Role reversals at a school in Bulawayo

2009-09-16 00:00


The English Teacher

John EppelJacana

IF this is meant to be satire, it doesn’t work very well, and the comment on the back cover that it is a “welcome contribution to the literature of the region” is surprising. The hero of the tale, Mr George J. George, teaches English at the Boys and Girls Come Out to Play Secondary School in Bulawayo­ and the reader is asked to accept that after a drink or two he mistakes his Ford Escort for the moon. Many of his lessons are a mixture of pedantic waffle about trochaic­ tetrameter and what are often­ unnecessary allusions to sex.

When he backs the uninsured Escort into a new Mercedes owned by a black woman MP called Beauticious, an unlikely role reversal arises. In the out of court settlement, George loses his house to the woman and becomes her domestic servant.

He may be highly intelligent and widely read, but from here on he becomes little more than a loser communicating in Fanagalo with Beauticious, who has a friend called Titty, wearing a fez and living in the servant’s quarters of the house which he once owned. Interestingly, George cooks well and the author enjoys describing his culinary expertise.

The pace changes when George finds a little girl lying in the road outside the gate. He hides her in his kia, calls her Polly Petal and prepares little meals to sustain her. When he decides to return her to the mission from whence he concludes she has come, she and George walk off into the sunset hand in hand with our hero­ becoming more and more sick in a poetic sort of way.

He delivers the child safely, and then climbs into what remains of the enclosure where his grandmother had been born, where he dies. Stirring­ stuff.

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