The New Complainers

The New Complainers

In the 1960s, while exiled in Algeria from the intensifying ruthlessness of the apartheid state, the leaders of the “black consciousness” Pan African Congress sent a letter to Evelyn Waugh. They had, they told him solemnly, read his novel Black Mischief. They wished to know where he had found the name “Azania,” given in the book to a hellhole of corrupt negritude in what Waugh would never have called the third world. And why did they wish to know? They desired a name for the future liberated South Africa, and this had struck them as a most apt and euphonious one. Waugh wrote back from his country house informing the PAC curtly (and as it happens, erroneously) that Azania was a derivation of an old Hellenistic name for a mythical African slave kingdom. As a result of this bizarre correspondence, while the multiracial and leftist ANC continues to call South Africa “South Africa” as a matter of internationalist principle, the name “Azania” appears on Steven Biko’s tombstone and in less lapidary form in the acronyms of separatist and tribalist groups like AZAPO, who are swift to denounce “sellouts” like Nelson Mandela for borrowing the colonial terminology of the oppressor.

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Lima