Cold bright spring morning. House martins feathering their nests on the stoep, parents feeding the openmouthed babies, a source of keen pleasure as I watch from a distance. Small wagtails and mossies coming into the kitchen, oblivious of the dogs. Listening to new bird cries at dawn, but too sleepy to remember them.
Working for long stretches on a piece of fiction for a Canadian writing collective, the unhappy effort of six hours writing in order to produce a few decent sentences. To develop a critical awareness of what makes for good writing is crucial for both readers and writers, a quality of intelligence quite distinct from judgmentalism. From Whatever Happened to Reading Properly? by Mark Thwaite of ReadySteadyBlog:
In a world that moved from being viewed by the vast majority through a sacramental lens, to one where earthly powers had ever more secular explanations, the problem of authority became a problem for art and artists. Why and in what way did the artist have authority to speak? And how could that question inform the art that the artist produced, so that their work did not exhibit the bad faith of pretending that question away? This leads to our second theme: the disenchantment of the world. Do artists seek to re-enchant the world (and who/what gives them authority to do so) or to respond to its disenchantment? Either way, it’s a serious job, even when you’re laughing as you do it, like Sterne or Spark. For readers who seek through their reading to reach into existenital questions of their own, it is a vital activity.
And when it comes to weekend reading online, I was moved by the Scandinavian writer Henning Mankell’s tribute to Mozambique, a country –described by Mia Couto as ‘a verandah that overlooks the Indian Ocean’ – I know as well as the back of my hand:
And, after decades of war, the animals are returning. Wildlife preserves that have been empty because of illegal hunting or simply because the animals fled, are beginning to fill up with elephants, zebra and other animals again. The Gorongosa national park (exploregorongosa.com) in the north has hundreds of species and offers safaris; at the Great Limpopo transfrontier park (dolimpopo.com), on the border with the Kruger in the south, tourists enjoy 4×4 eco-trails, canoeing trips and hikes, encountering leopard, snakes, crocodiles, rhinos, giraffes and more.
But it’s the people that are most important. The wonderful Mozambican people have endured tremendous misery without losing their dignity and their positive outlook on life. Moreover, they have not lost their will to progress and develop. Mozambique is a country where the people never surrendered.