Of Beasts and Beings

Overview

In this searing and timely novel, the devastating effects of a country's economic and moral collapse provide the backdrop for a story about individual fortitude and conscience. In an unnamed African republic, militiamen seize an innocent captive while he is scavenging for food in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. He is subsequently traded and ransomed and ends up in the hands of another group, whose members include a pregnant woman whom he is forced to carry in a wheelbarrow on a nightmarish and seemingly endless ...

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Overview

In this searing and timely novel, the devastating effects of a country's economic and moral collapse provide the backdrop for a story about individual fortitude and conscience. In an unnamed African republic, militiamen seize an innocent captive while he is scavenging for food in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. He is subsequently traded and ransomed and ends up in the hands of another group, whose members include a pregnant woman whom he is forced to carry in a wheelbarrow on a nightmarish and seemingly endless overland journey. This powerful story alternates with the tale of a white schoolteacher who, embittered by the horrific state of his country, is preparing to leave. Before he can do so he must confront his own demons and personal failings. Both men are in danger and both are apparently helpless to control their fates. When these two plotlines brilliantly and surprisingly unite the result is electrifying.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Zimbabwean writer Holding (Unfeeling) delivers another powerful tale of guilt and responsibility set in a dystopian Africa. This time out he cleaves the stories of two different people: one an unnamed character who is captured, shackled to a cart, and forced to drag it across a corpse-littered wasteland; the other a white teacher adrift in the country of his birth, who no longer believes he has a claim to his home. The first desolate journey is marked by fear, violence, thirst, and emotional depravity, as a man and two boys force their captive to transport a pregnant woman to an unknown destination; they are unable to act humanely to anyone along the way. The second is equally raw and relentless, playing out in the pages of the white schoolteacher’s journal as he sells his house and prepares to leave his homeland forever. These disparate characters and threads eventually converge, greatly increasing the moral stakes. Holding cleverly implicates the reader in the discrimination and dehumanization that has taken place in his abstract tale, casting us as collaborators in the tragedies playing out across Africa. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
A trek through war-torn Zimbabwe becomes an exercise in survival; Holding's second novel (Unfeeling, 2007) is a story-within-a-story, a postmodern outlet for white guilt. In the immediate aftermath of a civil war, there is famine. A man foraging for scraps outside a city is lassoed by three men with machetes. We learn nothing about this man, the lead character, not his age or color or background, for reasons that will only be made clear much later. His black captors lead him, roped and gagged, past dead bodies, through a burnt-out shanty town, until they loot a house and disappear with the goodies. He acquires new captors, two tough teenagers, who lead him to an older man and a pregnant woman. They harness their captive to a street vendor's cart containing the woman and begin their unexplained journey through the bush. Food is scarce, water a luxury. Holding throws around some big words: carnage, killing fields, genocide. His percussive prose seeks to reflect the raw hurt of their ordeal. Sometimes it succeeds; more often it's awkward and showy. Thrust into the middle of their journey is a section of diary entries written by a 31-year-old man. Like his creator, Ian is a teacher, respected by his high-school students. Unsettled by the political climate, he's selling his house and moving to South Africa. Ian is more type than individual. That type is the "civilized" white man who draws comfort from the classics but is a heartless employer of black servants, willfully blind to their plight. The journey culminates with a final twist that attempts to add dimension to the tale. A story most notable for the grim monotony of the character's trek.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609450540
  • Publisher: Europa Editions, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/25/2011
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Ian Holding is Zimbabwean schoolteacher based in Harare. His critically acclaimed debut novel, Unfeeling, was published in 2005 and shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2006. Of Beasts and Beings is his second novel.

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