Goodbye, Dr Banda
‘You may never have been, may never go, may never even have heard of the place – but Malawi will repay your attention. It is one of the smallest, poorest countries in Africa, often overlooked; but its relationship with us in the West has been extraordinary.’
In a ruined dictator’s palace, Alexander Chula – a classicist-turned-doctor, fresh out of Oxford – stumbles upon an oak treasure chest. Inside is a priceless, antique edition of Julius Caesar’s Gallic War. This unexpected talisman of Western high culture belongs to the mercurial Dr Banda, a man of many parts: scholarly physician, anti-colonial hero, brutal tyrant, and fallen philosopher-king.
Banda leads the author deep into the heart of this mysterious country, there to uncover a bizarre meeting of worlds: between one of Africa’s most fascinating indigenous cultures and the best and worst of our own. Here tribal ritual collides with Greek theatre; masked dancers with roving classicists; poets and pop stars with missionary-explorers; hippies and kleptocrats with long-suffering peasants.
The story is enigmatic but exhilarating, by turns edifying and deeply uncomfortable. But we would do well to examine it: Malawi presents urgent lessons which resonate piercingly in our vexed age of culture wars and identity crisis.
'This is an impressively researched, beautifully written book. I loved the empathy Chula brings to Malawi's myths, our past and our present. The history of missionaries like Robert Laws and Chauncy Maples showed his thoroughness in research. This is a book to read and enjoy' -- Felix Mnthali 'Goodbye, Dr Banda is one of those rare books that are hard to classify, but are all the more delightful for that very reason. It is a highly unusual personal memoir, but it is also a sympathetic and perceptive portrait of a country and its past. It is a quite superb book that will linger with the reader for a long time after it is read' -- Alexander McCall Smith 'A rewarding, delightful and personal examination of Dr Banda's struggle to reconcile his indigenous Chewa culture with the culture of the Greek and Latin Classics ... Radical, deep and surprising, with gentle but trenchant observations on African versus Western cultural dynamics' -- John Lwanda 'This book gets better and better as it goes along. Fascinating, extremely well written, and a very important - though under-stated - contribution to the ongoing debate about colonialism' -- Sir Roger Scruton 'Alexander Chula casts a subtle but penetrating light on both Africa and the West. There is nothing quite like it' -- Theodore Dalrymple 'A riveting - and cautionary - tale of a collision of two cultures, as seen through the eyes of a young classicist turned medical doctor, who discovers that Ancient Greek legend and the rituals of the Chewa people have much in common. Brilliantly observed and packed with insights, the result is an African classic' -- Michael Holman 'I have read this with great enjoyment. Learning about the tradition of classics in Malawi since Banda is fascinating, and the author's personal experiences as a teacher at Kamuzu Academy - and at Oxford prior to that - are vivid, memorable, and described with directness and elegance' -- Armand D'Angour 'Absolutely engaging from beginning to end, Goodbye, Dr. Banda is very likely to position Chula as a leading literary voice in years to come. I recommend this work for the way it informs, its cultural insights, and for its keenly observed detail' -- Tahir Shah, author of Time magazine best-seller The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca 'Timely, erudite, and a fascinating insight into the complex diversity that is the real modern Africa' -- Robert Twigger, best-selling author of Red Nile 'Astute and thoughtful observations of an African microcosm contain important lessons for the larger discussion of the impact of Western colonialism. There is wisdom here, elegantly expressed' -- Nigel Biggar, CBE, Regius Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology at the University of Oxford and author of Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning
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