The following is Presidential Spokesman George Charamba’s first ever article which has no mention of CCC leader Nelson Chamisa.
Prince Harry’s book, to the contrary, “SPARE” is a minutely searing portrait of a great royal soul shrunk by utter anguish, indeed a globally cacophonous call for rescue from consuming distress.
@Jamwanda2 on Saturday Welcome back, dear reader! Happy and Prosperous New Year to you my many readers. I hope and trust you didn’t drown your intellect in the bar of festive joys!
You need to be fully equipped so we resume the robust exchange through this column. With no holds barred; calling a spade a spade, never by any other comforting name. Here we go. The modest Frenchman
Albert Camus, the French, once reticently told his audience he was not of the right age for giving lecturers.
Albert Camus He felt more at ease in reflection than categorical assertion, because, in his words, “I do not claim to possess what is generally called truth.” Laced with poignant anecdotes though his lecture — The Crisis of Man — was, it soon became clear to his discerning international audience that Camus was in fact a fund of truths on humanity. Particularly humanity for his generation born at the close of the first European war, and raised under the dark shadow of an equally violent sequel — Hitler’s war!
When music rejects melody Bred in bitter circumstances of wanton human carnage, this interwar generation “believed in nothing and lived in rebellion.” Writes Camus: “The literature of [this] age was rebelling against clarity, stories and even sentences. Painting was rebelling against subjects, reality and mere harmony. Music was rejecting melody. As for philosophy, it taught that there was no truth, only phenomena: that there might be Mr Smith, Monsieur Durand and Herr Vogel, but there could be nothing in common between these three specific phenomena.” It was an age of nihilism, a generation “in negation”. Living under war Raised in the context of the Liberation Struggle, I easily relate to this dreary viewpoint. There is something about war and conflict which shrinks everything: life, time, attention, vision or even relationships. You grow wistful, restless and live improvidently for the day. The mathematics of survival reduce numbers to single digits.
Real versus Political Man Camus makes an even more telling observation: there is also “replacement of real man by political man. There are no more possible individual passions, but only collective passions — in other words, abstract passions. We are all introduced willingly or forcibly into politics. What counts is no longer respecting or sparing a mother’s suffering; what counts is securing the victory of a doctrine. And human pain is no longer an outrage, but just a figure on a bill whose dreadful total is not yet calculable.”
The story of three Greek brothers A good writer that he was, Camus gave three illustrations of deadened humanity to his audiences. I will pithily recount one, for me the most poignant and painful. A German officer leads three Greek hostages for execution by firing squad. Three brothers. Their elderly mother throws herself at the feet of the Nazi officer who, in a show of compassion, agrees to spare only one of the three, provided she herself makes the choice.
“Since she is unable to decide, aim is taken at them. She picks the eldest, because he is head of family; but by so doing so she condemns the two others, just as the German officer wished.” The past is not even past I am reading Prince Harry’s book, SPARE. It is introduced by a quote from William Faulkner, a novelist whose novels for me were turgid and tortuous. From Faulkner, Prince Harry picks the following quote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” This is hardly the quote I would readily and boastfully abstract from Faulkner’s voluminous novels. He said more profound things, in less pedestrian style. I wondered why Prince Harry, an ex-British soldier who fought and admits to killing Afghans, would rest his maiden book on such a weak axle. Until I read more, deeper. In medias res Stylistically, the books proceeds “in medias res” — in the middle of the story, to rework itself backwards, through a series of riveting flashbacks. Prince Harry constantly reminds you he is reminiscing, re-narrativising occurrences from as far back as the self-conscious phase of his childhood. He reminds you, too, that human memory is broken and imperfect, including how written self-portraits often use this to dodge dark moments and actions for which straight confessions are unpalatable. Evasive anonymity Harry does more: he skilfully depersonalises most indicting moments in his narrative. As when Princess Diana escapes miserable Windsor and England with her lover Dodi, son of Egyptian tycoon, Al Fayed. Here is a sample of Harry’s plausible evasiveness — he was between 12 and 13 years of age: “The whole family [was at Balmoral], with the exception of Mummy [Princess Diana], because Mummy was no longer part of the family. She’d either bolted or been thrown out, depending on whom you asked, though I never asked anyone. Either way, she was having her own holiday elsewhere. Greece, someone said. No, Sardinia, someone said. No, no, someone chimed in, your mother’s in Paris! Maybe it was Mummy herself who said that. When she phoned earlier that day for a chat. Alas, the memory lies, with a million others, on the other side of a high mental wall.”
Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed This is a typical excerpt from the book, a book so thickly populated with anonymity, depersonalised actors and opinions. I met lots of that in my literary studies. Nothing new, startling. Fusing time for immediacy What makes an impression, made an impression on me, is Prince Harry’s use of time in his narrative. Time past, time present, and time future. How all the three are fused into a striking narrative, all in the historic present tense. The man floats between tenses with effortless ease, to give a riveting immediacy to his narrative which then illustrates Faulkner’s philosophical precept: The past is never dead. It’s not even past! True word spoken in jest So Harry is born, on September 15, 1984, born to Prince Charles, son of then reigning Queen Elizabeth, and Lady Diana, daughter of the Spencer Family. Years before him is born William, his elder brother and, long life willing, future King of England! At Balmoral, the two have as many bedrooms, Harry’s smaller, less luxurious and without a view. Let Harry himself pick up the narrative: “I was twenty the first time I heard the story of what Pa [then Prince Charles, now King] allegedly said to Mummy the day of my birth: “‘Wonderful! Now you’ve given me an Heir and a Spare — my work is done.’ A joke. Presumably. On the other hand, minutes after delivering this bit of high comedy, Pa was said to have gone off to meet his girlfriend [then Camilla Parker Bowles, now Consort]. So. Many a true word spoken in jest.” Boxes with strange contents Gentle reader, if you cringe at reading a 400-plus book called SPARE, now you have it! From birth, Harry was a spare wheel to the whole edifice and retinue of royalty; possibly a small spare, akin to that of a Honda Fit on an off-roader Mercedes Benz! An outsider living in; a misfit but one always in near and in tow, just in case…. By the way, it was not long after this high jest that the marriage between Prince Charles and Princess Diana broke down; indeed his work had been done! Still not long after that the ill-fated Princess Diana would be repatriated from Paris, in a small coffin, to then be laid beneath the well-manicured grounds of negated royalty, for some eternal cold sleep, from which Harry’s SPARE seeks to now resurrect. Soon after burial, Diana’s elder sister would give William and Harry a small box each, which the stricken boys thought contained consolatory chocolates from Paris. It turned out the boxes contained locks which the elder sister had sheared off the smashed head of dead Diana! Royalty in utter distress SPARE is a dreary and dreadful read, on House of Windsor. Prince Harry tries her stylistic best to create Dickens’ Bleak House where everything, everyone in it gets blighted. But that would suggest the book is abstract, which SPARE is not. To the contrary, SPARE is a minutely searing portrait of a great royal soul shrunk by utter anguish, indeed a globally cacophonous call for rescue from consuming distress. But a call made to an indifferent, nay mocking world, one so drained and bereft of any ounce of human feeling or empathy. When the centre could not hold Following the burial of Duke of Edinburgh, Grandpa to the two boys of Windsor, there is an attempt to solder the broken triad relationship of Father, Heir and Spare, in the gardens of Frogmore. Harry addresses the Heir: Willy, this was supposed to be our home. We were going to live here the rest of our lives. To which the Heir responds: You left, Harold. Spare: Yeah —and you know why. Heir: I don’t. Spare: You …don’t? Heir: I honestly don’t. Spare: “I turned to Pa. He was gazing at me with an expression that said: Neither do I.” Harry adds: “I felt massively tired. I wanted to go home, and realised what a complicated concept home had become. Or maybe always was. I gestured at the gardens, the city beyond, the nation…. I leaned back. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was one thing to disagree about who was at fault or how things might have been different, but for him to claim total ignorance of the reasons I’d fled the land of my birth – the land for which I’d fought and been ready to die — my Mother Country? That fraught phrase. To claim no knowledge of why my wife and I took the drastic step of picking up our child and just running like hell, leaving behind everything – house, friends, furniture? Really?” A civilisation in crisis My little advice to whoever wants to read SPARE: gird your loins; every word, phrase, sentences, paragraph and chapter is an unremitting assault on your senses and sensibilities. Throughout my literary career — I am one