When Mr George loses his job teaching English at a private
secondary school in Bulawayo, his pension payout, after forty years
of full-time service, bought him two jam doughnuts and a soft
tomato. When he backs his uninsured white Ford Escort into a brand
new Mercedes Benz, the out-of-court settlement sees him giving up
his house to the complainant, Beauticious Nyamayakanuna, and
becoming her domestic servant. Through the prism of this engaging
post-colonial role reversal, and spiced with Georges lessons on
Shakespeare, John Eppel draws down the curtain on one particular
white man in Africa. But before its time to go, George will delight
us with the antics of his literature classes; his various arrests
all timed to coincide with the police chiefs need for help with
essays on Hamlet and A Grain of Wheat; his keen eye for flora and
fauna; and the long trek back through the hundred years of his
familys Zimbabwean past, as he returns an abandoned child to her
home. Eppel has satirized the racial politics of southern Africa in
many of his previous novels. In Absent: The English Teacher he
turns his gaze inwards for a generous and richly rewarding parody
of the land of his birth.
African Books Collective
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