I recently finished reading "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver and it completely blew me away. That is the kind of book I dream about writing. The characters stuck in my head for days, there were bits of dialogue that had me laughing out loud by my self (not that difficult, really, when the narrators are a bunch of girls from 1960's Georgia), and I even cried at the end of the book.
Another thing that really impressed me is how similar the Congo described in the book is to modern-day Chimoio, and to all of the rural areas we've visited in Mozambique. Many of the details in the novel - the kind of "Baptist donation bin" clothes people wear, including men donning "ladies' wear jackets", the way women pound manioc in giant mortar and pestles, the back-breaking labor that the women do while the men sit idly about, the long printed swaths of fabric used as wrap-around skirts over all other layers of clothes... It was all incredibly familiar, and I was left with the distinct impression that the author herself must have spent some significant time in her life observing the people and places of the Congo.
It's been a long time since I read a book that I enjoyed so much. I think the last one was "The Power of One" by Bryce Courtenay. Coincidentally both are books about childhood in Africa, told primarily from the perspective of young people growing up in countries in the midst of tremendous political change.
I was so in awe of "The Poisonwood Bible" - and really continue to be, truth be told - that it's been difficult to imagine sitting down to write something myself, even if just a blog entry.
I take solace in the fact that Barbara Kinsolver apparently wrote this book 30 years after her experiences in Africa. Many times I get in a panic because I fear that I will forget, or otherwise be unable to replicate, the experiences that I am having now in Mozambique. I'd very much like to write a proper book about what we've seen in others and lived through ourselves, but since I no longer keep a personal journal where I can write absolutely candidly, I fear the critical details of what I want to share will dry up and blow away if not recorded RIGHT NOW.
Yes, there is the blog, but there is a whale of information that I've not put up here over the last 2 years, either because it was somebody else's tale to tell (I try not to write about other people's dirt online), or it was the kind of story that I fear if published while we are still in the country could create some significant problems for us (as they have to do with blatant corruption and deceipt, both on the part of Mozambicans and foreigners we've come across).
I know that a tremendous amount of research went into writing "The Poisonwood Bible", that certainly the author didn't simply sit down and pour out all those fabulously accurate details in the space of a couple of months. I know she had to rely on other books on the subject, a KiKongo dictionary, the Bible, and friends and researchers up-to-date on the political and cultural happenings of the 1960's.
Thinking about this process, and the fabulous novel that resulted, gives me hope that I will be able to write the things I desire when the time is right. If Barbara Kingsolver was able to do it 30 years after the fact, then 5 of 7 shouldn't be too tragic for me, I imagine. Or even more, who knows. I am aware that hindsight will play a vital role in what I write and how I write it. The kind of understanding and perspective I hope for in my eventual writings about Mozambique cannot be forced to exist, and can only come about through good old time.