Leon Lemmer: Graham Greene se besoek aan Liberië in 1935

Die Dan- of Gio-stam van Liberië in tradisionele drag.

Graham Greene (1904-1991) is ‘n bekende Britse skrywer. Hy het ‘n graad in geskiedenis aan die Universiteit Oxford verwerf, waar hy volgens eie erkenning meer gedrink as studeer het. Hy was toe ook vir ‘n wyle ‘n kommunis. Mede-skrywer Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) was een van sy mede-studente wat, soos Greene, bekend vir sy alkoholisme en Rooms-Katolisisme was. Volgens Greene is Rooms-Katolisisme nie met (politieke) konserwatisme verenigbaar nie. Greene was geestelik onstabiel en het aan depressie gely en veral in sy jeug verskeie kere selfdood probeer pleeg. Hy het ‘n onderskeid tussen sy romans/”novels” en “entertainments” (minder ernstige werke) getref. Sy skryfwerk is beskryf as “readable, lean, realistic prose.” ‘n Hele aantal van sy boeke is verfilm en het tot sy finansiële welgesteldheid bygedra. Veral in sy latere lewe het Greene na talle lande gereis en dan in koerantberigte daaroor verslag gedoen.

Greene se briewe

Die eerste boek van Greene wat ek gelees het, is Richard Greene se Graham Greene: A life in letters (London: Abacus, 2008. 446p). Richard skryf in die inleiding Graham “chronicled the suffering of the world’s most oppressed people” (p xiv) en “[he] wanted to be on the side of victims and that victims change” (xi), soos ons deesdae in Suid-Afrika besef. In 1970 het Graham tereg geskryf: “I have small respect for those who wished to protect themselves by a majority opinion” (308). In Suid-Amerika het Graham met die bevrydingsteoloë geïdentifiseer (xxii). In Mexiko kon hy egter nie die Mexikane verdra toe daar teen die Rooms-Katolieke gediskrimineer is nie (xxiv). Maar dit is die (blanke) Amerikaners wat hy bowenal verpes het (xxviii).

In hierdie boek blyk Graham se Suidelike Afrika-verband uit sy vrou, Vivien (1904-2003), wat in Rhodesië gebore is (10). Hulle is in 1927 getroud, het twee kinders gehad, maar sedert 1947 nie meer saam gewoon nie. Op 22 November 1934 skryf Graham: “On Jan 5 I leave on the most absurd trip. I’m going to Liberia; Heinemann [publishers] have contracted for a travel book” (65). The Times sou van sy artikels publiseer (68). Hy laat sy Nazi-teenkanting blyk deur na die Duitsers as “that nice, sentimental, abysmally stupid race” te verwys (66). Kommuniste meet hy nie met dieselfde maat as die Duitsers nie. “I liked [Salvador] Allende [Chile’s president, 1970-1973] very much and I liked the type of communists who were around him” (328). In Nicaragua het Graham in 1980 probeer bemiddel met die kommunistiese Sandinista-rebelle wat die Suid-Afrikaanse ambassadeur, Eddie Dunne, gyselaar gehou het, maar dit was tevergeefs (367-368, 378).

In sy skryfwerk het Graham politieke en morele kwessies aangespreek. “Making the work of the State a degree more difficult – and that is a genuine duty we owe society” (155). “Literature has nothing to do with edification. I am not arguing that literature is amoral, but that it presents a personal moral, and the personal morality of an individual is seldom identical with the morality of the group to which he belongs … As a novelist, I must be allowed to write from the point of view of the black square [of the chess board] as well as of the white” (151-152). Op 8 Desember 1949 skryf Graham in Dakar, Senegal, aan ‘n vriendin: “I have loved no part of the world like this [West Africa] & I love no woman as I love you. You’re my human Africa … I am happy talking nonsense about Africa” (168).

