Nowhere in Africa is an autobiographical novel by Stefanie Zweig.
By page 22 of Nowhere in Africa, when I read the following sentence, I knew I’d enjoy this book:
Regina also loved her Aya, who had come to the farm shortly after Rummler [the dog]. She stood in front of the house one morning after the last bit of red had disappeared from the sky and the black vultures on the thorn-trees moved their heads out from under their wings.
As you may gather, Zweig is a creative writer, with an imaginative style that catches your attention. At times she is brilliant and humorous, and every now and then so good it brings a lump to your throat. There’s lots of clever writing:
After the house was finished, Daji Jiwan constructed a kitchen building in the round shape of the native huts, and, after that, very reluctantly, a wooden shed over a deep pit with a bench with three holes in different sizes cut out of it. The toilet was Walter’s invention, and he was as proud of it as Kimani was of his fields. He had the wooden door decorated with a cut-out heart, which soon became such an attraction on the farm that even Daji Jiwan made peace with the building, for which he himself did not have any use. His religion did not allow him to purge his body twice in the same location.
Nowhere in Africa tells the story of a Jewish family who escape Nazi Germany and go to live in Kenya. Apparently, there were quite a few people who did this, but their new lives were often not easy. Zweig’s father had been a lawyer in Silesia who spoke little English. With no previous relevant experience, he became a farm manager in a remote part of Kenya and struggled for a long time.
On the outbreak of WWII, immigrants from Germany, who were mostly Jewish, were rounded up by the Kenyan authorities, and while the men were housed in camps, the women and children were boarded for a while at the Norfolk Hotel (a wonderful colonial-style establishment by the time Lindsey and I had coffee there, forty years later) and the New Stanley Hotel. Walter eventually joins the British Army in Kenya, where he learns a little English, and towards the end of the book, they prepare to leave Kenya and return to Germany.
This book is wonderfully written.
Last night we watched the movie Nowhere in Africa. As it was playing through a PlayStation 3 box, at first we had some problems with the subtitles (the DVD was published in Germany), but we enjoyed watching scenes of Kenya, which is surely one of the most beautiful countries.