All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Last Resort – Douglas Rogers

on January 23, 2012

The Last Resort
Douglas Rogers
Three Rivers Press
2010, 317p
Bought for my husband for his birthday

Douglas Rogers was born in Zimbabwe back when it wasn’t even Zimbabwe. His family owned a chicken farm, a grape farm and then sold up and bought a piece of land and established a backpackers and tourist lodge. Douglas left Zimbabwe to go to University in South Africa and then traveled to England and then America to live. He made periodic visits home to see his parents but his pilgrimages really stepped up when the country began to go downhill under the iron grip of Robert Mugabe. In the late 1990s, the regime started ‘taking’ land from white Zimbabwean farmers, usually by force. It was determined that white Zimbabweans had little to no rights at all, despite having been in the country for generations. Douglas’ parents watched their friends and neighbours slowly lose their farms all the while remaining steadfast that this would not happen to them.

They had to adapt. As the country nosedived economically and socially, the atrocities reaching the broader community, tourism dwindled down to almost nothing. The Rogers’ weren’t making any money so they had to change and provide a service that would be utilised. Drifters, their property became a brothel, marijuana den, refuge for displaced local farmers (both white and black) and later on, a watering hole for smugglers of illegal diamonds. By managing to make their property seem unattractive to the fat cats in government and the war veterans who were entitled to make a claim to a farm, as Drifters was land unsuitable for farming, the Rogers’ managed to hold onto it, even though the government rescinded their title to the property in 2005. They fought any way they knew how – shooting the dogs of poachers who came to trap and hunt their animals, making it known that they were armed and weren’t afraid to use a 12 bore, petitioning various government agencies to keep their land and have their title reinstated, calling in favours from friends in likewise situations and as mentioned, making the place look overgrown and uninteresting. They had several scares, faced bureaucratic difficulty concerning citizenship and passports but still they would not leave their beloved Zimbabwe. Douglas and his three sisters tried more than once to get them to leave, with one sister offering them her piece of property in Mozambique to build a similar place to Drifters and run it. They refused, like a few others in their valley and around Zimbabwe who had bought and paid for these lands and weren’t going to give them up to people who didn’t know how to farm them. They’d seen bountiful, prosperous lands taken and given to the war veterans and other settlers who were borderline squatters and had no idea how to farm, driving the lands to ruin and despair. The country which had been forward-thinking with excellent education, heath facilities and a thriving economy with international investment went into free fall. Eighty per cent of the population was unemployed. The currency blew out to about $400,000 Zimbabwean to $1US. The government just kept printing more money as an answer which of course only fed the inflation and soon they were dealing in trillion dollar notes.

All through this, Douglas’ parents remained. Through rolling blackouts, a famine, the constant threat of being kicked off their land with little notice and the possibility of death if they didn’t co-operate. They stayed and they adapted and they managed to make Drifters something that would keep on providing for their country. The Last Resort is a story about loyalty, about true patriotism and most of all, about being able to laugh in the face of adversity.

My husband and I don’t often share the same taste in books. I bought this for him for his birthday, picking it and a couple of others off his wishlist at random and after he finished he told me how brilliant it was and that I absolutely had to read it. He caught me at the right time because I’ve been reading a lot of fiction set in Africa, particularly around Zimbabwe and I had been enjoying it. I’d read about the land purges in one of those and thought that it might be interesting to hear a first hand account of reality.

The Last Resort is somehow hilariously funny and yet terribly sad at the same time. You can laugh at these things because you’re so far away from it. A couple in their sixties growing a bit of dope and basically running a brothel to make some cash while their country tanks around them! It’s so surreal to someone sitting in a living room in Australia reading it, but it was their reality. Their love and passion for Zimbabwe was both admirable and baffling. I have to admit that in their position, I’d be on the first plane out and sunning myself on the piece of land in Mozambique! But they never considered leaving the country, even at the request of their children. Like others, they didn’t rule out dying for their right to stay on their land.

This is something I’ve noticed in other books about the region, fiction and non-fiction. Zimbabwe inspires a huge sense of national pride and loyalty in its citizens. They love it fiercely, passionately even when it was becoming the stuff of nightmares. They had helped build this country, nurturing the land, damming areas so they could be farmed, exporting for foreign dollars which they then plowed back into the country. They trained people to farm properly, the respect the land and are desperate for it to remain their homes. In many cases, this didn’t happen and some of the stories of the refugees, cast out, their lands taken off them and just given to others, as they find their way to Drifters, are heartbreaking to read. But they rarely ever seemed bitter and hardly any of them left Zimbabwe. And some of them always hoped, worked tirelessly, campaigning to get their lands back.

The Last Resort subtly educates without ever getting preachy or overly wordy about the mess that is Zimbabwean politics and elections. Rogers’ is of course, personally invested and the main topic is his parents and his parents’ friends and neighbours but he also does portray the ‘other side’ as such, and touches on why Mugabe won’t lose elections. But the book isn’t really about the politics. They’re just the reasoning for the stories coming to the surface. It’s really about the people and the love they have for this country.

8/10

Book #10 of 2012


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