In 1954 skryf Graham: “I loved Haïti” (212), wat sedert 1804 polities onafhanklik onder ‘n swart bewind is en reeds eeue lank die agterlikste land in die Weste is. Oor Fidel Castro in Kuba skryf Graham: “I like him a lot … Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, gave me a military plane to take me to the Isle of Pines” (286). In 1953 het Graham Kenia besoek: “Although Graham was always sympathetic to rebels, he was struck by the cruelty of the Mau Mau and by the courage of the white settlers” (213). In 1959, toe die volle invloed van Afrika se “bevryding” van kolonialisme al hoe meer aangevoel kon word, skryf Graham terwyl hy op besoek in die Kongo is: “One rather feels the end of European Africa is coming quickly” (242). Tydens die Viëtnam-oorlog (1954-1975) skryf Graham in 1968 aan ‘n Moskouse vriendin: “[I am] on your side if the world has to choose between America and Russia” (296). ‘n Jaar later verander hy sy mening nadat hy kennis van die Russiese strafkampe geneem het: “I am afraid my honeymoon with the Russians is over!” (301).

In Richard Greene se boek is daar ‘n brief wat Graham in 1972 aan die Afrikaanse skrywer, Etienne Leroux (1922-1989), geskryf het (318-319), “a nice South African writer and friend” (325). In 1973 het Graham vir Leroux op sy plaas by Koffiefontein besoek. Die teks van een van die briewe wat Graham op daardie plaas geskryf het, is in Richard se boek (326). Graham het hierna ‘n boek, The human factor (1978), geskryf waarin hy onder meer apartheid betrek. Dit is die verhaal van ‘n MI6-agent wat voorheen in Suid-Afrika was en weens ‘n verhouding wat hy toe aangeknoop het nou met sy swart vrou in Londen woon. ‘n Kommunis het gehelp dat hierdie vrou uit Suid-Afrika kon ontsnap, gevolglik ondersteun die MI6-agent hierna kommuniste wat swart mag in Suid-Afrika bevorder. Ek het nie hierdie roman gelees nie en wil ook nie, om redes wat ek in die volgende paragraaf verstrek.

Graham erken: “I am not a literary man” (369). Daarom skryf hy: Charles “Dickens always sooner or later fails” (243) en “I find myself unable to reread Virginia Woolf and [EM] Forster” (369). Hy verkies die skryfwerk van bv mede-Rooms-Katoliek, Muriel Spark (xiii, 206, 281). Oor Joseph Conrad skryf hy: “I would place him faraway above Virginia Woolf” (164). James Joyce se Ulysses word “one of the most overrated classics” genoem (288). Naas sy eiesoortige benadering tot die letterkunde is daar Graham se onvermoë om die natuur te waardeer. “Anyone like myself who doesn’t care for nature” (92) en “Nature doesn’t really interest me” (182). Ek dink Graham het by die kern van die saak gekom toe hy skryf: “He soon came to realise that I was not an intellectual” (338). Hierdie selferkende gebrek aan geestelike en seker ook ideologiese dieptegang moet myns insiens by die beoordeling van Graham se skryfwerk in ag geneem word.

Journey without maps

In 1935 het Graham as dertigjarige deur Sierra Leone, Guinee en Liberië gereis en ‘n boek oor sy wedervaringe geskryf. Hy is vergesel deur sy niggie/”cousin”, Barbara Greene (1903-1991). In Guinee en Liberië is sy in ‘n hangmat gedra terwyl Graham die reis te voet afgelê het. Soos Graham het Barbara ‘n boek oor hulle ondervindige gepubliseer: Land benighted (1938), hergepubliseer as: Too late to turn back (1981). Ek het ongelukkig nie toegang tot haar boek nie. ‘n Vergelyking van hierdie twee verslae oor dieselfde avontuur behoort interessante leesstof te wees. Twee mense wat albei boeke gelees het, het tot verskillende gevolgtrekkings gekom. Volgens die een vul die boeke mekaar aan, terwyl die ander een beweer dat die boeke mekaar teenspreek. In Graham se boek word daar bitter min na sy niggie verwys. In 2009 het Tim Butcher die twee Greene’s se roete herreis en ‘n boek daaroor gepubliseer: Chasing the devil (2010). Reeds in 2004 het Butcher dieselfde met Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904) se Kongo-roete (1874-1877) gedoen en ‘n boek daaroor geskryf: Blood river (2007). Vir die Amerikaner Stanley het ek baie meer respek as vir sy mede-ontdekkingsreiser, die Skot, David Livingstone (1813-1873). Kindle-weergawes van laasgenoemde twee boeke is beskikbaar. Volgens Amazon woon Butcher in Kaapstad.

