Thrilling, heartbreaking, and, at times, absurdly funny, The Last Resort is a remarkable true story about one family in a country under siege and a testament to the love, perseverance, and resilience of the human spirit.
Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Douglas Rogers is the son of white farmers living through that country’s long and tense transition from postcolonial rule. He escaped the dull future mapped out for him by his parents for one of adventure and excitement in Europe and the United States. But when Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe launched his violent program to reclaim white-owned land and Rogers’s parents were caught in the cross fire, everything changed. Lyn and Ros, the owners of Drifters–a famous game farm and backpacker lodge in the eastern mountains that was one of the most popular budget resorts in the country–found their home and resort under siege, their friends and neighbors expelled, and their lives in danger. But instead of leaving, as their son pleads with them to do, they haul out a shotgun and decide to stay.
On returning to the country of his birth, Rogers finds his once orderly and progressive home transformed into something resembling a Marx Brothers romp crossed with Heart of Darkness: pot has supplanted maize in the fields; hookers have replaced college kids as guests; and soldiers, spies, and teenage diamond dealers guzzle beer at the bar.
And yet, in spite of it all, Rogers’s parents–with the help of friends, farmworkers, lodge guests, and residents–among them black political dissidents and white refugee farmers–continue to hold on. But can they survive to the end?
In the midst of a nation stuck between its stubborn past and an impatient future, Rogers soon begins to see his parents in a new light: unbowed, with passions and purpose renewed, even heroic. And, in the process, he learns that the "big story" he had relentlessly pursued his entire adult life as a roving journalist and travel writer was actually happening in his own backyard.
Douglas Rogers is an award-winning author, travel writer and journalist with 20 years’ experience writing for the world’s leading magazines and newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Travel & Leisure, National Geographic Traveler, Condé Nast Traveler, The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and the Times of London.
Born and raised in Zimbabwe, he has lived in Johannesburg, London, New York and Washington D.C, and has reported from more than 50 countries on topics as diverse as the diamond trade in Africa, the movie stars of Bollywood, and the restaurants of New Orleans.
He is the author of the acclaimed memoir: The Last Resort: A Memoir of Mischief and Mayhem on a Family Farm in Africa, (Crown/Random House), finalist for the prestigious Dolman Travel Book of the Year. The New York Times wrote: “This vibrant, tragic and surprisingly funny book is the best account yet of ordinary life – for blacks and whites – to have come out of the Mugabe dictatorship.” It was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week.
Rogers ghost wrote The Lion Awakes: Adventures in Africa’s Economic Miracle by Ashish Thakkar (St Martin’s Press, 2015), the story of Africa’s youngest billionaire, and his insights into the continent’s astonishing economic growth.
Rogers has won many awards, including a 2016 Silver Award from the North American Association of Travel Journalists for a feature on Mozambique; Best National Feature Writer at the 2013 Visit USA Awards in London; and the 2010 Travel Book of the Year from the British Guild of Travel Writers.
The truth is often more harrowing than anything written as fiction, because fiction necessarily has to have a plot and work to a conclusion and in order to maintain tension (and not to bore the reader) the minutae of a long-drawn out horrific experience cannot be written.
This book is about the recent modern times in rural Zimbabwe for whites in business in a small way. These whites have seen that Mugabe did good things - he was a teacher and brought literacy to the blacks freed from the appalling oppression of Ian Smith's white regime. They have also seen his impetus for improvement change to an overweening desire to maintain himself as supremely powerful and because of the consequent paranoia, divide the country much for the worse.
The author's parents aren't racist or elitist and regard themselves as thoroughly African and fear being deprived of their land and livelihood, if not their lives. They fear this as whites and as voters for the non-Mugabe party in the last election, rigged as usual. They are rescued in the most brilliant twist ever. Better than any fiction, but also chilling, how one person could take over the lives of others slowly, by stealth and without their permission and have them grateful forever for that even when they realise what has happened. I don't want to spoil it by writing any details. No writer of plots with cunning endings ever thought up anything half so good.
Not that stories about Zimbabwe won’t cause you to shiver in horror but this one was such a great balance between the hard reality for white farmers in Zimbabwe and the effervescent fighting spirit of the people who chose stay behind.
There were some truly hilarious moments thrown in as well.
”Being able to laugh at the absurdity of their situation was a trait all Zimbabweans picked up; if they didn’t, they all would have had heart attacks.”
I remember traveling to Zimbabwe in 2013 and buying a whole wad of Zim dollars as souvenirs for $5 USD, this included one 100,000 trillion dollar note. Its hard to believe that this currency was once almost on par with the USD.
From people like Miss Moneypenny who made a living out of black-market forex and the rise of illegal diamond dealers to the author’s parents who morphed their backpackers lodge into something a little more hmmm…… colourful…. but even more profitable.
