesn’t leave us in darkness. It appears to be possible to show pity, to be compassionate and to revolt. The book gives hope. And that is what Zimbabwe needs.


(Many thanks to Klaus Graichen for helping me to translate the review into English.)

© The author/publisher