Gedurende die Tweede Wêreldoorlog het Graham Greene na Wes-Afrika teruggekeer toe hy in Freetown, Sierra Leone, vir die Britse Geheimediens, MI6, gewerk het (1941-1943). Die res van hierdie rubriek word gewy aan Graham Greene se boek oor sy 1935-besoek aan Sierra Leone, Guinee en veral Liberië: Journey without maps (London: Vintage, 1936/2010, 256p; Amazon Kindle $14,48). Tim Butcher het die voorwoord by hierdie uitgawe geskryf. Na Graham Greene word voortaan as Greene verwys omdat sy reisgenoot, Barbara Greene, feitlik nooit in hierdie reisboek ter sprake kom nie. Ek het reeds oor Sierra Leone (Praag 11.11.2018) en Liberië (Praag 18.11.2018) geskryf.

Butcher vestig die aandag op foute wat in Greene se weergawe voorkom en ook dat dit Greene se eerste besoek aan lande buite Europa was (Kindle 78). “I came to see Greene as a man not just of considerable physical toughness, but also of enormous mental strength” (85) – hoewel Greene teen die einde van sy staptog vertel hoe naby hy aan algehele liggaamlik en veral geestelike ineenstorting was. Naas die fisiese of geografiese reis was daar vir Greene ook ‘n “metaphysical trip” (91), wat sy delikate geestesgesteldheid tot die uiterste beproef het. Greene skryf in sy 1946-voorwoord by die 2de uitgawe: “I can look back now with a certain regret at the hard words I used about Freetown” (105). “I have begun to forget what the visitor noticed so clearly – the squalor and the unhappiness and the involuntary injustices of tired men” (112).

Voordat Greene per skip uit Liverpool, Engeland, vertrek, lees hy die amptelike inligting wat die Britse regering oor Liberië verstrek: die algemene voorkoms van koors weens malaria/tsetsevlieë, die peste weens rotte, die gebrekkige mediese dienste, die afbrand van hutte weens dispute en die moorddadigheid van die inwoners. In die hoofstad, Monrovië, is daar net twee geneeshere en in die res van die land enkele sendelingdokters (179). Greene verstrek die volgende agtergrondsinligting oor Liberië: “The Republic was founded as an example to all Africa of a Christian and self-governing state. An American philanthropic society at the beginning of the nineteenth century (many of its directors, it is said, were slave-owners who found it convenient thus to get rid of their illegitimate children) began to ship released slaves to the Grain Coast of Africa. Land was bought from the native rulers and a settlement established at Monrovia. ‘The love of liberty brought us here,’ but one can hardly blame these first half-caste settlers when they found that love of their own liberty was not consistent with the liberty of the native tribes” (186). Die Liberiese kus was bekend as die plek waar Europese skepe peperkorrels kon koop, vandaar die benaming “Grain Coast”; ook “Windward Coast” genoem..

Die interessante verskynsel wat ons hier het, is dat die Amerikaanse setlaars swart of basters is en hulle teenwoordigheid nie deur die inheemse Liberiese swartes geduld is nie. Ook, al het die setlaars die grond gekoop wat hulle beset het, hulle eiendomsreg nie deur die inheemses erken is nie. Vergelyk dit met Jan van Riebeeck en sy geselskap se aankoms aan die Kaap en wat daarop gevolg het. In Liberië was daar nie net weerstand by die inheemses teen die Amerikaanse beskawing wat die setlaars gebring het nie, maar ook teen die christelike godsdiens, wat deel van die setlaars se kultuur was. Naas inheemse godsdienste was daar reeds die uitgebreide aanwesigheid van Islam in Liberië. Die grootste bron van wrywing was egter dat die setlaars as oud-slawe sterk teen slawerny gekant was, terwyl die inheemse opperhoofde ten gunste van slawerny was as hulle bron van inkomste uit slawehandel en ook omdat slawe goedkoop arbeid voorsien het. Die huidige propaganda dat dit (uitsluitlik) die blankes was wat slawerny ten koste van swartes bedryf het, word hiermee teengespreek.

