Though she was only a child, the memory of cheering white soldiers on to victory in the Rhodesian war haunts Alexandra Fuller, and probably always will. Fuller, author of the acclaimed memoir Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, understands that war which ultimately led to black minority rule and democratic elections probably as well as anyone alive today.
It was a war about race, she explains in her latest book Scribbling the Cat. Minority white leaders did not want to surrender the upper hand in Rhodesia, later renamed Zimbabwe. Even so, the good guys are not always so easy to sort from the bad guys: black soldiers fought on the side of white oppression and black communities have been known to nurture their own tyrants. On a visit to her parents in Zambia, Fuller concludes that writing about the war from the point of view of "K," who fought to keep Rhodesia white, will unlock previously untold secrets. She contrives to travel with him to Mozambique, the site of many war atrocities. They travel in about the worst discomfort imaginable unpaved roads, a dearth of modern plumbing and no refrigeration. Being on the road with a nosy journalist might try anyone's patience, and K is no exception. Adding to the tension, K has a crush on Fuller. Fuller hopes to deliver something meaningful about the nature of war and the scars it leaves on its fighters, especially those whom contemporary ethics have found to be in the wrong. K discloses gruesome memories; most shocking is his assault on a young village woman who later died after betraying the location of Rhodesian liberation soldiers. But K's stories don't add up to much in the way of revelation or insight.
"Nothing K and Mapenga had told me, or shown me and nothing I could ever write about them could undo the pain of their having being on the planet," she writes. Her frustration in trying to make sense of war's horror is her finest point.