Then, released from jail and with his movement much fortified by thuggish ZANU-PF youth brigades, Humzvi became the government front-man for populist farm invasions. His "surgery" became a torture centre.Interspersed with the Mugabe chapters, and ostensibly performing a role of compare-and-contrast, are chapters devoted to assorted worldwide tyrants. This is a pity, because it tranforms the book into a Rough Guide. Verwoerd, Honecker, Stalin, Tudjman, Milosovic, Mengistu, even old Ho and his mausoleum: all are fascinating vignettes but more effective in their original form as journalistic essays Some overlapping hasn't been edited out.
There are, frankly, just so many varieties of genocide camp, uniform, moustache, rhetoric and raised fist that a reader can stomach, so it leaves one wanting Ubu Roi for preference Or T S Eliot's Coriolan. And do we really need another set-piece on the Berlin Wall? I'd rather read Christopher Hope on that newer, more pressing wall: Sharon's Wall.Barbara Trapido's 'Frankie & Stankie' has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. These books both open on scenes of divided light and shadow. Katie Hickman begins with a childhood memory: walking with her grandmother through Montmartre at night, she realized that a beautiful woman was standing inside a doorway near them, half illuminated by a lamp, half invisible in darkness. As they passed, the woman let her black cloak fall aside to reveal a luxurious assemblage of scarlet undergarments; and instead of hurrying her young charge on, Hickman's grandmother insisted they pause to admire the woman's beauty. But it was a strange kind of beauty, for the woman seems to have been uncanny and a little monstrous, like an exquisitely frilled octopus in a reef-wall cave.Frances Wilson's biography of the famous Regency courtesan Harriette Wilson also opens with a composition in light and dark, this time a landscape rather than a body. From Virginia Woolf's review of Harriette's Memoirs, she borrows the image of a continent divided by a sword's shadow.
One side is bright and orderly: the world of decent society, through which a respectable woman walks as if on a path through Kew Gardens. The other is a glowering, tumbled wilderness of precipices and ruins. A man can traverse the whole continent at will, stepping from gloom to sunlight and back - but any woman who once crosses the shadow of the sword can never return to the light. This crepuscular, divided world, the demi-monde of "High Impures" and their clients, forms the setting for both books. The Courtesan's Revenge focuses on one extraordinary woman, a boyish livewire better remembered for an act of audacious literary blackmail than for her original profession.
With her career in decline, Harriette Wilson threw London into mingled panic and delight in 1825 by publishing her Memoirs - as a serial, each instalment containing a list of eminent names which would feature in the next episode if their owners did not pay to have them removed.Many, like Wellington, simply let her "publish and be damned", although he never actually used those words. The brilliant marketing ploy did not make money, for the publisher was almost ruined by libel suits, but it was certainly a hoot for London society. It also saved Harriette from the usual fate of ageing courtesans: decline into the even shadier world of low-class prostitution followed by early, raddled death. Instead, she reinvented herself as a woman of letters, beginning flirtatious correspondences with authors and making the most of her revived fame.The Memoirs are a prime attraction in Wilson's book, for her subject's voice comes through persuasively - although the author is careful not to rely too heavily on it as a source.