Hemingway and Toto

Imagine that Hem was forced to teach Creative Writing at an MFA programme, and Phil Sawyer, the song-writer for Toto, was enrolled in his class. And like every MFA whiteboy in Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, or Billings, Montana, Sawyer’s got some woman he’s pining for somewhere, and some others in the programme he’s gaming. But…he’s still thinking of her. Out there, going about the business of achiving the Greater Good of Womankind, NGO-ing in dusty, walk-a-mile-to-get-the-day’s-water-supply, female-circumcision land.

Hem’s in trouble already with administration: he threw a chair at a kid in his 6-9PM poetry workshop (why has his career come to this – to praising terrible alliterations?  Why do these people think alliterations are good?). The chair-flinging incident was quickly named a ‘diabetic fit’  after an inquest by an internal committee (though the whole class sees him sucking on sweets throughout workshop, and the rapidly diminishing contents of a bottle of Black Label in his office), and he was given a mandatory  year of ‘medical leave’. But here he is, with the same fools, and the haunting sense of failure that sent him into a rage.

Then, suddenly, Hem gets invited to run a study abroad programme, in Kenya. He’s got no illusions: study abroad and MFA? It’ll be babysitting 20 idiots, all nurturing the assurance that they will find their Big Break, write the iconic story about Africa, become famous. But Hem’s stuck with admin’s request – he’s this close to losing his Handicapped Parking spot. He’s shrewd – after all, he’s attached himself to a succession of rich bitches, each richer than the last, who hand-maidened him along.  He earmarks some of the funding for a TA – Phil Sawyer. Of all the fawners, Phil excels in an exceptional way. It’s like this limp biscuit has no sense of selfhood, but one seen through others (Hem remembers the therapist-speak from the last forced marital counseling encounter). He feels a glint of recognition.

Phil will gladly take care of the 20 morons, and imagine it to be an honour.

If you’ve ever imagined the lost short story Hem writes, in the twin-prop on the way to Nakuru, this captures it. Sadly, Hem’s brains have been addled by drink and diabetes, so he’s using far too many adjectives and metaphors. It’s scandalous how much his little protege, Phil Sawyer, the bootlicker, has influenced him. Ah, the servant becomes the master.

Go read “TOTO’S ‘AFRICA’” BY ERNEST HEMINGWAY by Anthony Sams (H/T: Kevin Gibbons)



Neelika Jayawardane

Sharp-tongued literature professor. Senior editor at Africa is a Country.

  1. Hem must have the same attitude towards students as Zizek does.

    Interviewer: What is the worst job you've done?
    Slavoj Zizek: Teaching. I hate students, they are (as all people) mostly stupid and boring.

    I am a student and I agree completely. Maybe I love Zizek a little too much. Hem I don't care for that much. If he was less macho, maybe.

    1. I sorta modeled this version of MFA-Hem on a prof I knew. He was lovely to me, but…
      Zizek is hilarious – just read an interview in the Guardian, and the interviewer is basically at a loss.

      1. I believe the same interview you read has this comment by a certain "Auch":

        "A friend saw Zizek speak recently in Berlin, being something of a fan of his she approached him as he was leaving the stage to say the kind of thing you say in these situations, he looked at her and in his strange phlegm filled accent simply said "I hate humanity" and continued on his way.

        "The problem is of course that one can follow and agree with Zizek on so many things and yet actually doing anything about it is so very very difficult….. (end quote)

        This is one of the very few times I LOL(ed) on the internet(s)!

        Zizek would say that sometimes the really revolutionary thing to do is nothing. The stock humanitarian argument ("My God, people are dying — we should stop politicking and DO something about it") is for Zizek a band-aid action that fails to address the core problem of how the really radical thing would be to create a society in which poverty is impossible. Doing nothing in this sense does not mean no charity or philanthropy (which even Zizek admits is necessary in a purely abstract way), but rather relegating the idea that charity is the real act — in favor, of course, of real emancipatory politics.

        Sigh. Communism will win.

Mailing List

Sign up for email updates!


Not the continent with 54 countries

©Africa is a Country, 2016