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African Laughter: Four Visits to Zimbabwe

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  265 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
"A highly personal story about returning to her African roots by the eminent British writer, African Laughter is also a rich and penetrating portrait of Doris Lessing's homeland. In it she recounts the visits she made to Zimbabwe in 1982, 1988, 1989 and 1992, after being exiled from the old Southern Rhodesia for twenty-five years for her opposition to the white minority go ...more
Hardcover, 442 pages
Published November 1st 1992 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 1992)
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I read this book in February 2013.

Doris Lessing describes the country she left in 1947 and then revisited four times after 1980 when Robert Mugabe took over government. She experiences the anger, numbness and shock of traumatized people - looking in from the outside. Although she lived there for 25 years, she never made a capital investments in the country: meaning that she had nothing to lose when the shitzzzzos hit the fan, and couldn't care less what happened to those people who did invest in
Bryan Murphy
Aug 30, 2015 Bryan Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading Lessing’s fascinating accounts of modern Zimbabwe made me first glad, then ashamed, that I have not been back to Angola. I lived and worked there in the early 1980s, since when it has turned from a pseudo-Marxist idealistic basket case into a run-of-the-mill kleptocracy drowning in corruption. The parallels with Zimbabwe as Lessing describes it, are many, but Lessing goes beyond the obvious and the political to look at how people are transforming their own lives and their society irrespe ...more
Apr 09, 2015 Attila rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic, africa
A long time ago, Africa was an idyllic place where people lived in harmony with Nature and their deities. Then came the angel with the flaming sword... um, I mean the European colonists, taking away their lands and riches, enslaving and outlawing them. After the colonists had pulled out, the Africans were unable to adapt to the system and infrastructure they had inherited, but they were also unable to go back to their old ways. Many countries slipped into anarchy, and they have not recovered sin ...more
Jun 08, 2015 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Doris Lessing is a fantastic writer and I got a lot out of reading this book. I did choose not to finish it because it was depressing (racism, white supremacy, extreme poverty) and because too many good (and easy to read) mystery novels came available on my local library holds shelf. Tant pis.
Sipho Gumbo
Mar 04, 2010 Sipho Gumbo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent narration of Zimbabwean history. Lessing takes the reader from the colonial times of Rhodesia to Zimbabwe of today.
She gives insight on how the Rhodesians looked at indepence and black rule. The attitudes and the mass exodus that follow to South Africa. She describes the loss felt and shows other families choosing to return. She depicts the difficulties they face when they leave to other places. She also looks at he Zimbabweans after independence their views hopes and frustrations.
Iman Jafar
Doris Lessing detailes the differences between the Zimbabwe she knew as Southern Rhodesia in her childhood, and the country she visits several times, after the African majority win the Bush war over the Whites. She's a Noble Prize winner and I suppose is good at story telling, but I found this book very repetitive and poorly written sometimes. I had a hard time telling when she is talking about somebody's else opinion and when it was her own opinion. She does not use punctuations in the usual wa ...more
Jan 10, 2014 Marcy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have heard so much about Doris Lessing. She was the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. How I wanted to be enriched by such an acclaimed author! I read halfway through this book and just had to stop. While I did learn about Southern Rhodesia, which turned into the country now known as Zimbabwe, I found that I was trying to read through a dry textbook.

Doris grew up in her beloved Southern Rhodesia. She had the fondest memories of the bush and its cacophony of animal noises. She spent her
Claire McAlpine
Sep 21, 2012 Claire McAlpine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Decided to read her non-fiction as a prelude to her fiction. Really enjoyed this, but have yet to open that Golden Notebook. One day.
Oxana Gutu
Jan 12, 2016 Oxana Gutu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was published in 1993. You get to see Zimbabwe through the eyes of one of the finest writers of this century. Doris Lessing was raised there after her family moved to Africa from Iran. Being banned for twenty-five years from her homeland, for her opposition to the government of what was then white Southern Rhodesia, she returns to a country she both knows and wants to get to know.

A combined diary, reportage and memoirs writing style keeps the reader entertained. Which is a must, given
Not much is written about Zimbabwe during the decade following the Bush War in which the black majority overthrew the white minority British government, especially by white expatriate women who were thrown out of the country years before the war for opposing that white government. Doris Lessing, a British citizen, immigrated to Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) at age 5 with her family, and was exiled in 1949 at age 35 for her anti-government activities. After the long and bloody war for independence was ...more
Doris Lessing grew up in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). This book describes four trips she took to her former homeland in the 80s/early 90s. Each of the sections leans heavily on her impressions of the people and places she visits. There are numerous long quotations and descriptions of things she is seeing and hearing as she eavesdrops in cafes or interviews strangers.

