Happy Birthday, Peter Godwin, born 4 December 1957
- I have a theory about this—about the strength of the reaction that so many people have to southern and eastern Africa in particular, and why so many return time and again. My theory is that at some deep, antediluvian level, we recognize it as our global home, the crucible of our origins. This is where we evolved. There’s something about the quality of the light, the vegetation, and the wildlife itself that strikes an ancient, pre-racial, homogenetic chord. That we are all African at heart.
- In Africa, you do not view death from the auditorium of life, as a spectator, but from the edge of the stage, waiting only for your cue. You feel perishable, temporary, transient. You feel mortal. Maybe that is why you seem to live more vividly in Africa. The drama of life there is amplified by its constant proximity to death. That’s what infuses it with tension. It is the essence of its tragedy too. People love harder there. Love is the way that life forgets that it is terminal. Love is life’s alibi in the face of death.
- Africa is a place that, like nowhere else I know, can get you out of your own head. It’s the anti-neurosis.
- One of the reasons I always write — (a memoir) — in first person is I don’t want to sound like I’m telling other people’s stories. But the more of us who write about it from different angles — that’s how you triangulate the truth.
- There is only so much a human being can face before wanting to look away. The descriptions of violence are broken up with other scenes to provide some relief. I had to bear witness to what I saw and heard, however. There was no question of sweeping it under the carpet.
Peter Godwin is a Zimbabwean author, journalist, screenwriter, documentary film-maker, and former human rights lawyer. He is best know for Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa and When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa. He is President of PEN American Center. His wife, Joanna Coales, is Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan.
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