Greene verwys na die volgende voorval: “The black Quakers from Pennsylvania, teetotallers and pacifists, who when they were attacked by Spanish slavers, depended on prayer and were massacred. Only a hundred and twenty escaped and settled in Grand Bassa” (193) – tans bekend as Buchanan, die plek waar Greene se epiese staptog in 1935 geëindig het. Desnieteenstaande het hierdie idealistiese oud-slawe in 1847 hulle grondgebied onafhanklik verklaar (200). “There seemed to be a seediness about the place [Monrovia/Liberia] you couldn’t get to the same extent elsewhere” (206). Hierdie onguurheid het vir Greene ‘n eienaardige bekoring ingehou (of moet ek eerder skryf: Vir die eienaardige Greene …). Die outeur assosieer Liberië dikwels met die “heart of darkness” (206, 2508, 3663), verwysende na die titel van Joseph Conrad se 1899-novelle oor die Kongo. (Ek wil nog oor Chinua Achebe se kritiek op Conrad se boek skryf.) Greene haal Conrad aan en skryf dan: “Today our world seems peculiarly susceptible to brutality” (227), bv “the pleasure of cruelty” (481).

Behalwe twee hoogs onvolledige landkaarte, die een Brits en die ander een Amerikaans, kon Greene vooraf geen betroubare inligting opspoor om hom met die beplanning van sy staproete te help nie. Op die Amerikaanse kaart staan daar in die leë ruimte: “Cannibals” (625). Greene beskryf die heenreis via Madeira en die Kanariese Eilande. In Bathurst/Banjul, Gambië, is daar ‘n uitbraak van geelkoors en in Dakar, Senegal, is daar pes (283). “In Dakar the young negroes simply die, not of tuberculosis, plague, yellow fever, but of ananition, of hopelessness” (434). Daarna doen die skip aan by Conakry, Guinee, en uiteindelik by “the shabby town”, Freetown, Sierra Leone, waar Greene in “heat and damp” aan land gaan (489). Hy noem die “tin roofs and peeling posters and broken windows” en die baie roofvoëls (496). Die klein groepie blanke inwoners woon “at the hillside [in] smart bungalows” (502), dus apart. In 1935 was Sierra Leone ‘n Britse kolonie (sedert 1808). By die goewerneur-generaal se tuinparty “white and black keeping sedulously apart” (544).

Die volgende eienaardige beskrywings is deur ‘n outeur wat (aanvanklik) geneig was om hom by die inheemses/onderdruktes te skaar: “They [Europeans] had planted their seedy civilization and then escaped from it as far as they could. Everything ugly in Freetown was European: the stores, the churches, the Government offices, the two hotels; if there was anything beautiful in the place it was native” (502). Hierdie inheemses “had been educated to understand how they had been swindled, how they had been given the worst of two worlds, and they had enough power to express themselves in a soured officious way; they had died, in so far as they had once been men, inside their European clothes” (509). Die swartes “were funny … to the heartless prefect eye of the white man. If they had been slaves they would have had more dignity; there is no shame in being ruled by a stranger, but these men had been given their tin shacks, their cathedral, their votes and city councils, their shadow of self-government; they were expected to play the part like white men and the more they copied white men, the more funny it was to the prefects. They were withered by laughter; the more desperately they tried to regain their dignity the funnier they became” (516). “A few Creoles make money out of their prefects, by deliberately playing the inferior, the lower boy” (557).

“The … men in the City bar, prospectors, shipping agents, merchants, engineers, had to reproduce English conditions if they were to be happy at all. They weren’t the real rulers; they were simply out to make money; and there was no hypocrisy in their attitude towards ‘the bloody blacks’. The real rulers came out for a few years, had a long leave every eighteen months, gave garden parties, were supposed to be there for the good of the ruled” (585). “This was perhaps the meanest economy among the many mean economies … The economies were nearly all at the expense of the coloured man … there had been only one sanitary inspector for the whole colony and protectorate … he would apply in vain for assistants. Forced labour is illegal in a British Colony, but the sanitary inspector without a staff had to choose between breaking the law or leaving villages as dirty as he found them” (591).

