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Friday, March 14, 2008

Out of Africa

Peter Godwin's "When A Crocodile Eats The Sun" is a compelling book, the kind you read in a few days. Godwin was brought up in Zimbabwe and the book is about his return to look after his elderly parents as the country slides into chaos and random violence. He quotes from a conversation he had with the scientist Jared Diamond about why Africa is the way it is. Diamond points out that the Islamic movement from the north halted as soon as it hit the region of the tsetse fly. He also argues that Africa is handicapped by the fact that it has no indigenous pack animal. If the rhino wasn't an intractable, territorial beast he reckons the Zulus would have conquered Europe hundreds of years ago.