Saturday, September 22, 2012

Finding my Heart of Darkness

You see there's a river called the Barenga River and it flows through the heart of Africa.  It has swallowed up all of the blood, filth, mystery, romance and latent evil in the vast continent and pushed it out to the sea that once carried the despicable slave ships away to a distant land.


Over the next few weeks I'll have to swim in that river and lap up its depraved tide. I've only dipped my toe in so far.

The great unfinished novel has reached 40,000 words and while it's not great it's still unfinished. It has promise, probably. And, unlike with previous attempts, I'm certain it will be finished at some point. I can see where it's going, although the waters remain murky and dificult to manage.

It has taken 40,000 words to reach the banks of the great Berenga and the fictitious nation of Central Eastern Africa, a nation that has been closed to the world but now faces being split up like a skull by a bloody civil war.  Wars like this aren't uncommon in Africa. Once a newspaper I worked on plucked a little girl from Sierra Leone whose hands had been horribly mutilated by soldiers who had placed her on a barbeque. We paid for treatment at a British hospital before sending her back to the war zone.

Far from being the myserious continent of Stanley, Livingstone and Mungo Park, Africa remains, foir the most part, mired in an abject contemporary poverty. I recall a recent poll that listed the world's 10 poorest nations. Nine of them were in Africa - the other was Haiti. The Congo was the poorest nation in the world. It has also seen millions of a people killed - a death toll not exceeded since World War Two - in a conflict nobody understands or cares about.

A brutal template was set by King Leopold of Belgium who turned the Congo into a horrifying labor camp devoted to the production of rubber. Joseph Conrad spent six months there, providing the inspiration for Heart of Darkness.

Today the world is carefully mapped out and known about. My novel maps out something that doesn't exist anymore; a barely discovered heart of darkness. Europeans came saw and conquered centuries ago. We killed the mystery and shaped the world to our self serving ends.

I need to immerse myself in my own personal heart of darkness in the next few weeks to create anything meaningful. But this is not always easy when I find myself in protracted discussions with pen manufactuers on how we can incpororate the company logo.

It's not always easy to find one's personal heart of darkness given all of the distractions. Cue to slap the cat around.

There's the writers' retreat and the regular meetings but it can be hard to field questions such as "Why should I care about Moriarty?"

But then why should we care about anyone we read about in literature? Who gives a flying about Oliver Twist, some obscure orphan who asks for more gruel? Who cares about Robinson Crusoe hanging out on some island for years? And why are we bothered about Christian Grey going round spaking people senseless?

Anyway enough pontificating, more writing. Take me to the river, drop me in the water, Blah, Blah.

9 comments:

  1. Are you metaphorically swimming that river or really going there for book research purposes? Yes, I agree the state of the African continent is very, very bad. I would be afraid to travel in any of the countries there, even Morocco and S. Africa.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh no would love to check it out but just metaphorically - well there are some iffy places but I'd love to check out places like Tanzania, Botswana etc.

      Delete
  2. Hang in there with your novel. It sounds like you're making great progress. Since you can see where it's going, you should be able to make it there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope to Daisy - slight loss of inspiration now but I know it comes back

      Delete
  3. Clearly, your book will offer a unique perspective that's deeply meaningful. Keep your head above water, and you'll be fine.

    xoRobyn

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Good article about Africa; which is saying a lot since it's been so much written about and so badly. And I really wish you'd continue with the novel, which I'm rereading soon. Wish me luck with my own writer's block!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. sorry to hear Starla - it does come and get you doesn't it - good luck

      Delete