Friday, May 14, 2010

Maya, Maya and Warriors

Yesterday, I was trawling around the web, doing some research on my father for my memoir, Silence and the Black Wolf. I thought I might find something interesting someone had said about him.  Mostly, I found what I always find, site after site with listings of his mostly out of print books.  I decided to go a little further on Google and go past the 2nd or 3rd page of the search.  It was worth the effort.

I found Maya Alexandri. I saw my father's name mentioned in the search blurb and wondered who she might be.  What I discovered, on her blog, was that she has written not one, but two pieces about my father's book, Warriors

Maya Alexandri

Warriors was originally part of a bigger book called Warriors and Strangers. One part was about his time in Somalia in WWII and the other part about going back to Kenya after many years away.  After his death, it was re-published but only with the section about Somalia. 

Gerald Hanley drawn by John Huston, dedicated to my twin, Una

I read the blog post with great interest.  It was well thought through and well written. The gist of it was that whenever she reads books that describe fascinating but awful places, she immediately wants to go there.  Indeed, Warriors describes Somalia after the British had taken over from the Italians. It was not a place anyone would want to be. His descriptions of the privations they suffered; not getting their rations, cigarettes, alcohol and food for weeks on end and how that affected the 'askaris'.  He describes an almost mutiny when they don't get their monthly ghee ration.  During the time he was there, 7 of his fellow officers committed suicide.  That said, his description of the place, the people, the suffering, the grandeur is riveting. 

Warriors is also a book about colonialism and the paternalistic attitude of the coloniser towards the colonised. It is a damning indictment of what colonialism has done in Africa.  If anyone wants to know why Somalia is in the state it's in now, read Warriors.  In fact, it should be mandatory reading for anyone thinking of invading another country.( You know who you are!)

I wrote to Maya.  First of all, her name is Maya. That caught my attention. Then, her surname is Alexandri.  All you have to do is add and 'a' to the end and you have the city of my grandmother's birth.  She's a writer, someone who gave up a law career to pursue her dreams. When I wrote to her, I thought she was in Beijing.  This morning I got an email response from her.  You'll never guess where she is now, writing another book.  Kenya.  The coincidences are piling up here.

My mother was born and raised in Nairobi. She lived there till she was 36. My father spent from 1934 to the outbreak of WWII there and was then posted to Somalia and later to Burma.  My two sisters lived there till they were 10 and 12.  My father has written several books about Kenya, novels mostly.

I love synchronicity like this.   I sat here this morning wondering what it might mean. I am pretty sure it does mean something but I don't know what.  Why has my path crossed hers?  Why has she written two pieces on Warriors?  Two very thoughtful pieces.  Here they are:

Ready for the Shovel  and Of Wisdom and Imperial Ambivalence

I have not gone any further into her site yet but it looks like she's written about a lot of authors.  Her own novels have not been published yet, despite DM Thomas personally helping her with her first one.  

More and more, events and research are leading me back to Kenya.  It's highly likely that Maya and I might meet there next year.  Wouldn't that be interesting?

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