The book also showed the fragile respect and love of country between black and white Zimbabweans that could not be broken by Mugabe’s rule.
I’m of the opinion that most Americans, even those that consider themselves somewhat knowledgeable about current events and well-read, know very little about modern sub-Saharan Africa. Most of us are aware of the continent’s subjugation to colonial rule and that revolutionary changes have taken place there in recent decades but the sub-division of territories and mélange of unpronounceable names and ever changing leaders seldom moves us below the headlines. The fact that many whites may have lost their superior racial status as well as property leaves us sanguine that it was undoubtedly deserved. This memoir about a white farm family in Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia, gave me an entirely new perspective. As part of the historical viewpoint, many of the whites were descendents of families that had immigrated there in the early 1600’s and considered themselves, not Dutch or British or even white, but Zimbabwean first. They’ve known nothing else. This is a breathtaking story of adaptation and survival, not only by the author’s family, but by the poverty stricken black populace caught up in a whirlwind of political and cultural upheaval and technological change. This personal account may find you taking sides and cheering on individuals as they are introduced and then being amazed, amused and sometimes horrified at the outcome of events. Yes, I said amused. Some of the events are as surprisingly hilarious as the characters are amazingly heroic and there are lessons here for complacent people everywhere.
Zimbabwe is an excellent example of what happens when a group of countries stick their collective nose in another nation's affairs. Back in the day the breakaway state of Rhodesia was a flawed but functioning entity. It's true that there was an uneven distribution of wealth, with whites generally more wealthy than blacks, but this would not not have been a permanent state. The western press naturally had to sensationalize the situation, because that's how you get subscribers...there is no money to be made by reporting that things are getting better. So Rhodesia was sanctioned to death by countries that should have known better. Elections were held at a time when the people were just not ready...the result being that the country, while nominally a democracy, is actually a functioning dictatorship run by a madman. Tens of thousands have been murdered, thousands have had their property taken without compensation, and the Zimbabwean currency is deflated to the point that a suitcase is now called a "Zimbabwean wallet."
Mr Rogers' book will take you into a remote area of this nuthouse state where his parents have managed to hang on to their backpacking and tourist resort, once a flourishing business but now at risk of appropriation by any "veteran" (former communist-backed guerilla) who can convince the state to give it to him. It is a very engaging tale of resilience, of survival and of adaptation to rapidly changing circumstances. The reader will probably find that the Zimbabwean situation has been very selectively reported...few know, for example, that black farmers can also be evicted from their lands if they are suspected of not supporting the current "democratic" regime. If you go by what the western media reported, you would probably be surprised to learn that there was such a thing as a black farmer in Zimbabwe. You will also learn that, when an eviction occurs, the people who were employed on the farm are usually also out of work, resulting in a large population of unemployed people with really nowhere to go.
Rogers will also introduce you to a salty cast of characters, survivors, hanging on to what was theirs when any rational person would have thrown in the towel. You change and adapt: work for an NGO, become a black market dealer in goods or currency, turn your resort into a brothel. There is no racism here, just people of varying races helping each other out and looking out for each other in the face of the excesses of a lunatic and non-functioning government.
My only criticism of this book is that it has no photographs: surely Rogers must have a few shots of the resort and the principal characters that he could have included to augment the narrative. Otherwise, this is the best book I've read this year.
Back in 1998, I hired a guy to build a road onto a 40-acre plot I owned in Eastern Washington. He was a fascinating fellow. He and his wife were saving to buy more land in Zimbabwe, a place they loved. I was shocked. Having spent some rather gnarly years in Jamaica during white flight, and benefiting from what something similar did to real estate prices in the Virgin Islands, I was rather dubious. But he assured me that Zimbabwe was very friendly towards white land owners. He and his wife were creating their dream farm.
I always wondered what happened to them. Well, after reading The Last Resort, I know. This is one humdinger of a book, especially since it's true. Travel writer Douglas Rogers grew up in Zimbabwe, and his parents still live there. They ran a backpackers lodge, and Rogers tells the story of his visits home over the years -- as things got increasingly horrific for whites. The lodge eventually turned into a haunt of prostitutes and illegal diamond traders. Most of the neighbors were evicted, kidnapped, tortured or killed. You can't help admiring his parents for their amazing courage (or is it unwillingness to see danger?).
This is not one of those books that glorifies the colonial days. Rather, it explains the complicated history of blacks and whites in Zimbabwe, and the growing pains of a country trying to establish itself. I learned so much! And Rogers is one heck of a writer. You can practically taste the air and feel the grit of the dust. And he's honest, too. You end up feeling like you've made a good friend by the time you're done. And you want to go visit Drifters yourself, his parents' ill-fated "resort."
