A Guest of Honour by Nadine Gordimer

By Nadine Gordimer

James Bray, an English colonial administrator who used to be expelled from a imperative African state for siding with its black nationalist leaders, is invited again ten years later to hitch within the country's independence celebrations. As he witnesses the factionalism and violence that erupt as progressive beliefs are subverted by way of ambition and greed, Bray is once more compelled to decide on aspects, a decision that turns into either his triumph and his undoing.

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They had tried to make a study of the nightjars' habits, one summer, to determine what it was that made them partial to the roads; came to the conclusion that lice under their wings caused them to try repeated dustbaths. Yes, Africa was a kind of study, then, with detached pleasures and interests , despite his involvement in politics. During the week of the celebrations it was diffi cult to get into town without being held up somewhere by a right of way cleared for some dignitary or other. Traffic officers in white gauntlets zoomed arabesques on their motorcycles, s oldiers in well-ironed khaki blocked the road and held back children, women, idlers and bicycles ; sometimes a band came tootling and mildly blaring in the vanguard, and there were always flags.

Get her to sing,' Dando called out proudly. ' 'That's what I mean ! ' she asked Bray. 'Not in the least. ' 'Well, what'd you think? ' She had the self-confidence of a woman of dynamic ugliness. 'Wagner? ' A snort of pleasure: 'Go on ! I've got a voice like a bull - frog. ' 'Yes, lovely creature, isn't she? Margot would only let her come if I promised to keep her wholesomely occupied. ' He moved his shoulders helplessly. The dancers were falling back round a Polish agriculturalist who was teaching a gangling Englishman and two young Africans an Eastern European peasant dance.

One of the women was so overcome she had to put down her glass. '- Heavens, that's nothing - Carol buys old Aborowa 's wife's corsets for her. ' More laughter. 'His senior wife. Poor old baggage, she doesn't know where the bouz begins and the derriere ends. Colossal. Such a dear old soul. I don't know what she'll do without Carol, they adore Carol. Yes, buys her corsets for her, bloomers , I don't know what . . Special department at Harrods, for the fat ladies of circuses or something . . ' He drew breath through pinched nostrils while they looked at each other delightedly.

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