1 September 2013

Marcus and the Amazons

Jennifer and Amy at the beginning of the adventure
I could hang tens of other names on the character of Marcus, in Geoffrey Philp's book, Marcus and the Amazons, but Marcus is perhaps the better fit after all. He reminds me of people that have in some way or another crossed and influenced my life, in Africa and on every other continent. If my children have not lived through what people of my generation lived through, I'd be happy if they lived through this book.

In that respect, Marcus and the Amazons has a dose of everything for all of us. I relate to it as an adult and identify with the characters, yet it is no historical account but a well-crafted fictional account of "folks" living their lives, in their town (colony) and countryside whose scenery is painted (in words as well as in visual imagery) enough to appeal to all, grown-up and child.

Marcus and the Amazons makes me feel right and (yes) triumphant in its ability to portray characters and events which, as I have said, ring true to life. Here's an example. When I went to the USA I was a young man just exiled from Lesotho and having just tasted South Africa's apartheid jails under the then Pass Law system. I was a young political mind with clear ideas and a budding desire to end injustice in the world.

A few years later, I was ashamed to find myself considering whether freedom fighters in Southern Africa were or were not terrorists. The media in America had worked on my subconscious and made me wonder about one of my strongest convictions: South Africans had done everything possible for peaceful change in the region, to no avail, and therefore the only channels left were sabotage and the militarisation of the population.

I was Clarence, then, and if the propaganda machine had been consistent, deliberate and targeted, I could have possibly folded and gone over to the "enemy". Just like Clarence. And that's why Marcus and the Amazons is important. The sort of thing Geoffrey recounts has, is, and will happen as long as man is man and greed is greed.

Geoffrey Philp
As a scientifically minded individual who did his Independent Study on insects, it was an extra treat to read of the cooperation among Marcus and his family and friends, and their societal behaviour which includes division of labour, the ability to find solutions to complex situations, and the ability to communicate (using pheromones), qualities which as a result make them the most successful family in the animal kingdom. The Formicidae family.

Many thanks go to Geoffrey for this work and for the feeling that drives him to keep giving us meaningful words. And to Patrick Pollack who has done a marvellous job of bringing the ants and the background of the story to the fore. Geoffrey Philp blogs over at Geoffrey Philp's blogspot.