Transita in Africa by Martin Goodman

January saw me in Zimbabwe, running a series of writers’ workshops for the British Council. It also saw the launch of Slippery When Wet. What a fabulous excuse for a party! Eighty guests, most of them fellow writers and many of them resplendent in African dress, gathered in the gardens of a Harare home for a fine dinner and my British Council sponsored launch reading.

Slippery When Wet is about transgression driven by love, about bridging racial and religious divides, so it seems to slot neatly into Zimbabwean debate. It takes a lady from a late winter day in England through the heat and flavours of foreign travel in Bangladesh and Thailand. It was a treat to follow my character out of an English winter, to stand under a warm and open night sky, and read to so receptive an audience.

Zimbabwe is an oral culture, formed by a long tradition of storytelling in the majority language of Shona. Indeed my reading was introduced in Shona by the language’s leading young writer Ignatius Mabasa. I opened the microphone to others when my presentation was through. Poets and prose writers streamed toward the opportunity. Some spoke of shyness, but each delivered bold and moving performances. The cheers and responses from the crowd were a joy.

In sales terms, a reading in a poor country with a paper shortage and inflation of 250% is a doubtful commercial move. Books are rare. But the national press covered the event with a half page spread (may our own media be so generous!). Slippery When Wet slipped word by word into the southern hemisphere. It’s on its own now, and I’m back in England. May it travel well!



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