Scribbling the Cat by Alexandra Fuller
Travels with an African Soldier

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Synopsis

When Alexandra ("Bo") Fuller was home in Zambia a few years ago, visiting her parents for Christmas, she asked her father about a nearby banana farmer who was known for being a "tough bugger." Her father's response was a warning to steer clear of him; he told Bo: "Curiosity scribbled the cat." Nonetheless, Fuller began her strange friendship with the man she calls K, a white African and veteran of the Rhodesian war. With the same fiercely beautiful prose that won her acclaim for Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Fuller here recounts her friendship with K.

K is, seemingly, a man of contradictions: tattooed, battle scarred, and weathered by farm work, he is a lion of a man, feral and bulletproof. Yet he is also a born-again Christian, given to weeping when he recollects his failed romantic life, and more than anything else welling up inside with memories of battle. For his war, like all wars, was a brutal one, marked by racial strife, jungle battles, unimaginable tortures, and the murdering of innocent civilians—and K, like all the veterans of the war, has blood on his hands.

Driven by K's memories, Fuller and K decide to enter the heart of darkness in the most literal way—by traveling from Zambia through Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) and Mozambique to visit the scenes of the war and to meet other veterans. It is a strange journey into the past, one marked at once by somber reflections and odd humor and featuring characters such as Mapenga, a fellow veteran who lives with his pet lion on a little island in the middle of a lake and is known to cope with his personal demons by refusing to speak for days on end. What results from Fuller's journey is a remarkably unbiased and unsentimental glimpse of men who have killed, mutilated, tortured, and scrambled to survive during wartime and who now must attempt to live with their past and live past their sins. In these men, too, we get a glimpse of life in Africa, a land that besets its creatures with pests, plagues, and natural disasters, making the people there at once more hardened and more vulnerable than elsewhere.

Scribbling the Cat is an engrossing and haunting look at war, Africa, and the lines of sanity.



 

About Alexandra Fuller

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ALEXANDRA FULLER was born in England in 1969. In 1972, she moved with her family to a farm in southern Africa. She lived in Africa until her midtwenties. In 1994, she moved to Wyoming with her husband. They have three children.
 
Published April 26, 2005 by Penguin Books. 272 pages
Genres: History, Travel, War, Biographies & Memoirs, Children's Books, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Scribbling the Cat

Kirkus Reviews

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Fuller learns more than she wants to know about the brutal, indefensible war, about what happens when you give a man an attitude and a gun, and about her own willingness to lead K on to get at a story.

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The Guardian

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Scribbling the Cat: Travels With an African Soldier by Alexandra Fuller 269pp, Picador, £16.99 Look back too much and you are wiped out by the tree in front of you says Alexandra Fuller's dad, but she ignores him and heads full-throttle into the past looking for demons.

Sep 11 2004 | Read Full Review of Scribbling the Cat: Travels w...

Entertainment Weekly

Instead, filtered through Fuller's imagination, he is a ''cathedral,'' a ''dominant lion,'' an ''ancient fortress,'' and ''a living, walking, African Vatican City.'' Is Fuller writing about K or her tragic idea of K?

May 14 2004 | Read Full Review of Scribbling the Cat: Travels w...

USA Today

K's war buddies are just as memorable, especially Mapenga, who lives on an island with a "pet" lion that seems determined to make a meal out of the author.Dogs, written from a young girl's perspective, didn't bother pointing out the obvious: that Fuller's parents held racist views and were wrong ...

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People

Reading books about Africa and war, and the people whose lives are inescapably broken by both, tends to fall onto the same to-do list as Watch More PBS and Eat More Fiber.

May 31 2004 | Read Full Review of Scribbling the Cat: Travels w...

Bookmarks Magazine

Rachel Laing San Francisco Chronicle 1.5 of 5 Stars "… Fuller seems too ready to accept atrocity as the true, authentic face of Africa.

Oct 21 2009 | Read Full Review of Scribbling the Cat: Travels w...

Reader Rating for Scribbling the Cat
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