Monday, July 27, 2009


This is a (fictional) conversation between an American girl and a Congolese man about why the Congolese don't understand the lack of generosity from America.
Taken from The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

“They [Congolese men and women] think you [American girl] represent a greedy nation.”
I closed the book on French verbs for the day. “Anatole, that doesn’t make a bit of sense. They don’t want us to be friends, and they don’t respect us, and in Leopoldville they’re ransacking white people’s houses. But they want America to give them money?”
“Which part does not make sense to you?”
“All of it.”
“Beene, think,” he said patiently, as if I were one of his schoolboys stumped on an easy problem. “When one of the fishermen, let’s say Tata Boanda, has good luck on the river and comes home with his boat loaded with fish, what does he do?”
“That doesn’t happen very often.”
“No, but you have seen it happen. What does he do?”
“He sings at the top of his lungs and everybody comes and he gives it all away.”
“Even to his enemies?”
“I guess. Yeah. I know Tata Boanda doesn’t like Tata Zinsana very much, and he gives Tata Zinsana’s wives the most.”
“All right. To me that makes sense. When someone has much more than he can use, it’s very reasonable to expect he will not keep it all himself.”
“But Tata Boanda has to give it away, because fish won’t keep. If you don’t get rid of it, it’s just going to rot and stink to high heaven.”
Anatole smiled and pointed his finger at my nose. “That is just how a Congolese person thinks about money.”
“But if you keep on giving away every bit of extra you have, you’re never going to be rich.”
“That is probably true.”
“And everybody wants to be rich.”
“Is that so?”


Kristen said...

One of my favorite books ever - and this little excerpt is a reminder why!

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