..the heroism of everyday.

Extract from  Papa, the Snake and I  by Luis Bernardo Honwana, Mozambique:

‘Papa, why do you always pray when you are very angry?’

‘Because He is the best counsellor.’

‘And what counsel does He give you?’

‘He gives me no counsel. He gives me strength to continue.’

‘Papa, do you believe a lot in Him?’

‘My son, one must have a hope. When one comes to the end of a day, and one knows that tomorrow will be another day just like it, and that things will always be the same, we have got to find the strength to keep on smiling, and keep on saying, “This is not important!” We ourselves have to allot our own reward for all the heroism of every day. We have to establish a date for this reward, even it it’s the day of our death! …No my son, there must be a hope! It must exist! Even if all this only denies Him, He must exist!’

Papa stopped suddenly, and forced himself to smile… Then he added, ‘Even a poor man has to have something. Even it it is only a hope! Even if it’s a false hope!’

‘Do you know, my son,’ Papa spoke ponderously, and gesticulated a lot before every word. ‘The most difficult thing to bear is that feeling of complete emptiness…and one suffers very much…very, very, very much. One grows with so much bottled up inside, but afterwards it is difficult to scream you know.’

Mama was going to object, but Papa clutched her shoulder firmly. ‘It’s nothing, Mother, but, you know, our son believes that people don’t mount wild horses, and that they only make use of the hungry, docile ones. Yet when a horse goes wild it gets shot down, and it’s all finished. But tame horses die every day. Everyday, d’you hear? Day after day – as long as they can stand on their feet.’

‘Do you know, Mother, I’m afraid to believe that this is true, but I also can’t bring myself to tell him that it’s a lie…’

[Modern African Prose  An anthology compiled and edited by Richard Rive, 1964.] (available from the Arusha library or perhaps one near you)

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