The Barber of Mozambique–The Man Who Made Theroux A Writer

[I am not sure where I found this short piece by Theroux, but it says it all about him, and why he is such a great writer.]

I remember a particular day in Mozambique, in a terrible little country town, getting a haircut from a Portuguese barber. He had come to the African bush from rural Portugal to be a barber. . . . This barber did not speak English, I did not speak Portuguese, yet when I addressed his African servant in Chinyanja, his own language, the Portuguese man said in Portuguese, ‘Ask the bwana what his Africans are like.’ And that was how we held a conversation – the barber spoke Portuguese to the African, who translated it into Chinyanja for me; and I replied in Chinyanja, which the African kept translating into Portuguese for the barber. The barber kept saying – and the African kept translating – things like, ‘I can’t stand the blacks – they’re so stupid and bad-tempered. But there’s no work for me in Portugal.’ It was grotesque, it was outrageous, it was the shabbiest, darkest kind of imperialism. I could not believe my good luck. In many parts of Africa in the early 1960s it was the nineteenth century, and I was filled with the urgency to write about it.”

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  • Is the Theroux form of luck still out there for the PC writer? I think so for ” in many parts of the world in the early 2000’s only the century has changed . It remains grotesque, it is outrageous, the shabbiest, darkest kind of imperialism still exists.” Are there new PC writers filled with urgency to write about it? I hope so!!!

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