Greene het per uiters stadige trein dwarsoor Sierra Leone gereis, van Freetown in die noordweste tot by Pendembu in die noordooste (652). In Freetown het hy drie kreole, bv ‘n kok, as reisgenote gewerf (672). Tydens sy treinreis kon hy die landelikheid waarneem van bv “babies rolling in the dust, the men lounging in torn hammocks hung under the thatch” (733). Spoedig was die aanskouing van naakte liggame nie meer vreemd nie: “It was curious how quickly one abandoned the white standard” (740). Kom die afrikanisering van die nuwe Suid-Afrika nie ook wesenlik neer op die versaking van tradisionele Europese lewensstandaarde nie? Die eerste dag se treinrit het in Bo geëindig, waar Greene in ‘n “rest-house” oornag het. “There was a cockroach larger than a black beetle in the bathroom” (760).

“The Englishmen here didn’t talk about the ‘bloody blacks’ nor did they patronize or laugh at them; they had to deal with the real natives and not the Creole, and the real native was someone to love and admire. One didn’t have to condescend; one knew more about some things, but they knew more about others. And on the whole the things they knew were more important. One couldn’t make lightning like they could, one’s gun was only an improvement on their poisoned spear, and unless one was a doctor, one had less chance of curing a snake-bite than they. The Englishmen here were of a finer, subtler type than on the Coast; they were patriots in the sense that they cared for something in their country other than its externals; they couldn’t build their English corner with a few tin roofs and peeling posters and drinks at the bar” (747).

Die volgende dag het Greene se treinreis, soos die spoorlyn, by Pendembu geëindig. Met ‘n vragmotor is hy na Kailahun, op die grens van Guinee, waar hy in “the Government rest-house” gebly het (794). Hier het Greene die draers vir sy safari gewerf. “Kailahun, in memory, has become a clean village, one of the cleanest we stayed in, but what impressed me at the time was the dirt and disease, the children with protuberant navels relieving themselves in the dust among the goats and chickens, the pock-marked women smeared about the face and legs and breasts with some white ointment they squeezed from a plant in the bush and used for beauty and for medicine. They used it for smallpox, for fever, for toothache, for indigestion; for every ailment under their bleak sun; when they were young it soothed their headaches; when they were older they smeared it on their big bellies to bring ease in their confinement; when they were dying it lay like a sediment of salt on their dried-up breasts and in their pitted thighs. Here you could measure what civilization was worth; looking back later to Kailahun from the villages of the Republic [Liberia], where civilization stopped within fifty miles of the Coast, I could see no great difference … why should we pretend to talk in terms of the world when we mean only Europe or the white races? … Civilization here remained exploitation; we had hardly, it seemed to me, improved the natives’ lot at all, they were as worn out with fever as before the white man came, we had introduced new diseases and weakened their resistance to the old” (847).

Gedurende sy staptog het Greene veral gevalle van geslagsiektes en melaatsheid teëgekom. Die inheemses was vir gesondheidsdienste op die beperkte getal sendingstasies aangewese. “One couldn’t help comparing the manner of these nuns living quite outside the limits of European protection with that of the English in Freetown who had electric light and refrigerators and frequent leave, who despised the natives and pitied themselves” (1163).

Greene het sowat twee dosyn draers afkomstig van Bolahun vir sy safari gewerf (632). Gedurende die staptog het die getal draers gewissel, maar Greene se geselskap het uit sowat dertig mense altesaam bestaan. “I could see the full extent of the luggage we had brought with us: the six boxes of food, the two beds and chairs and mosquito-nets, three suitcases, a tent we were never to use, two boxes of miscellaneous things, a bath, a bundle of blankets, a folding table, a money box, a hammock” (934). “I was able to average more than twelve miles a day over a period of four weeks” (961). Die totale afstand afgelê, was sowat 350 myl (3270). Dit was problematies om die grens tussen Sierra Leone en Liberië met so baie besittings oor steek. “It was impossible to bribe an official who probably took a lion’s share anyway of what he exacted” (1082). “I enjoyed the first day’s trek into the Republic [of Liberia] because everything was new … the smell of the carriers; it wasn’t an unpleasant smell, sweet or sour; it was bitter, and reminded me of a breakfast food I had as a child after pleurisy, something vigorous and body-building which I disliked” (1082).

