Book review

by Licínio de Azevedo

NEWLY-translated from Portuguese, this novel, based on a true story, highlights the human aspects of war-ravaged Mozambique in the late 1980s.

The English translation has been produced with the support of current CFM concessionaire Railroad Development Corp, whose Chairman Henry Posner III writes in the introduction that the book 'brings to light the critical role that CFM North played not only in servicing, but keeping the region alive during those troubled times'.

The book follows the railwaymen, passengers and military escort on a convoy of three trains attempting to get through the Nacala Corridor in the face of sabotage and guerrilla attacks from unseen enemies lurking in the bush. As the 340 km trip which once took a day drags out into weeks, the passengers suffer from desperate shortages and the brutalising effects which years of conflict have had on the soldiers.

Though technically travelling unofficially, the passengers form the labour force needed to rebuild the wrecked tracks. The fireman forms his own church, the conductor relies on the Koran and firewater, and the convoy is led by an inspiring military commander who is aided by his links with the ancestors and the powers of a wildebeest tail.

R115 from 30° South Publishers, 28, 9th Street, Newlands, Johannesburg, South Africa 2092