The Raw Man by George Makana Clark

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The Raw Man by George Makana Clark

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: Sergeant Gordon, the Raw Man of the novel is an elusive and complex person. He travels back in time, stopping at important and usually painful crossroads, of his life in troubled South Africa
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 224 Date: April 2011
Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd
ISBN: 978-0224090469

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The Prologue opens bang up to date: 2011. The language is poetic, lilting, evocative but tinged with sadness and sets the tone for the rest of the book. Lots of unanswered questions hang in the air throughout. The location is South Africa and section headings such as The Earthworks of the Universe and The Story-Ghost give a flavour of its contents.

We're then taken back in time to the late 1970s and Gordon is working in a copper mine. The conditions are appalling, there's barely enough food to eat and these sorry people spend quite a bit of time in total darkness. Hell on earth basically. Clark does not spare his readers any details. Some parts are, as you'd expect, both disturbing and distressing. The book's tone is serious and sombre. The poverty, the dreadful lives many people are forced to live are mentioned time and time again and although this is a work of fiction, as soon as I'd read the word Zimbabwe anywhere in the book, visions of today's Zimbabwe immediately came to mind. It all adds up to an uncomfortable and unsettling read, at least for me. I almost want to slap a government health warning on this book - please do not read if at all under the weather in any shape or form.

We dig deeper into Gordon's life. It's riven with unhappiness and violence. Clark fills in the blanks in his, at times, rather airy-fairy language. There's a particularly poignant piece right at the beginning which equates with - the war has ended but nobody told us. I'm only on page 34 and I'm thinking to myself, how much violence and utter misery can one human being stand. Quite a lot it seems, in Gordon's case. And although I couldn't help but admire his sheer tenacity and apparent lack of bitterness in his adult years, I didn't really feel as if I knew him. I wanted to know him better.

I suppose in a sense I'm giving Clark a back-handed compliment (in that he'd done his job and worked his literary magic) as I was thoroughly depressed while reading this book. It did depress me and I didn't relish reading it to the bitter end - but of course I did exactly that. So I'm taking a deep breath here before saying briefly that the razing of African villages and the raping, mutilation, torture and killing of innocent locals and their livestock was the norm rather than the exception in this book.

As we dip into various time frames, war guerrilla fighters, apartheid and more - all get a mention at some stage in this novel. Then we touch on the odd natural disaster - drought, for example. Read it and weep, basically. I almost did.

Clark blends snippets of mythical stories into his fiction here and there. It didn't really do it for me personally. Some sentences are beautiful in their poetic quality - food for thought indeed but other sections of the book worked less well for me. This is a story steeped in brutal and unsettling times.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also like to read The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg.

Buy The Raw Man by George Makana Clark at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Raw Man by George Makana Clark at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Raw Man by George Makana Clark at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Raw Man by George Makana Clark at Amazon.com.


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