African Laughter: Four Visits to Zimbabwe by Doris Lessing

By Doris Lessing

A hugely own tale of the eminent British author returning to her African roots that's "brilliant . . . [and] captures the contradictions of a tender country."--New York occasions e-book Review

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My mission had lasted many weeks, and necessitated riding several hundreds of miles in the great heat of midsummer in discomfort, and often in danger. The British Government remunerated my services by presenting me with a cheque of £100. I did not complain, nor do I now, for it has been so unusual to be paid at all when employed upon these unofficial missions, that it seemed almost extravagant. Only on one other occasion during my whole Morocco career have I ever been paid even my out-of-pocket expenses for tasks undertaken at the request of the British authorities.

Everything he had possessed had been confiscated; his wives and children had died, the result of want and persecution. He emerged from his dark dungeon nearly blind, and lame from the cruel fetters he had worn. In his days of power he had been cruel, it is said – but what a price he paid! He settled in Tangier, where I saw him almost daily. He was in absolute poverty; but all his friends assisted him – and he wanted so little. An old slave woman of the family, who had survived in some out-of-the-way corner, came to look after him, and used to massage his tortured wrists and ankles.

With the cruellest cynicism he was given an official military funeral, attended by all the native authorities and functionaries – for after all he had been Minister of War! Sir Ernest Satow represented Great Britain in Morocco at the time of Mulai Abdul Aziz’s succession. On learning of Mulai Hassen’s death, the news of which Kaid Maclean – who was with the Moorish army – had managed to send to Tangier with almost incredible rapidity, Sir Ernest sent for me and told me that he proposed to send some confidential agent to Fez upon a mission, which would certainly be difficult and very likely dangerous, for, as the news of the Sultan’s death spread, there would no doubt be disturbances on every side.

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