Portrait of the Artist

Alexander McCall Smith’s two-part essay for the Scotsman reveals a rather interesting portrait of the artist, and it’s not altogether flattering. In part 1, for instance, McCall Smith talks about being born and growing up in Zimbabwe, but his condemnation of Britain’s colonial past rings hollow.

They were in some respects monstrously unjust, although the injustice would not always strike those who lived in them at the time. It often comes home later, when one realises just how great was the colonial imposition on sub-Saharan Africa, and just what strutting arrogance it had involved. But of course one has to temper that judgment with assessment of the post-colonial African state which, in many cases, has been a nightmare.

Let me see. If someone invaded your house, stole your belongings, enslaved your children, then finally left but continued to do business with the squatter that took his place, should you be to blame? In part 2, Smith talks about visiting Botswana, and how he decided to choose this country (rather than his native Zimbabwe) as the setting for his detective stories.
Related: the photographer whose pictures has been used for some of Alexander McCall Smith’s book covers is featured here.

Though the books have been a success worldwide, [Sandy Grant’s] pictures are in part as popular as the books. While McCall Smith is publishing’s new hero, celebrated by media everywhere, Grant is on the other side of the spectrum. He is not celebrated nor is he any hero.

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