The Expedition to the Baobab Tree
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Wearily, I take the path to the river, there in the cool to fill my being with the sounds of my sister-being, to refresh myself in the modest scents of pigeonwood and mitzeerie, to let my gaze end in a tangle of monkey ropes and fern arches and the slowly descending leaves, and to find rest, all day long, all night long.
A young slave girl accompanies her owner on an expedition into the African interior in search of a mythical city. In unfamiliar terrain, the party gets lost. One by one, our narrator’s companions disappear, leaving her to take refuge in the hollow of a baobab tree. There, she finds the space and will to reflect upon her life’s journey, telling her story to the boabab itself. This powerful fable, translated from Wilma Stockenström’s original Afrikaans by Nobel Prize-winner J. M. Coetzee, is a remarkable portrait of dislocation and empowerment. It is also a brilliant insight into Coetzee’s craft as a writer.
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