The most extraordinary aspect of these stories set in Botswana is the absolute authenticity of each of the narrative voices. All are stripped, even severe, but readers will easily distinguish among them. The narrator in ``Bruns,'' a fanatic determined to impose his own moral code on the Boers, who hate him, is distinctively different from the character Frank, ``Alone in Africa'' while his wife is on vacation, leaving him to a bottle of good Riesling and the quirky sexual ministrations of a nubile Botswanan. The heartbreak of everyday tragedy, as evoked in ``Near Pala'' by three women in the drought-parched land beseeching the passengers in a car for water, is heightened by a joltingly ironic ending. Most moving of all, speaking as it seems from the heart of Africa, is the voice of Mokgalagadi, the righteous boy born of a tribe destined for misfortune and thrown out of his mission school. At once innocent and disingenuous, he protests against thieving, yet is saved by thieves, begs on behalf of God, yet is reduced to begging from the houses of God. It is wonderful to hear the click of African syllables in counterpoint to the genteel English of petty officials. In their variety, their pointblank aim, their refusal to editorialize, these six stories raise the curtain on the dark, restless drama of present-day Africa. March 3
Eisenberg, author of a comic play, Pastorale , presents a first collection of seven short stories, four of which appeared in the New Yorker. Her stories, urbane, witty, sophisticated, are about articulate people trapped in the complexities of modern life. They are about women seeking commitment who fastened on the wrong man. In the title story a young woman literally drops her life whenever Ivan calls; she visits him in Montreal where she finally understands he will never be tied to her in any real way. The stories are saved from cliche by Eisenberg's insight, her detachment, and her humor. Six serious stories in Norman Rush's Whites are set in a black republic in Africa. They reveal the deep cultural chasm between whites and blacks which ultimately leads to disaster. Rush also deals with the alienation of the whites who have come to Africa. They have come to offer technological improvement and must face their own inadequacy, the hypocrisy of white religion, the complacency of technocrats. They are forced to acknowledge the difficulty inherent in any attempt to bridge the gap between a sensuous, more primitive way of life and industrial society. Both these collections, though dissimilar in subject and tone, are revealing of the societies they portray and are strongly recommended for general short story collections. Marcia Tager, Tenafly, N.J.