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In 1957, the British colony of the Gold Coast broke free to become the independent nation of Ghana. Margaret Laurence’s first novel, This Side Jordan, recreates that colour-drenched world: a place where men and women struggle with self-betrayal, self-discovery, and the dawning of political pride.
This Side Jordan transcends the traditional limits of the first novel. Its powerful and compassionate characterizations and its themes of exile and community anticipate the five later novels that make up Laurence’s acclaimed Manawaka series. A major work of lasting significance, This Side Jordan creates echoes in the mind of the reader as resonant as the drums of Ghana.
From the Paperback edition.
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Margaret Laurence was born in Neepawa, Manitoba, in 1926. Upon graduation from Winnipeg’s United College in 1947, she took a job as a reporter for the Winnipeg Citizen.
From 1950 until 1957 Laurence lived in Africa, the first two years in Somalia, the next five in Ghana, where her husband, a civil engineer, was working. She translated Somali poetry and prose during this time, and began her career as a fiction writer with stories set in Africa.
When Laurence returned to Canada in 1957, she settled in Vancouver, where she devoted herself to fiction with a Ghanaian setting: in her first novel, This Side Jordan, and in her first collection of short fiction, The Tomorrow-Tamer. Her two years in Somalia were the subject of her memoir, The Prophet’s Camel Bell.
Separating from her husband in 1962, Laurence moved to England, which became her home for a decade, the time she devoted to the creation of five books about the fictional town of Manawaka, patterned after her birthplace, and its people: The Stone Angel, A Jest of God, The Fire-Dwellers, A Bird in the House, and The Diviners.
Laurence settled in Lakefield, Ontario, in 1974. She complemented her fiction with essays, book reviews, and four children’s books. Her many honours include two Governor General’s Awards for Fiction and more than a dozen honorary degrees.
Margaret Laurence died in Lakefield, Ontario in 1987.
The six boys were playing the Fire Highlife, playing it with a beat urgent as love. And Johnnie Kestoe, who didn't like Africans, was dancing the highlife with an African girl.
Charity's scarlet smile mocked his attempts to rotate his shoulders and wriggle his European hips to the music. Her own fleshy hips and buttocks swayed easily, and her big young breasts, unspoiled by children and only lightly held by her pink blouse, rose and fell as though the music were her breath. Johnnie grinned awkwardly at her, then he jerked his head away.
'Fiyah, fiyah, fiyah, fiyah- ma,
Fiyah deah come – baby!
Fiyah, fiyah, fiyah, fiyah- ma,
Fiyah deah come – ah ah!
I went to see my lovely boy,
Lovely boy I love so well –'
At one of the tables around the outdoor dance floor, a young European woman watched thoughtfully. At another table an African man watched, then turned away and spat. Both were angry, and with the same person.
Music was the clothing of West African highlife, but rhythm its blood and bone. This music was sophisticated. It was modern. It was new. To hell with the ritual tribal dance, the drums with voices ancient as the forest.
The torn leaves of the palm trees shivered in the wind and the strings of fairy lights glittered like glass beads in the musty courtyard.
The dancers themselves did not analyse the highlife any more than they analysed the force that had brought them all together here, to a nightclub called 'Weekend In Wyoming', the wealthy and the struggling, the owners of chauffeur-driven Jaguars and the riders of bicycles.
They were bound together, nevertheless, by the music and their need of it. Africa has danced pain and love since the first man was born from its red soil. But the ancient drums could no longer summon the people who danced here. The highlife was their music. For they, too, were modern. They, too, were new.
And yet the old rhythms still beat strongly in this highlife in the centre of Accra, amid the taxi horns, just as a few miles away, in Jamestown or Labadi, they pulsed through the drums while the fetish priestess with ash- smeared cheeks whirled to express the unutterable, and the drummer's eyes grew glassy and still, his soul drugged more powerfully than the body could be.
Into the brash contemporary patterns of this Africa's fabric were woven symbols old as the sun- king, old as the oldest continent.
From the Paperback edition.
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Book Description New Canadian Library, 2009. Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0771093861