guy you invite anytime anywhere to teach any literature book from any literary tradition without prior warning — I never realised that empathy can be this painful to give, costly to your health as a reader even! But I am also appalled. Appalled by the response from formal, consolidated England: foremost its media, its scholars, commentators and defence establishment. How a society so historically vaunted for its broad-mindedness, for its loud claims to humanity, can extract crass and cold defensive readings from so intimate a book which overflows with such plaintive a cries of anguish and for help which go unheard and unrelieved, I am honestly at a loss! I doubt even war-concussed Camus comprehends this kind of civilisational crisis! Beware of Camus’ political man! Back home, the election season begins its tardy and ominous march. After the preliminary delimitation report — and preliminary is the word — our Nation now picks a quick shuffle towards a plebiscite. Yet going by images allegedly coming from Murehwa, the prelude to this impending process does not seem a happy one. We have seen clips of disgusting violence, allegedly linked to political contestation. Genuine man seems about to give way to Camus’ political man. Are we again creeping towards a short age of eternal negation, an epoch of hollowed values as a people? Governed by no creed There is no defence for the wanton violence whose clips we have seen, more so when perpetrated against defenceless women and men living last rounds of their advanced lives. It is cowardly; it goes against the peace we need, deserve and demand. Indeed is shakes our humanity to the pith. Destroys the peace our political leaders have preached and exhorted us to cultivate, nurture, radiate and share. As late as on New Year’s Eve, President Mnangagwa made an impassioned call and plea for peace and tolerance, especially as we move towards elections. Yet, as Camus would say, Mr Smith, Monsieur Durand and Herr Vogel are not humans; mere warring phenomena in governed by no creed! Nothing to be got from violence Speaking for Zanu PF, my Party, I cannot see how the President, his MP-elect, his councillor-elect or his Party can ever profit from violence. Equally, I cannot reconcile my membership to Zanu PF with perpetrators of such acts of banditry, with such abuse of the very persons and communities from which my party seek re-election. I can’t speak for the opposition, in the past itself quite given to stage-managing acts of gratuitous violence for overseas notice, and to delegitimise polls they readily see they are set to lose. Kudira jecha, in their parlance. Some one must do that, to prove its humanity and disavowal of this heinous spectacle captured on celluloid. Ambivalent feelings My feelings are ambivalent: partly outraged, partly elated. Outraged by the gratuitous violence on the aged villagers. Outraged by attempts by the opposition to politically evacuate the same victims who are the real complainants and witnesses, in processes of investigations, justice and repair. Evacuate them to some safe-houses in Harare. To what compassionate end? None whatsoever, as everything suggests mere political expediency, thus inviting more speculation on the identity of perpetrators of this wanton violence. Dreary dramaturgy Villains cannot be decided by who yells least or loudest press conferences; equally, victims cannot be deduced merely on the simple binary of ruling party and opposition. Only thorough investigations settle the matter. As already mentioned, victimhood has been used for cheap political capital and notice in the past. Equally, violence has been imported into our body-politic by a vicious third force. Nothing is straightforward, or is like it seems. Hence the need for ample leeway so investigative arms of State can establish real facts. Which is why anyone tempering with evidence and/or witnesses must be dealt with firmly, painfully. Leave the Police to investigate! Elated because our Police, true to reputation, have moved in professionally to investigate and make arrests. They are not yet done; we wish them God speed and wisdom as they ferret out. It restores and breeds faith and confidence that evil will not get away, let alone vanish unpunished. It sends a clear message to all political players that political violence exacts heavy punishment on perpetrators. The villains of Murehwa violence must be brought to book; the victims of Murehwa must get justice. Above all, voters of Zimbabwe must have their say. In peace they wholly deserve. Let the melody of elections nourish the music of permanent national peace: before, during and eternally after!