THE DUST DIARIES: Seeking the African Legacy of Arthur Cripps

Owen Sheers, Author . Houghton Mifflin $23 (310p) ISBN 978-0-618-16464-6

In this limpid biography, Welsh poet Sheers reconstructs his English great-great-uncle's unorthodox missionary career in colonial southern Rhodesia. Intrigued by Arthur Cripps's reputation as a poet and as the beloved "shaman" of a rural Rhodesian native community, Sheers recounts his life of self-imposed exile through intercut time frames, imagined points of view and fragments of documentary evidence. Charting Cripps's life from his 1901 arrival in central Mashonaland to his death there in 1952, the author convincingly delineates a portrait of an ascetic subversive, more sympathetic to native custom than to white colonial rule. Sheers effectively conveys the white community's disapproval of Cripps's belief in African land rights and independence, although he does not explore a wider political context for Cripps's colonial critique. As for the contemporary sections of his book, while Sheers's account of his travels in the footsteps of his ancestor provides an informative update on postcolonial Zimbabwe, such journalistic impulses are sacrificed to anticlimactic pursuit of witnesses to Cripps's past. Sheers narrows his focus to a quirky family figure whom he can only distantly imagine, rather than undertaking a fuller historical journey. Obsessing over a rumor of a lost love in Cripps's past, he closes the book on the disappointingly clichéd note of a secret unlocked. Still, if Sheers fails to allow for full imaginative transport to the world he describes, he diligently accumulates absorbing and authentic visual and factual details that will be of value to those interested in Britain's former African colonies. (Mar. 25)

Reviewed on: 02/02/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
Show other formats
FORMATS
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.