Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dear Dennis Brutus,

I took your course in African literature at Northwestern. I know I didn't read the Mongo Beti novel. But I read the Armah. I read the Ngugi. And the hilarious Salih. And . . . I thought I'd read the Achebe. But there I sat this morning, reading this old book from my shelves, and nothing of it seemed familiar. Not a word. Did I skim? Did I read it on the edge of sleep and thus retain nothing but what might return to me whenever I slide near the twilight of consciousness? Or did I simply not read it?

Oh Dennis, it was not my aim to thwart your aims. I was young. And how fondly I recall the way you evoked each writer's alien world merely by the speaking of each name. Your high voice, your South African accent emerging from the halo of hair and beard. So you summon them for me still, these writers of other lands.

I will read the Achebe now. It is so good.

But do not expect a paper.

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