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When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa Hardcover – April 17, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this exquisitely written, deeply moving account of the death of a father played out against the backdrop of the collapse of the southern African nation of Zimbabwe, seasoned journalist Godwin has produced a memoir that effortlessly manages to be almost unbearably personal while simultaneously laying bare the cruel regime of longstanding president Robert Mugabe. In 1996 when his father suffers a heart attack, Godwin returns to Africa and sparks the central revelation of the book—the father is Jewish and has hidden it from Godwin and his siblings. As his father's health deteriorates, so does Zimbabwe. Mugabe, self-proclaimed president for life, institutes a series of ill-conceived land reforms that throw the white farmers off the land they've cultivated for generations and consequently throws the country's economy into free fall. There's sadness throughout—for the death of the father, for the suffering of everyone in Zimbabwe (black and white alike) and for the way that human beings invariably treat each other with casual disregard. Godwin's narrative flows seamlessly across the decades, creating a searing portrait of a family and a nation collectively coming to terms with death. This is a tour de force of personal journalism and not to be missed. (Apr.)
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From The New Yorker
Godwin, the author of a previous memoir about growing up during Zimbabwes war of independence, has written a sequel of sorts, tracing the collapse of his country in the course of the past decade (the violently destructive Robert Mugabe is the "crocodile" of the title) in tandem with the decline of his father. The memoirs central drama comes from the dying fathers revelation that he is not British at all, as his son had always believed, but a Polish Jew, born Kazimierz Jerzy Goldfarb, whose mother and sister were killed in Treblinka. Occasionally, Godwins attempts to knit the various story lines together seem a bit pat"A white in Africa is like a Jew everywhere . . . waiting for the next great tidal swell of hostility"but he ultimately delivers a powerful narrative of grief and desperation, both personal and national.
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Top customer reviews
Reading this account of the heart breaking experience from the African white side of the story in Zimbabwa was good for me but also left me feeling some what torn as to where my sympathies should fall. It seems there was injustice on all sides in this account, as often there is when history is told from all points of view.
The book is well done and I feel much more informed on the issues plaguing that region since having read it. It is also much more meaningful to read when traveling in the region. South Africa has a long way to go towards equality for all from my vantage point. Everywhere we went, black Africans were working/serving while whites were touring and being served. It was not a comfortable feeling.