|Ghosts of King Solomon's Mines
An account of Graham Lord's return after 30 years to the lands of his childhood,
Zimbabwe and Mozambique
1991 - Sinclair-Stevenson - Hardback
“This marvellously evocative book” – John Conyngham, Sunday Times
“Sad, wistful and thought-provoking. Yet it is also life enhancing...The reporting of conditions there now is absolutely first-class, packed with detail” – Peter McKay, Evening Standard
“A lively blend of autobiography, travelogue and reportage...Lord writes with a candour and a nicely sceptical and unsentimental eye that make these portraits singularly vivid” – William Boyd
Legend has it that Sir Rider Haggard’s African adventure novel King Solomon’s Mines, published in 1885, was inspired by the savage, beautiful tribal lands of Manica and Sofala, which were soon to become Southern Rhodesia and Portuguese East Africa and are now the independent black nations of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Great Zimbabwe itself, the mysterious ruined fortress deep in the bush, may have been the capital of a black empire controlled by the medieval King Munumutapa and a staging post for Arab traders hauling their gold, ivory and slaves down to the Indian Ocean coast at Sofala near the crumbling Mozambican city of Beira.
Graham Lord was born near one of Zimbabwe’s “Solomon’s mines” in 1943, when the country was still Southern Rhodesia and very British, and was educated at a very English prep school nearby in the Vumba Mountains. He also lived until he was 17 in Beira, in Mozambique, which was then all but a British colony even though it belonged to the Portuguese. After he left Africa to go to Cambridge both countries suffered terrible civil wars and flirted with Marxism and for 30 years Lord was haunted by his memories of those exotic lands and by their ghosts: the 13 missionary teachers and children who were massacred at his prep school during Ian Smith’s Rhodesian war of independence; the British of Beira who waltzed through the 1930s to the strains of Ruby Maclean’s band at the old Savoy Hotel; the spectres of his boyhood home beside the Indian Ocean.
At last, in 1990, for the first time in 30 years, he returned to the lands of his childhood and spoke to some of the survivors, among them ex-Prime Ministers Ian Smith, Sir Garfield Todd and Sir Roy Welensky. This is his report of what his Africa was like in the 1940s and 1950s and what it had become by 1990. It is a vivid mixture of autobiography, history, travelogue and political journalism, a personal quest that gives the reader an extraordinary picture of two countries and their peoples.