In die Liberiese binneland was Greene verplig om in hutte te oornag. Voor sy vertrek uit Freetown het iemand gevra: “Had we ever considered what a native hut meant? The rats, the lice, the bugs” (686). Daar was ook vlieë, muskiete, vlermuise (wat die muskiete jag), motte, miere, kewers, kakkerlakke en spinnekoppe. Op die werf was daar honde, katte, hoenders, bokke en koeie. Die swartes het hulle aan die blankes vergaap omdat hulle sulke mense selfde indien ooit gesien het. “This intent unamused stare got on the nerves. And they were so ugly, so diseased” (1860). “There was nothing you could do without their noticing it; to draw a handkerchief from the pocket caused a craning of necks. It worked a little on the nerves, this constant stare … We were as good as a circus” (2248). Toiletgeriewe het nie bestaan nie. In die riviere kon nie gebad word nie weens die gevaar van infeksie en siektes. Ten einde veral van die rotte te ontsnap, het Greene in ‘n hangmat geslaap. “When [the] lamp went out the rats came. They came all together, falling heavily down the wall like water” (1845). “I would chiefly remember as Africa: cockroaches eating our clothes, rats on the floor, dust in the throat, jiggers under the nails, ants fastening on the flesh” (2104).

Maar Greene beweer: “I never wearied of the villages in which I spent the night” (1103). “The timelessness, the irresponsibility, the freedom of Africa began to touch us at last” (1942). “I remember wandering round the village listening to the laughter and the music among the little glowing fires and thinking that, after all, the whole journey was worth while: it did reawaken a kind of hope in human nature. If one could get back to this bareness, simplicity, instinctive friendliness, feeling rather than thought, and start again …” (2791). Toe Greene uiteindelik die kus en ‘n mate van beskawing bereik, skryf hy: “Civilization might not have seemed quite so desirable in comparison with what I was leaving: the complete simplicity on the edge of subsistence … But civilization, for the moment, I was ready to swallow whole” (3270).

Hierdie gehuggies en dorpies “never varied, only their kindness to strangers, the extent of their poverty and the immediacy of their terrors. Their laughter and their happiness seemed the most courageous things in nature … One was aware the whole time of a standard of courtesy to which it was one’s responsibility to conform” (1109). “It was no good protesting later that one had not come across a single example of dishonesty from the boys, from the carriers, from the natives in the interior: only gentleness, kindness, an honesty which one would not have found, or at least dared to assume was there, in Europe. It astonished me that I was able to travel through an unpoliced country with twenty-five men who knew that my money-box contained what to them was a fortune in silver” (1116). Sy pistool was in die geldhouer. “There wasn’t an instance of even the most petty theft, though in every village the natives swarmed into the hut where all day my things were lying about” (1123). “It was as if suddenly one saw what Africa might be if she were left to herself to choose from Europe only what would beautify her” (1497).

By iedere plek wat hulle aangedoen of oornag het, moes Greene kennis met die hoofman maak. Hy het dikwels ‘n klein fooi aan die manhoof gegee en hulle het saam van Greene se whisky gedrink. Die samewerking van die hoof het dit vir Greene moontlik gemaak om kos aan sy werkers te voorsien.Die inheemses het graag musiek gemaak, gesing en gedans; “a music hard for a European to understand” (1243). Tatoeëring kom algemeen by hierdie swartes voor, maar dit is eerder ‘n geval van sny- of kerfmerke wat in die vel aangebring is (1256).

Greene verskaf ‘n interessante karakterisering van sy draers. “The character of a carrier is childlike. He enjoys the moment. He cannot connect cause and effect. He is used to one meal in the day at evening, he lives on the edge of subsistence and it would be a hard master who grudged him the unexpected pleasure of an extra meal … It was always the same throughout the four weeks of marching; whenever they had a breakfast they worked badly, grumbled and made palavers; when food became scarce they worked well and were happy” (1671). Die draers “could be distracted, too, as easily as children, and when a man presented me with a small grey monkey on a string they were temporarily happy again. They liked something to torment. They poked it with sticks. They turned it upside down. They dragged it head first in the dust … they left it in peace for a moment it sat with its head in its wrinkled hands as if it were weaping … they were like bullies at school with a new boy who couldn’t hit back”1677).

In die roete deur die woude en veld was daar skoenlappers, bloedsuiers en ander insekte, bv spinnekoppe, asook voëls, paddas, slange, ape, bobbejane, luiperds en olifante. “The man in front was in the greater danger from a snake, but the man behind from a leopard” (1784). Die oorsteek van riviere was gevaarlik. Die hangbrue het dikwels uit gevlegde klimop bestaan, is nie altyd goed in stand gehou nie en het heen en weer geswaai as daarop beloop word. ‘n Enkele keer is ‘n rivier met ‘n vlot oorgesteek (2208).

