This is not a new book, having been published in 2014, however its themes remain relevant – those of war in Africa, refugees, xenophobia and the harsh, violent life in this country’s townships.
A Man of Good Hope tells the story of Asad Abdullahi, as told to Jonny Steinberg, a South African investigative journalist now working at Oxford University. Steinberg’s telling of the story is simply but beautifully written and he expertly writes the tale of the Somalian who got caught up in the violence of the civil war in 1991 in Mogadishu. When Asad was only eight years old, his mother was killed in front of him by militiamen and his father went into hiding. Asad was forced to flee for his life.
So started his incredible journey of survival, during which he was regularly betrayed by adults who promised to care for him. He ended up having to fend for himself wherever he went, becoming distrustful and wary of others. He moved around countries with alarming alacrity, somehow surviving in each place, and becoming a wily young adult adept at street hustling. He married a beautiful older woman, Foosiya and, urged on by the hope of becoming wealthy, Asad saved up $1200 and made his way down Africa to Johannesburg. Yet here he found a country filled with violence and hatred of strangers and his life didn’t become the dream he had envisaged. He moved on down to Cape Town, settling in the bleak hell of Blikkiesdorp, which is where Steinberg met him and he agreed for Steinberg to write his story.
Eventually life became untenable in South Africa and Asad sought asylum in America. The book ends with Steinberg visiting Asad in Kansas City – it ends on a marginally hopeful note yet with no definite conclusion.
This is a tale of a particularly harrowing life, yet there are many people in Africa with similar stories, and thus I feel that this very well-written book is well worth reading.