Goodbye, Dr Banda

Alexander Chula


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Birlinn General
4 May 2023
ISBN: 9781846976278
320 pages

From the publisher

'You may never have been, may never go, may never even have heard of the place - but Malawi will repay your attention. It is one of the smallest, poorest countries in Africa, often overlooked; but its relationship with us in the West has been extraordinary.' In a ruined dictator's palace, Alexander Chula - a classicist-turned-doctor, fresh out of Oxford - stumbles upon an oak treasure chest. Inside is a priceless, antique edition of Julius Caesar's Gallic War. This unexpected talisman of Western high culture belongs to the mercurial Dr Banda, a man of many parts: scholarly physician, anti-colonial hero, brutal tyrant, and fallen philosopher-king. Banda leads the author deep into the heart of this mysterious country, there to uncover a bizarre meeting of worlds: between one of Africa's most fascinating indigenous cultures and the best and worst of our own. Here tribal ritual collides with Greek theatre; masked dancers with roving classicists; poets and pop stars with missionary-explorers; hippies and kleptocrats with long-suffering peasants. The story is enigmatic but exhilarating, by turns edifying and deeply uncomfortable. But we would do well to examine it: Malawi presents urgent lessons which resonate piercingly in our vexed age of culture wars and identity crisis.