Friday, December 2, 2016

Why I Read by Christopher Mlalazi

I grew up with a natural love of story telling. This goes way back to my childhood. My father was a gifted storyteller, but not a public one as his stories were only for his family. 
My father had an amazing repertoire of folklore, usually told around the fire after the evening meal in the late 70s when we lived in Old Pumula Township. There was no electricity in houses in that township then – the only electricity was for obvious reasons for the tower lights, the police station, clinic and housing office. This was during colonial rule.
And so there we would be, sitting around the fire under the stars, with father entertaining us with his tales. I remember that most of them had dialogue and song, and he would sing the songs, and then teach us them too so that when he repeated the tale on other nights, we would sing along with him.
Sometimes when we had aunts and uncles visiting from the village, he would ask them to tell us their own tales.
This was the time that my love for stories gestated. When I grew a bit older, I started hunting for books for more stories. I read everything I could find, from first staring at pictures in comic books before I could read and trying to figure out the stories they were trying to tell, to actually reading books when I had learned how to read at school.
I was always on the hunt for a good story, especially adventures, as they were a window to far off lands for a kid coming from a poor township. Yes, I grew up in one of the poorest townships in Bulawayo, but that does not mean that the people living there were poor in thought, creativity and ambition.
As I grew older and my reading matured, I started discovering that stories carried much more than adventure and thrills. Or the chance to get an erection from a Nick Carter or James Bond novel. That was before I went to secondary school. I began to learn that behind most stories there were coded all kinds of social, economic and political commentaries. This was driven home to me when I started studying literature in high school, reading books like Things Fall Apart, Animal Farm, The Mayor Of Casterbridge, Julius Caesar and the like.

So, in a nutshell, I now read for diverse reasons, to appreciate world aesthetics, to hear the creaks of the wheel of life, and to also see and think clearly. Last but not least, sometimes I read to relax –  over a copy of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Lol.

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