This Was the Old Chief's Country: Collected African Stories, Volume 1
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The first volume of Doris Lessing's 'Collected African Stories', and a classic work from the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 'It can be said of all white-dominated Africa that it was – and still is – the Old Chief's Country. So all the stories I write of a certain kind I think of as belonging under that heading; tales about white people, sometimes about black people, living in a landscape that not so very long ago was settled by black tribes, living in complex societies that the white people are only just beginning to study, let alone understand.' Doris Lessing, from the preface In this superb volume of African stories, Lessing paints a magnificent portrait of the country in which she grew up. The cruelties of the white man towards the native, 'the amorphous black mass, like tadpoles, faceless, who existed merely to serve', the English settlers, ill at ease, the gamblers and moneymakers searching for diamonds and gold, and the presence, 'latent always in the blood', of Africa itself, its majestic beauty and timeless landscape: Lessing draws them all together into a powerful, memorable vision.
and vanished behind the lavatories. Marina went inside her ‘flat’ with what was, had she known it, an angry frown. ‘Disgraceful,’ she muttered, including in this condemnation the bare room in which this man was expected to fit his life, the dirty sanitary lane bordered with stinking rubbish cans, and also his unreasonable cheerfulness. Inside, she forgot him in her own discomfort. It was a truly shocking place. The two small rooms were so made that the inter-leading door was in the centre of the
children, cuffing them affectionately as he spoke, smiling like a boy. He was proud of his family, of his own capacity for making children: Major Carruthers could see that. Almost, he smiled; then he glanced through the doorway at the grey squalor of the interior and hurried off, resolutely preventing himself from dwelling on the repulsive facts that such close-packed living implied. The next Saturday evening he and Van Heerden paced the clearing with tape measure and spirit level, determining
awake, turned on her side, watching the door for the relief of his coming. ‘I’ve written for a job at Home,’ he said simply, laying his hand on her thin dry wrist, and feeling the slow pulse beat up suddenly against his palm. He watched curiously as her face crumpled and the tears of thankfulness and release ran slowly down her cheeks and soaked the pillow. The Nuisance Two narrow tracks, one of them deepened to a smooth dusty groove by the incessant padding of bare feet, wound from the
Rather, in fact, as Harriet and David did. Both more than once – seeing the girl’s face, reverential, even awed, always on the watch as if she feared to miss some revelation of goodness or grace the moment she allowed her attention to lapse – saw themselves. Even uneasily saw themselves. It was too much…excessive…Surely they should be saying to her, ‘Look here, Bridget, don’t expect so much. Life isn’t like that!’ But life is like that, if you choose right: so why should they feel she couldn’t
a new job, or back home to their kraals. They were thought of as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ natives; which meant: how did they behave as servants? Were they lazy, efficient, obedient, or disrespectful? If the family felt good-humoured, the phrase was: ‘What can you expect from raw black savages?’ If we were angry, we said: ‘These damned niggers, we would be much better off without them.’ One day, a white policeman was on his rounds of the district, and he said laughingly: ‘Did you know you have an