Musungu Jim and the Great Chief Tuloko

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9780140286557: Musungu Jim and the Great Chief Tuloko

Zambawi, a banana republic in sub-Saharan Africa, is on the verge of revolution. President Adini, dictator and eunuch, clings to power whilst his soldiers switch sides so often they don't know which uniform to wear.

All in all, Zambawi is not the ideal location for student teacher Jim Tulloh to indulge in a spot of character building. Yet with the help of Musa, the local witchdoctor, some flatulent weed and headmaster, PK, Jim's days look set to be mellow in the extreme; until that is Jim is kidnapped from his bush school by the rebel Black Boot Gang. But it is when the Gangers invoke the spirit of Zambawi's Great Chief Tuloko that Jim's fate takes a really unexpected turn . . .

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Review:

The close resemblance of Patrick Neate's fictitious state of "Zambawi" to contemporary Zimbabwe, makes Musungu Jim and Great Chief Tuloko a tall but politically perceptive tale in which Neate takes the reader on a humorous tour of the downfall of a corrupt neo-colonial government.

Weaving from presidential palace to rural homestead, and from intercontinental hotel to red light district, this is a splendid farce, full of pathos and biting humour, reminiscent of Tom Sharpe. A clear sense of each character's humanity prevails as Neate entwines the destinies of a young English teacher whose naiveté saves him as he finds himself centre-stage in a growing rebellion, a herb-smoking witchdoctor who exercises mystical powers with uncanny skill, presidents down on their luck whose attempts to exercise any power are increasingly futile, the blessed-into-boredom presidential offspring who slowly learn to control their own destiny, and a disenchanted soldier who wishes he had stayed a poet. Storytelling is the framework for this tale, as Neate constructs whole oral histories, and local myths through which the characters come to find themselves. With frequent reference to Latin maxims, and "Zamba" proverbs, ancestral powers are invoked to unfold the rich tapestry of "Zamba" legend. The "Zamba" language and proverbs are cleverly close to, but not quite identifiable as Shona and Swahili, giving the whole farce an extraordinary credibility and life. --Oliver Phillips

Review:

A highly entertaining romp through the sub-Saharan bush ( The Times)

An extraordinary satire ( Daily Telegraph)

A genuinely funny, witty and well-timed satire ( Observer)

Unusually engaging ( Metro)

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