166 Pages
English

Absent. The English Teacher

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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 George�s lessons on Shakespeare, John Eppel draws down the curtain on one particular white man in Africa. But before it�s time to go, George will delight us with the antics of his literature classes; his various arrests � all timed to coincide with the police chief�s 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 family�s 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.

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Published by
Published 15 October 2009
Reads 5
EAN13 9781779221155
Language English
Document size 10 MB

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Absent: T h e E ngl i s h T e a ch e r
Absent: T h e E ngl i s h T e ach e r
J o h n E p p e l
Published by Weaver Press, Box A1922, Avondale, Harare. 2009
© John Eppel, 2009
Typeset by Weaver Press Cover Design: banana republic Printed by Pinetown Printers, Johannesburg
The publishers would like to express their gratitude to HIVOS for the support they have given to Weaver Press in the development of their fiction programme.
All rights reserved. No part of the publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means – photocopying, electronic, mechanical, recording, or otherwise – without the express written permission of the publisher.
ISBN: 978 1 77922 082 0
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Born in South Africa in 1947, John Eppel was raised in Zimbabwe, where he still lives, making his home in Bulawayo near the Ma-tobo Hills. He teaches English at Christian Brothers College. His first novel,D.G.G. Berry’s The Great North Road, won the M-Net prize in South Africa and was listed in theWeekly Mail & Guardianas one of the best 20 South African books in English published between 1948 and 1994. His second novel,Hatchings, was short-listed for the M-Net prize and was chosen for the series in theTimes Literary Supplementof the most significant books to have come out of Africa. His other novels includeThe Giraffe Man, The Curse of the Ripe Tomato, andThe Holy Innocents. His book of poems,Spoils of War, won the Ingrid Jonker Prize. His other poetry books includeSonata for Matabeleland, Selected Poems: 1965-1995, andSongs My Country Taught Meaddi-. In tion he has written two books which combine poems and short stories:The Caruso of Colleen Bawn, andWhite Man Crawling. Awaiting publication is a book of poems entitledLandlocked, and a book of short stories entitledWhite Man Walking.
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CO N T E N T S
Introduction: Kizito Muchemwa
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22.
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Pale Moon Rising . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 A Glint of Copper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5 A Weekend in Elsinore . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13 Wabenzi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27 Letting Slip. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29 A Little Touch of Georgy in the Night. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33 For She My Mind Hath So Displac’d. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39 A Hard Day’s Night. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45 Deus Ex Machina. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57 Hope Deferred and a Longing Fulfilled. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .64 Reason Not …. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .69 …The Need. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .75 Words, Words, Words. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .82 Return to Elsinore. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .88 DoingIt. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .96 The Enormous Turnip. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .102 Salmagundi. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .108 A Sentence is but a Chev’ril Glove…. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .114 Long Day’s Journey. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .122 Into Night. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .129 Westering. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .136 George Jorge George of the Bushveld. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .142
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JOHNEPPEL AND THEPLACE OFLITERATURE
IN THEPOSTCOLONIALWORLD
Kizito Z. Muchemwa
It is not often that one reads a Zimbabwean novel that provides such a wide range of pleasures to its readers.Absent: The English Teacherby John Eppel displays an exhilarating verbal agility (which lends the novel much of its humour); a powerful evocation of place and historical period; and the vivid creation of memorable characters. His plot’s construction draws on a rich linguistic inventiveness, his denotations and connotations of words leading the narrator, the (former) English teacher, to new inci-dents, thoughts and feelings. A sense of the incongruous and grasp of his-torical detail are also connected as language, characters and events are connected in a web of their referential and allusive power. The narrator has the comic genius of Feste and Hamlet, and this allows him to see all kinds of possible connections in a world that has gone awry. Satire, aris-ing out of a compulsive play on words as both a mental disposition and a mode of viewing a cock-eyed reality, allows the writer to use humour therapeutically as the narrator engages with actuality. Eppel creates vivid landscapes that provide the setting for his novels: landscape that is invested in the weight of historical and cultural memory, a contested site for the location of identities in an endless cycle of migra-tion and displacement. It also represents many aspects of ecology: its di-versity, its miraculous capacity to sustain life, and its fragility. Nature, in the raw, reveals that landscapes are far from idyllic despite the tender evo-cation of the acacia savannah surrounding Bulawayo. What emerges from these descriptions is not only Eppel’s intimate knowledge and love of the local flora and fauna but an abiding concern for the environment; he brings into his writing the expertise of the botanist, ornithologist, zoolo-gist and game ranger. InAbsent: the English Teacher, the suburban gar-den becomes a site of what George describes as ‘ecological imperialism’,
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