Trip one describes visiting her brother and remembering her past. This is right when the white people have had to relinquish
Aug 05, 2015 Peggy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It started off really enlightening and easy to read, but then it kept going on and on in what eventually became an irritating pattern of repetition.
Lessing's earlier strident Communism has been tempered by age, but she is still strongly opinionated and convinced she and she alone is correctly interpreting the situation in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Oct 22, 2015 Martha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was more political than I had expected. I had it in my mind it would be a kind of travel memoir but it is an evaluation of Zimbabwe after colonial rule. Her view seems balanced to me and it is clear she loves the place and respects and cheers for its native people who were reclaiming their country. The book ends with the tragedy of drought and AIDS - sorrows that Africa still bears.
Jan 12, 2014 Jeffrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good work of memoir/journalism, not as moving or forceful as "Going Home" (to which I gave 5 stars). This book is cautiously ambivalent about Zimbabwe during the time of her visits (1982-1992). I am impressed, as always, by her ability to deflect powerful visceral feelings onto the stories of others: note that any time the journalist is about to turn wistful, the next sentences or paragraphs will abandon this line of feeling and replace it with a different narrative direction. I find it a f ...more
Aug 20, 2015 Will rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I doubt she would have ever believed that Robert Mugabe would have lasted this long. She is almost apologetic in the mid 1990's for the pathetic government--though she acknowledges its ineptitude. I would have liked to see how this book played out if she could have assessed Zimbabwe now.
Jan 01, 2015 Sunny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marvelously written. I know very little about the topic, but it seems authoritative albeit from a particular point of view. I was truly fascinated by the story of one country's evolution.
Kilian Metcalf
A bitter-sweet (mostly bitter) memoir of Lessing's return to the country of her childhood. Formerly Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, the country is a disaster: the bush has been destroyed, the animals are gone, the government is corrupt and cruel. I'm not sure where the title comes from because no one is laughing in this book, especially the readers. I found it tedious and repetitious. I chose it to fill a box (set in Africa) in a book bingo game I'm playing, and I wish I had picked a novel inst ...more
Linda Dittes
First book by Doris Lessing I have read. Very well written with longer stories about her return to Zimbawe and also vignettes of modern times. A bit long.
Aug 25, 2011 Ashlee rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was very unimpressed with this book. I thought it was going to be a better read but I could barely make it through the book, and the only reason I finished it is because I can't stop reading a book. I'm not going to drag out my dislike for this book. I am going to say that I would much rather of sat down with Doris Lessing and listened to her experiences in Zimbabwe than read her book(s). I do greatly appreciate the history of Zimbabwe and her general story though.
This book was on a lifetime reading list and was actually pretty interesting, but where it is a collection of essays and not necessarily a narrative, it wasn't one that I could easily put down and then pick up again sometime later, which was necessitated by my current situation (new baby). I would say that I would try to read it again some time in the future, but honestly, with all the books out there to read, I doubt that's going to happen.
Feb 13, 2010 Nuzhat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book about Zimbabwe. It validated all the good feelings I have about the space and the people because they really are special and incredible. It would be interesting if she were to go back today for a follow-up story. She's turning 91 this year so I'm sure it would kill her to see the downfall of the country (and it's people) she so obviously loved.
Patricia Eichenlaub
A hard, hard read. Many insights into colonialism, development and other subjects usually not examined so close up
Nov 04, 2008 Meredith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Doris Lessing is one of my favorite authors and this book is a series of anecdotes from visits to Zimbabwe in '82 and then in '96. Her love of the country, and descriptions of Africa are so moving...
Aug 26, 2015 Arjanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The situation is stil familiar today :( .
Jan 07, 2012 Christi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book when I read it before going to Zimbabwe in 1998. It gave a good look at the recent history. It also saddens me now to see what has happened to that beautiful country.
Jun 03, 2012 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Lessing's stories about Africa, fiction and non. I can't think of another writer, living or dead, that combines prose with politics in such powerful ways.

Nov 30, 2010 Avary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, own, zimbabwe, memoir
Interesting reading. Since it ended in 1992, things aren't shown as devastating as they now are. Sad to see how this country has self-destructed.
Apr 05, 2009 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I am still reading and will reserve my review until the end...but am thoroughly enjoying it!
Tony Derricott
Recommended by Susan Aylworth
(wife of columnist Roger H. Aylworth)
It was slow going for me, but very informative and sensory.
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Both of her parents were British: her father, who had been crippled in World War I, was a clerk in the Imperial Bank of Persia; her mother had been a nurse. In 1925, lured by the promise of getting rich through maize farming, the family moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Like other women writers from southern African who did not graduate from high school (such as Oliv ...more
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