Absent: The English Teacher

When Mr George loses his job teaching English at a private secondary school in Bulawayo, 'his pension payout, after forty years of full-time service, bought him two jam doughnuts and a soft tomato.'
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When Mr George loses his job teaching English at a private secondary school in Bulawayo, 'his pension payout, after forty years of full-time service, bought him two jam doughnuts and a soft tomato.' When he backs his uninsured white Ford Escort into a brand new Mercedes Benz, the out-of-court settlement sees him giving up his house to the complainant, Beauticious Njamayakanuna, and becoming her domestic servant.

Through the prism of this engaging post-colonial role reversal, and spiced with George's lessons on Shakespeare, John Eppel draws down the curtain on one particular white man in Africa. But before it's time to go, George will delight us with the antics of his literature classes; his various arrests – all timed to coincide with the police chief’s need for help with essays on Hamlet and A Gram of Wheat; his keen eye for flora and fauna; and the long trek back through the hundred years of his family's Zimbabwean past, as he returns an abandoned child to her home. Eppel has satirised the racial politics of southern Africa in many of his previous novels. In Absent: The English Teacher he turns his gaze inwards for a generous and richly rewarding parody of the land of his birth.

About the Author
Born in South Africa in 1947, John Eppel was raised in Zimbabwe, where he still lives, making his home in Bulawayo near the Matobo Hills. He teaches English at Christian Brothers College. His first novel, D.G.G. Berry’s The Great North Road, won the M-Net prize in South Africa and was listed in the Weekly Mail & Guardian as one of the best 20 South African books in English published between 1948 and 1994. His second novel, Hatchings, was short-listed for the M-Net prize and was chosen for the series in the Times Literary Supplement of the most significant books have come out of Africa. His other novels include The Giraffe Man, The Curse of the Ripe Tomato, and The Holy Innocents. His book of poems, Spoils of War, won the Ingrid Jonker Prize.

His other poetry books include Sonata for Matabeleland, Selected Poems: 1965-1995, and Songs My Country Taught Me. In addition he has written two books which combine poems and short stories: The Caruso of Colleen Bawn, and White Man Crawling.