Muzungu by Rod Madocks

Rod Madocks’ account of his life as a child in Rhodesia at the end of its colonial era is a very powerful piece of writing. This is, in part, a result of the forthrightness of its writer, who relates his views eloquently and poetically but, at times, with a directness which confronts – a real straight shooter. I liked this very much as it lends the retelling of the memoirs an immediacy and honesty which is the substance of any good autobiographical work. And after all, it is Madocks’ story to tell and he has every right to tell it as he sees fit.

End of empire is a controversial subject at the best of times as it requires discussion of the legacy left by British colonialists in their perceived subjugation and conquering of a continent and bending its natives to their will. Madocks addresses this in his memoir to a degree, but he is keen to draw attention to what inevitably gets glossed over when we look back into history, and that is the individual’s story – the human aspect of experience and relationships and tensions which in our quest for division and difference, is not always highlighted and gets lost in the darkness. Madocks gives us a first hand account which, in my mind, immediately has more credence than any history book. People may have different views but the man lived it.

There is discussion about his family as well as school days and other rites of passage moments, like employment and finding your purpose as you would expect in any memoir.

The tone of the book grabbed me the most: the overriding sense it gives the reader is nostalgia for a time where he belonged. His love for his early years is palpable, a longing for what he knew and for what he wished he could have kept, shown in the pride that permeates the work and manifests itself in the depictions of his young life in Africa – whether being taken out shooting in the bush and getting lost, to interactions with the cook, Jonas, to the dangers of climbing a tree for fear of snakes. He has been shaped by his childhood and reflects on this throughout the book, on how his identifying as a Rhodesian, over and above anything else, has been a guiding light he has followed.

A great read, vividly written.

2 thoughts on “Muzungu by Rod Madocks

  1. It sounds like an interesting book and it’s always good to hear about history through the lens of a person who experienced it himself. When I recently read We Are All Birds of Uganda, I thought about how much history from other parts of the world we are not aware of. I definitely mean to read more books (fiction and nonfiction) from Africa, which is a continent, I’ve always been interested in.


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