To know now that I knew so little about Zimbabwe is nothing short of shameful. To know now that Mugabe still rules there, a decade after this true tale was written, is alarming. Westerners hear what they are sold and we can go on about Syria, Venezuela, N. Korea, Yemen and other hotspots that make the news.
But that Zimbabwe still exists as it did, and is still subjugated to Mugabe as it has been for so long, is further proof that good and evil coexist and it will always be this way. We are only impotent and temporary audience members watching the world as it will always be until it becomes our time to leave.
As for you, Old man Mugabe, with your billions of dollars in ready assets, and at ninety-two years old, maybe share a million or two here and there with your dehydrated, famished and impoverished nation. What are you saving it for? Central air conditioning in Hell?
The Last Resort is a whirlwind tour through eight years of Zimbabwe's descent from forced evictions of white farmers into the election chaos of 2008. The author visits his parents each year as they adapt to a changing country and struggle to hold onto their small backpacker hotel, Drifter's Inn, in the countryside. Their white farmer neighbors have been kicked out of their homes (some eventually taking refuge at the Inn's cabins), tourism has dried up, and Drifter's is inadvertently reimagined as, in turns, a weekend getaway for upperclass black Zimbabweans to take their second wives and mistresses (and ladies of the night), a refugee camp for dispossessed white farmers waiting for their paperwork to clear for resettlement abroad, a diamond smugglers' party oasis, and a hiding place for their newly elected MDC MPs as the election violence rages.
The story told is as riveting as it is improbable, and the author's view of the action is kept lighthearted enough to highlight the absurdity of it all: the customers who go to the bank to take out their money to buy something, only to discover upon their return that the price has doubled. The measurement of the real exchange rate by asking someone on the street the cost of 7 eggs. The many characters we meet along the way, all thrown together in a struggle just to survive: a pro-ZANU soldier with a dodgy history and high government connections, the mysterious nephew of a top minister who turns the Drifter's bar around and brings in the nouveau riche diamond trading clientele, the diamond traders themselves, awash in wealth they can't save, and Rogers's stubborn, determined parents making it work. Along the way the reader learns a lot of the post-colonial history of Zimbabwe and a more nuanced view of the political situation, including the historical injustices that have created today's political and economic landscape, than is usually presented.
The main flaws in this book are that it's a memoir and necessarily focuses on the times that Rogers is actually in Zimbabwe. When it comes time to leave after his visits, we don't want to fly back to New York with his wife, kid, running water, stocked store shelves, and consistent electricity: we want to stay and hang out with his more interesting 70-year-old parents. Also, when's that Recipes for Disaster: Adventures in the Kitchen of a Failed State cookbook coming out? That's what I want to read.
4.5 stars. This is the author’s account of his parent’s extraordinary lives in Zimbabwe. The book provides you with a thorough account and timeline of the country’s descend into hell. What makes The Last Resort so amazing, is that this is done with MANY laugh out loud moments. Because of this I was reminded of my favorite memoir of all time – The Glass Castle. Obviously, we also get to witness the horror, and the last chapters had me anxiously turning pages and swallowing tears.
The cast is quite extensive and super interesting - think diamond dealers, prostitutes, moneylenders, witch doctors and spies (but never portrayed as stereotypes). The true stars of the book are his parents - over 70 years of age - they never lose hope or their love for this country which has taken so much from them. They always remain open-minded, generous and resilient.
If you read only one book about Africa in 2019 make sure it’s this one!!! The only reason it loses half a star is that I really wanted to see some photos.
I'm critical of this work as it purports to be a balanced view of Zimbabwe yet clearly it is not. It does not represent an accurate version of events. There is hypocrisy here and I suggest that it takes a colonial to pick up on it. For example the writer goes out of his way to discuss his Boer roots and the injustices the Boers suffered under the British in South Africa. He describes bad things that happened to white South Africans in South Africa- despite this, and in a memoir of Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe, there is no mention of the bad things that happened to blacks under the Rhodesian regime. No mention that blacks were not allowed to purchase land - which is crucial to any debate on land ownership. Not even a mention - not a single sausage because that does not affect white people. Not a mention of the discrimination and the bad history. For goodness' sake Mr. Rogers if, during a memoir on Zimbabwe, you leave the country, cross national borders and make a grand effort to discuss the incarceration of your own white folk why is there no mention of the forceable incarceration of black Zimbabweans and their families in wire fenced compounds in Zimbabwe? No mention whatsoever that black families were forcibly held against their will, starved of food and not allowed out without permission? No mention that they were not allowed to farm the land to feed themselves and therefore went hungry under white colonialism. No mention that black families starved under white rule. Why? This is crucial background I am afraid. Is it because in your opinion their suffering was n out as great as yours? We need to tell the whole truth not pieces of the truth. I can only surmise that as a privileged white boy in colonial Africa Mr. Rogers never actually appreciated the suffering that others underwent to accomodate white land use in their own country. We need to be very circumspect indeed when learning the history in this corner of the world. Never forget that next to Zimbabwe is Namibia, a German colony where the 2nd Reich perfected the art of concentration camps, exterminating tens of thousands of black Africans so that colonial whites could usurp their land. That's right, the concentration camps of W.W. II were developed in this corner of the world. And lo and behold we find similar behaviour in a British ex-colony. Land tenure in this country is a complex issue - let alone the laws that restricted employment, education, health and marriage. Black Africans had every reason to fear colonialism - every reason. Mr. Rogers fails to give enough background to this story, pandering to a comfortable mindset that does not wish to be challenged. I could giver other examples in the book however I think it best to leave it at that. Do not read this book and come away believing you have any idea of the fundamentals of this country. You do not. I want writers of courage, writers who get at the truth. We are not idealists Mr. Rogers, we are literate colonials and we want the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. Next time, please tell it.