In die binneland van Liberië is daar feitlik geen winkels nie; net smouse. “The black Government distrusts them [whites] and no European firm has any trading posts in the Liberian hinterland” (1177). “No white man is allowed to own land in the Republic, the missions are at the mercy of the Government” (1183). Elke distrik het ‘n swart (of baster) regeringsaangestelde kommissaris gehad wat belasting moes invorder. Oor een van hulle skryf Greene: “I found plenty of evidence: stories of his house built by forced labour and paid for by the seizure of the natives’ produce; stories of how his messengers flogged the men working on the road” (1196). “I never came across a single native in the interior who had a good word for the politicians in Monrovia [the capital]. If they preferred one ruler to another it was simply because they were happier under one Commissioner than another. Everywhere in the north I found myself welcomed because I was a white, because they hoped all the time that a white nation would take the country over. This attitude is unreasonable, but their minds do not move on the level of reason. To accept a black overlord offended some deep communal instinct which was unaffected by the fact that under the worst black Commissioner they had not suffered what the natives in French West Africa had suffered under white Commissioners” (1530) – ‘n Brit wat beweer die Britse koloniale owerhede was beter/mensliker as dié van die Franse.

Greene het aanvanklik dieselfde roete gevolg as Alfred Sharpe in 1919, dus ooswaarts deur die noorde van Liberië en ‘n suidelike deel van Guinee (wat voorheen Liberiese grondgebied was) en dan terug in Liberië, sonder dat hulle daar doeaneposte teëgekom het. Daarna was die roete suidwaarts tot by die kus te Grand Bassa/Buchanan. Aan die kus en omliggende gebiede verander die ingesteldheid of gesindheid van die inheemse swartes: “the coastal civilization had corrupted the natives, in which I found nothing to admire” (1874). Oor die Bassa-stam wat in die kusstreek aangetref word, skryf Greene: “I developed a bitter dislike of the very appearance of Bassa men … The Coast had corrupted them, had made them liars, swindlers, lazy, weak, completely undependable” (3188). “The beach is the most dangerous road in all Liberia to travellers, because its people have been touched by civilization, have learnt to steal and lie and kill” (3290).

In die kusstreke is daar winkels (2416). Ook huise: “A few seedy houses appeared, definitely houses now and not huts, with a first floor and tin roofs but without glass in the windows, with the air of old-fashioned chicken coops magnified to take men” (3263). Verduidelik dit dalk waarom vandale ‘n voorliefde vir glasruite het? Die binneland van Liberië is hoogliggend en bedek met woude. Namate die kusstreek deur Greene se geselskap genader is, was die gebied al hoe meer moerasagtig en die temperatuur al hoe warmer. Greene het sy staptog in die middel van die winter begin en moes vinnig vorder, nie net om koste te bespaar nie maar ook omdat vroeë somerreëns die roete moeiliker begaanbaar sou maak, bv: “the first few miles of path were flooded waist-high” (3101).

“I was paying them three shillings a week and that sum paid, not only for an eight-hour day or more of heavy carrying, but for their loyalty” (1771). By geleentheid het die draers meer geld as vergoeding geëis, maar tog nie vir Greene in die steek gelaat nie. Hy erken: “After all, the carriers were disgracefully underpaid” (2167). “The Government wage for a carrier was a shilling a day” (2174), maar dit was as hulle op ‘n daaglikse basis gehuur is. “I said that the Government wage didn’t include food, and I was paying for their food. They could not tell that their food only came to about twopence a head … I was exploiting them like all their other masters” (2181). “A moment later they were laughing and joking as if there had been no disagreement; they were like children who had tried to get an extra holiday but bear no grudge because they never really believed they would succeed … they began to work together happily and smoothly” (2187). Dit laat my dink aan die ANC wat spog dat die swartes in 1990/94 in die grondwetlike onderhandelinge baie meer ontvang het as wat hulle regmatig kon verwag.

