Cutting for Stone: An Ethiopian Myth

March 10, 2012

Cuttng for Stone
Abraham Verghese
Vintage Canada Edition © 2010

Rating 4 Stars Excellent: a first class read

Unexpectedly I found his novel about Ethiopia and surgery entertaining and authentic.  It is not history but like many myths it presents larger truths. The characters are representatives of people you could meet in Africa.The story is largely set in a hospital known as Missing. Missing is a mispronunciation of mission but also is describes the situation  for  the surgeon Thomas Stone who buries himself in work to hide from his neglected childhood and Sister Mary Praise the beautiful Indian Nun who never recovers from the trauma of her 6 months transit through Aden.
Stone is credited with writing a book similar to the most famous surgical texts every published and like Hamilton Bailey the actual author has only 9 digits). Read the rest of this entry »


Uganda under Museveni:A story of betrayals

March 16, 2011

The Correct Line: Uganda Under Museveni
Olive Kobusingye
Author House® United Kingdom
© 2010 Olive Kobusingye

Rating Two Stars Good – Worth Reading but some major flaws
This book claims to be the first book length publication that is critical of the current Ugandan president and his regime. This truth means that it is not surprising that publication and circulation in Uganda of the Correct Line was a challenge to the author. No Uganda publishing house would accept it therefore it was published, in London, England. When it was imported it was stopped by Uganda customs at Entebbe Air port. After debate in parliament the book was released and then it was even serialized in a Ugandan daily newspaper. There could have been no better publicity for The Correct Line than the seizure and subsequent debate in parliament. My experience with reading a previously banned book has been disappointment because of excessively inflated expectations. I was wondering where was the challenge to state security in this book? Much that was presented is well known. However to be the first to write a critical book in the charged political atmosphere of Uganda takes courage and the author should be congratulated for exercising her right of free speech. Read the rest of this entry »


Lessons from the Emperor’s Failed Strategies

July 18, 2010

The Emperor: downfall of an autocrat
© 1983 Ryszard Kapusinski
Vintage International, a division of Random House New York
Translated from Polish by William Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkwska-Brand

Rating 4 Star Excellent – History as literature

Kapusinski’s portrayal of Haile Selassie’s Palace and his downfall is based on the accounts of those who had ‘frequented the court’. Shortly after the Dergue Regime replaced the Empire, the author interviewed the emperor’s servants and courtiers. This was during the ‘madness of the fetasha”, the search; at that time every person, bus, home or neighbourhood was subject to search for counter revolutionary evidence. Teferra Gebrewold a former palace press handler and the author went at night and in great fear to the Addis Ababa hideouts of former palace staffers.

This book is recommended to all readers of history because of the universality of the story and its superb presentation. It is a must read for all expatriates coming to work in Ethiopia as insight into the palace is an example of how Ethiopians function within highly dysfunctional Ethiopian institutions. The dignitaries, bureaucrats and personal people, the factions who populated the palace when it was most powerful and their reformulation as the jailers, talkers and floaters when it was collapsing are instructive characterizations. I regret that I did not re-read this book, which I first read a decade ago, before my recent two year appointment in the Department of Surgery at the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Read the rest of this entry »


Many Died in the Race for Timbuktu

July 5, 2010

The Race for Timbuktu: in search of Africa’s City of Gold
© 2006 Frank T Kryza
Harper Collins New York

Rating Two Stars Good – Worth Reading but some major flaws

The search for Timbuktu from the formation of the African Association in 1788 until 1830 when the anticlimactic winner of the “race” published his ‘Travels through Central Africa to Timbuktu’ is the subject of Kryza’s book. The Race for Timbuktu includes details of the ordeals of the travelers sent out by the African Association to solve both the mysteries of the famed city of gold, Timbuktu and the location of the termination of the Niger River. Speculation on the Niger issue included the idea that it emptied into one of the two other great African rivers, the Nile, or the Congo, an inland lake and least likely directly into the Atlantic. The African Association made up of rich and powerful British Aristocrats sent many unprivileged and ambitious young British doctors and military officers to their deaths. The doctors who were almost always included on these journeys usually died early. The African Association underpaid the adventurers and rarely provided their families or dependents death benefits. Read the rest of this entry »


The Suez Canal and the European Scramble for Africa

July 4, 2010

Three Empires on the Nile: The Victorian Jihad, 1869-1899
Author: Dominic Green
Free Press: A division of Simon and Shuster Inc.
©2007 Dominic Green
Rating 3 Stars – Very Good

The 19th century European scramble for African colonies was initiated by events in the 18th century. One of the most important of these events was the opening of the Suez Canal. This short cut to “British” India had a great impact on the peoples that share the River Nile; Currently the Nile Basin includes 10 countries. In 1869, ten years after the start, the Suez Canal which was constructed by the French, with British finance and Egyptian labor was opened. The British interests in India would not let the canal fall into hostile hands, meaning neither Egyptian nationalists or the French. To control the Canal, Britain must control Egypt and therefore it must control the Nile basin. This was the basis for the late 18th century imperial conflicts over the Nile. The Three Empires of the Nile: The Victorian Jihad 1869-1899 introduces the reader to this important history. Read the rest of this entry »


Fourteen Witnesses to the Rwandan Genocide

June 19, 2010

Into the Quick of Life
The Rwandan Genocide: The Survivors speak
Jean Hatzfeld
English Translation © 2005 Gerry Freehilly
Mackays of Chatam PLC
Rating: 4 Stars Excellent

This is the best book I have read about the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. It was originally written in “Rwandan” French but even in this English translation the anguish and dignity of 14 survivors is communicated in a highly literary form. Each of the chapters sets the scene in post genocide Rwanda and then gives the testimony of a survivor. The author interviewed survivors from Bugesars one of many regions of this small highly populated country. Rwanda one of the most beautiful places in this world was known as the land of 1000 hills but is now known for one of the worst events of the 20th century. Read the rest of this entry »


The Critical Influence of the Sahara on Africa and the World

June 17, 2010

Sahara: The life of the great desert
Marq de Villiers; Sheila Hirtle
Harper Collins, Hammersmith London 2004
Rating: 5 Stars Transforms ones understanding of Africa.

Ten thousand years go the Sahara was a sparsely populated temperate grassland. A shift in the earth’s axis transformed this grassland into the world’s largest desert forcing most of the Saharan population to the valleys of the River Nile. Sahara: the life of the great desert makes an understanding of this huge geographic entity and its peoples and empires accessible to the general reader. De Villiers and Hirtle who reside in Lunenburg Nova Scotia have the rare ability to make geography and history of this poorly understood region amazing and exciting and demonstrate its importance to global climate and the development of western civilization. Read the rest of this entry »