Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A fleeting return...

Getting on the train, I see him at the far end of the platform, I recognize him by the colourful African print shirt which he wears these days in the summer to the office. I move to wave to him and then notice that he is engrossed in an active, almost aggressive conversation with the woman beside him. She is smartly dressed in a grey trouser suit, and my first thought is that she must be sweltering in that outfit on this hot summer day. She seems to be haranguing him about something and so not wanting to embarrass him, I move to the far end of the carriage and bury my head like a good Londoner in one of the free Metro newspapers that litter the carriage. For the umpteenth time I wonder whether the newspaper companies responsible for all this extra litter pay extra to the local authority for cleaning up. These are the same newspapers that harangue us daily about reducing our carbon footprints and I can't help but wonder how many extra kilograms of carbon the free newspapers they churn out are adding....

When it is time to get off at my stop, I notice that my colleague and the woman who I now think must be his wife gets off as well. I am surprised as I am going to a meeting at a hotel and so quicken my steps. As I enter the lobby, I pause at reception to ask where the meeting is being held. In that instant they catch up with me and I stammer out a good morning. His reply is perfunctory and he makes no effort to introduce me to his companion. As I move towards the room where my meeting is to take place, I bump into a lawyer friend who appears surprised to see me- are you testifying in the investigation, he asks. I know it was your office but I didn't see you mentioned in the documentation. It is then that the truth sinks in, rumours have swirled about how my colleague has threatened to take our employers to an employment tribunal. Evidently some sort of pre- meeting is going on- as I make my way to my meeting, I reflect on the coincidence that has roped us all together this July morning....

I have just finished reading the autobiography of Clarence Thomas, the African-American judge on the US Supreme Court, whose confirmation hearings nearly two decades ago descended into a fightfest as he was accused of sexually harassing Anita Hill, a former subordinate who was also AfricanAmerican. Reading it, I am filled with sympathy for him, coming from a very poor family from Georgia and struggling up the ladder in a country where his dark skin made him the target of much derision not just from whites, but also from his black schoolmates who dubbed him America's Blackest Child. What that sort of trauma can do to a man's psyche can only be guessed at, but in reading the book I am filled with pity for him....I am also struck by how many people do not remember who he is, while for me the image of his accuser Anita Hill, pretty with her face tearstained testifying before the Senate is indelibly marked in my memory...

Speaking of memory, I've just finished Dancer, by Colum McCann, whom I have only just discovered. McCann vividly recreates or reimagines the life of the dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov that you almost believe that he is writing from memory... I'll be looking out for more books by McCann, whose lyrical voice sings with the stereotypically Irish rhythms of his heritage

Theatre loving Londoners are in for a treat with the programme of plays by Tiata Fahodzi, the Black British Theatre Company opening at the Almeida from the 28th of July to the 1st of August featuring actors from Nigeria and Ghana among other places, including Cyril Nri , Superintednt Adam Okaro from the television series The Bill

In Kenya, the Kwani Literary Festival is set to kick off in Nairobi featuring a slate of African writers including Ishmael Beah, Monica Arac de Nyeko (who recently outed herself as a fan of this blog), Chimamanda Adichie, Dayo Forster, whose Reading the Ceiling I enjoyed and of course, the host Binyavanga Wainaina. It sounds like good fun for those lucky enough to be in Nairobi...

Sefi Atta's new book, Swallow is out on Amazon now and here she talks about it with Ike Anya

So much to blog about, and so little time....I'll try to be more disciplined....

5 comments:

Jaycee said...

I'm swooning in a world of literature, even here on this blog. Don't I just wish I was in Nairobi? :)

The first part of this post...was it out of one those books you read? Or did u merely concoct the story? Or was it an incidence that happened for real?

Bitchy said...

Glad to see you're still at it UK :)

Your talk of books is filling me with envy. I didn't realise how lucky I was when books were a mere 5 minutes away, or a click away on my beloved Amazon.

Now I am in Lagos. Nu Metro at Silverbird has gone on holiday, and an angry case of Friday evening traffic stands between me and the next reputable bookstore.

I am in agony

Goy said...

Welcome back.

I'm not really sure why you feel any sympathy for Mr Thomas. I've read the autobiography too, and it's just a self serving litany of 'o woe, o me'.

The guy had a hard life, no doubt about it. But he also rose above it, exceptionally so, through hard work and perseverance. Why not champion that?

He ignores the fact that he personally benefited from the policies he trashes so comprehensively now, of affirmative action and so on. Sure, no reason for him to champion them simply because he gained from them - but a little perspective, perhaps?

read this

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2007/11/12/071112crbo_books_toobin

As for his shenanigans involving Coke cans and pubic hair...

uknaija said...

@jaycee, no concoctions- all true...mostly
@bitchy- You have Lagos and no books, I have books and no lagos....
@goy...Pity is slightly different from sympathy :-)

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