19 November 2008

Typing in Kalahari

I recently read The Kalahari Typing School for Men. I saw it in the library, and recognized Alexander McCall Smith from his work on the The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency . I wasn't aware until after I read the The Kalahari Typing School for Men (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Book 4) that there was more than 2 books in the series; and although in was clear in reading Kalahari that there had been events transpiring since the first book in the series, I didn't feel I'd missed much.

While an interesting narration of Botswana, in many ways the place seemed idealized. Any difficulties the characters faced were trifling and the characters were in no hurry to address them -  although likeable characters, I didn't connect to them. Mma Ramotswe in this book faces her first competitor, and solves two difficult issues. The competitor is presented with little depth, and the cultural issues of having a person of Zulu origin interacting with the characters are only there by allusion. It seems in this case McCall Smith had the opportunity to discuss the racial/tribal divides of Africa from a Botswanan perspective, but shied away from that thorny topic. Great literature should heartily explore such issues and opinions, so that in doing so the reader is engaged with them and must come to an opinion also. The avoidance of this topic and reference to it in only oblique ways made me mindful of a Mill quote I saw today courtesy of Wordsmith.org:
The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. -John Stuart Mill, philosopher and economist (1806-1873) 

What this book did inspire me to do is find out a little more about Botswana. I  will be on the lookout for more reading on that country.

Photo by OxOx