About 15 years ago, the German-born writer Corinne Hofmann enjoyed a huge success with an account of her headlong romance, marriage and then break-up with a dashing Samburu warrior in Kenya, The White Masai, which sold over four million copies worldwide. It captured the imagination of many whose own lives are rather humdrum, as well as providing an enjoyable read for European tourists heading for East Africa. It was followed by three other volumes of African memoirs, the last of which, Africa, My Passion, has now appeared in an English edition (translated from the German by Peter Millar), published by Arcadia Books (£12.99). In a sense the book is another love-song, only this time towards a continent rather than to a particular man and his environment. Not all the action is in Kenya this time, as the first part of the story relates a trek through some of the beautiful desert of Namibia (formerly German South West Africa). A middle section sees the narrator visiting various small-scale but successful development projects, ranging from vegetable growing in bags in the huge Nairobi slum, Kibera, to a football team for reformed gang-members. But most readers will enjoy most the third section of the book, which recounts Hofmann’s return to the Samburu lands, to introduce her 20-year-old daughter — who she has raised in Switzerland — to her father. There is no attempt at any full reconciliation (besides, her ex-husband now has a third wife and other children), but the meetings go well with him and her mother-in-law, who was a key figure in her Kenyan experience. And down on the coast south of Mombasa, she manages to track down her old friend, the Masai market-seller Priscilla [picture left]. But as Hofmann says in a postscript, for her a lot of the attraction of Africa is its otherness, its complete contrast to clean, solid, ordered Switzerland, “the intangible, the immovable, the unpredictable, the chaos, the animals, the sheer wildness that is Africa’s alone.”
Posts Tagged ‘Kenya’
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 2nd March, 2014
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Africa My Passion, Arcadia Books, Corinne Hofmann, Kenya, Kibera, Masai, Mombasa, Nairobi, Namibia, Peter Millar, Samburu, Switzerland, The White Masai | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 13th November, 2012
During her two years at the Home Office, Lynne Featherstone did great things to promote the equalities agenda, even if she and Theresa May did not always see eye to eye. The Equal Marriage consultation was a real win for the LibDems within the Coalition, and to his credit David Cameron “got” the issue, even if some of his backbench headbangers didn’t. So there was initially some disquiet among LibDems when Lynne was moved in the ministerial reshuffle earier this year to the Department for International Development (DfID). However, as Lynne made clear at an informal briefing to the International Relations Committee (IRC) of the Liberal Democrat Party in Westminster this evening, she has taken equality issues along with her (with the PM’s blessing), and it is especially important that she is able to champion the central role of women in development. She has just returned from a mission to South Sudan, which was rather jumping in at the deep end, though other states she has visited this year include Kenya and Uganda, and Africa is now central to her remit. DfID has of course been directed to phase down its involvement in India (now one of the BRICs) but Africa remains a main area of concern, not only for the traditional problems of famine and disease (including HIV/AIDS) but also for the way that women are excluded and often oppressed within many African societies, including through the persistence of female genital mutilation (FGM). It was interesting that FGM was a major topic in the discussion after Lynne’s presentation at the IRC, but then it is a quintissentially Liberal issue, relating to human rights and gender matters as well as to health. Lynne was a shadow International Development Minister some years ago, so she is not entirely fresh to the field. But it is clear that Africa is offering her a steep learning curve, from which both she and Africa’s development should ultimately benefit.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 12th November, 2008
Naughty people are so much more interesting than goody-goodies. And few well-bred ladies in the 20th Century were quite as naughty as Idina Sackville, five times married and five times divorced, painted by Sir William Orpen, part fictionalised by Nancy Mitford and Michael Arlen and now immortalised by her great-grand-daughter, Frances Osborne, in her book The Bolter (Virago, £18.99). Frances Osborne — who is the daughter of the former Conservative government Minister, Lord (David) Howell, and the wife of the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne – was the guest speaker at the Biographers’ Club lunch at Shepherd’s Restaurant in Westminster today. She gave a fascinating talk about how she became engrossed in her errant forebear, who walked out on her handsome, sweet and super-rich husband Euan Wallace and their two little boys, to go to live in Kenya, settling in Happy Valley, the land of White Mischief, where she consolidated her reputation as a great seductress.
The book is a compulsive read, but the story of its gestation is gripping too. Originally conceived as a novel, it turned into a family memoir, as Frances Osborne probed deeper into her great-grandmother’s hidden past. The author stumbled on her connection to the subject by accident when she was 13, reading an article in a newspaper about Idina Sackville’s scandals. When she brought this to her parents’ attention, David Howell laughingly said that now her mother would now have to tell her the family secret. It was not easy. As Frances Osborne commented at the lunch, ‘Mother was not brought up to go round saying her grandmother was a nymphomaniac.’ Thanks to several caches of diaries, letters and other primary sources, a wonderfully rounded tale was weaved together. But now the book is launched and selling well, Frances Osborne will proceed with her thwarted original intention of writing an historical novel.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Biographers' Club, David Howell, Euan Wallace, Frances Osborne, George Osborne, Happy Valley, Idina Sackville, Kenya, Michael Arlen, Nancy Mitford, Shepherd's Restaurant, The Bolter, Virago Press, White Mischief, William Orpen | 1 Comment »