Teen die einde van die staptog was Greene se skoene flenters maar hy het die opsie om in die hangmat gedra te word, probeer weerstaan: “It was too close to using men as animals for me to be happy” (3135). Baie van die gehuggies wat hulle teëgekom het, kan op geen kaart gevind word nie. Die draers het Greene probeer mislei of ontmoedig deur dikwels te beweer dat die plek wat hy daardie dag wou bereik te ver sou wees. “I nursed the idea that a black always exaggerated, when the fact was they had so hazy an idea of time that they were just as likely to minimize” (1723). “All the white men I had met in Sierra Leone had told me how blacks must be driven, how they lied and humbugged, and it was not unnatural that I should believe they were lying now, ‘trying it on’, like schoolboys who are testing a new master’s discipline” (1757).

Teen die einde van die staptog het Greene gehoop hulle kon eerder van vervoer gebruik maak, maar: “There was only one car in Grand Bassa and that had broken down some months before, and they doubted whether it had been repaired” (3257). Maar die laaste skof het hulle wel per vragmotor afgelê; die enigste voertuig in die omgewing. In Grand Bassa het Greene aan die draers hulle vergoeding betaal en hulle moes self hulle weg terug na Bolahun vind en die ander drie, die kreole, na Freetown. ‘n Plaaslike ingesetene het die draers gewaarsku: “To be gone as quickly as possible from Grand Bassa, for the police would be after their money. I felt sorry for the end of something which was unlikely ever to happen again. One was never likely to live for long in a company so simple and uncorrupted; they had none of them before seen so many stores, the sea, a motor-lorry; their eyes were full of excitement and wonder at Grand Bassa, and they didn’t even know the way back” (3284). Maar sommige van hulle het eerder palmwyn gekoop en te veel gedrink en in Grand Bassa ten prooi van die polisie geval.

Greene is per boot na die hoofstad, Monrovië. Hy verneem toe daar is iemand daar wat ‘n kaart van Liberië van die ontdekkingsreisiger Anderson het. Daar is talle halfvoltooide geboue en nie eens ‘n telefoondiens nie. “No one can pretend they have made much of their country” (3402). “To me it seems remarkable that they have retained their independence at all: a kind of patriotism has emerged from the graft and the privation. England and France in the last century robbed them of territory; America has done worse, for she has lent them money” (3408). “Nor can you wonder at their hatred and suspicion of the white man. The last loan and the last concession to the Firestone Company of Ohio all but surrendered their sovereignty to a commercial company with no interests in Liberia but rubber and dividends” (3415). “Apart from the Firestone employees, who lived outside in European comfort on the plantation, there were not more than three dozen whites in Monrovia … There was not such a thing as a water-closet in Monrovia” (3442). “What the Whites suffered, they suffered with the whole population, from lack of drainage, medical services, communications and the desire to intervene was an expression of boredom rather than of imperialism” (3488). “At the end of several hours’ rough driving from the capital, live the Firestone men in houses containing shower baths and running water and electric light, with a wireless station, tennis courts and a bathing pool, and a new neat hospital … They, more than the English or the French, are the official Enemy” (3508). En die politici en plaaslike inwoners glo dit. “The Government owns both the newspapers” (3515).

In 1935 het Westerse beskawing ‘n onsekere houvas op Liberië gehad. “It was the democracy of men and women wrecked together on a deserted coast” (3449). “There was no ambition, for Liberia, whether to the diplomat or to the storekeeper, was about the deadest of all ends” (3462). “Even in the capital town of Liberia one was aware only of a settlement, a very chancy settlement that might be wiped out at any time by yellow fever” (2104). Die swart politieke bewind was nie gewild by die breë massa, die swartes in die binneland, nie. “There was not a carrier who would not have welcomed white intervention; patriotism in their minds had nothing to do with who ruled them, it was love of a certain territory” (2482). Blankes is deur die inheemses beskou as simbole van hoop vir ‘n beter toekoms. Greene verwys bv na ‘n swart man wat vir hom medisyne vir sy geslagsiekte gevra het: “The sight of a white man had made him hope; he just stood there waiting for the magic pill, the magic ointment” (3216).

Per skip op pad terug na Engeland “we drank ourselves free from Africa” (3669). “It isn’t that one wants to stay in Africa” (3683). “After the long push of the Atlantic sea, the lights of Dover … the only loot I had brought with me, was as far back as one needed to go, was Africa: the innocence, the virginity” (3689).

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