Quite a few books have been written in recent years by exiled children of white Zimbabweans. Many if not all, whether they claim to be autobiographical or not are heavily influence by the feelings of the writer about his lost home country and what is happening there. Some find it impossible to jump over the shadow of bitterness to even attempt a balanced view. That is definitely not the case here. I'm not going to repeat the blurb or the descriptions of many others what this book is about. It's about a son discovering his parents and about the son of a country rediscovering his homeland and its people having lived afar for years. Having lived in Zimbabwe recently for a good three years and become friends with some Zimbabweans of all colours and political inclinations, I have to say The Last Resort, like no other book I have read manages to capture just how extraordinary Zimbabwe and the Zimbabweans are. More than any of the serious treatises and analysis, it manges to give a feel of what living the past few years in Zimbabwe WAS like and how people lived with it. It shows the heart break, the violence, the sheer craziness and the resilience and "we'll-make-a-plan-spirit" that is for so much in the frankly surprising recovery that has started operating almost as soon as the far from safe or perfect ZANU-PF&MDC Government came into being. That same spirit borne of a deep attachment to the country made you feel hopeful in the middle of the deepest crisis when political violence ripped at the social fabric and a crazy inflation destroyed the last of the economy. Throughout it all, Zimbabweans, even those who left, never lost the love for this wonderful piece of earth. There is bitterness, of course there is. But there is also a common, old-fashioned decency that manages to reassert itself in the middle of the worst excesses. It's the same spirit and decency that pervades 'The Last Resort' together with a huge affection for land and people and which rang such an immediate bell with me. Reading it at times horrified at times laughing, I thought: 'This is so right, so true'.
I am lucky to have a Goodreads friend in Sonja Arlow (who btw writes the best reviews) so when I saw she gave this 5 stars, I added it to my library list. I’m so glad I did. Generally speaking, Americans are not too knowledgeable about Africa and our media gives countries there little coverage. My parents had two friends from Rhodesia when I was a child (I think he was in the diamond business and left before Mugabe took over and destroyed what is now Zimbabwe.) This is a true tale of one couple who ran a kind of budget lodge and pizza haven there and stayed through the revolution and Mugabe’s reign of terror. The story is beautifully told by their son, an excellent travel writer, who reports on them and the very unique characters who surround them - some you will come to adore and some despise. The story is fascinating, terrifying and often quite funny. There were many times I spoke to the book shouting “Just leave!” in the hopes that our protagonists would find safe haven in South Africa or Mozambique. But like other white farmers in the country, they considered themselves Zimbabweans, and stayed put. Their trials and tribulations made me laugh and cry and gave me real insight into this period in Zimbabwe history. I highly recommend it.
Dramatic and real accounting of the decline of Zimbabwe and the tenacity of the Rogers, white farmers who struggle to hold on to their home. The story is told through their son, Douglas Rogers, who grew up in Zimbabwe. If you have read and enjoyed Peter Godwin's story of growing up in Zimbabwe in the book "Mukiwa" and then the bittersweet story of seeing the country his grew up in and love fall about in the book "When the Crocodile Ate the Son", also by Peter Godwin, you will also enjoy "The Last Resort". Living within the safety and relative security of the U.S., it can be hard to imagine living in your home and knowing there will be the inevitable knock at the door and rebel thugs will kick you out without any compensation or redress. Yet that is exactly how the Rogers' lived after Mugabe took over the government. The book is passionately written, as only one who has an emotional tie to the story can do. The people and landscape are richly detailed and the events within the book are both comic and tragic. I loved this book and highly recommend it.
I came across this book while reading the New Yorker's Book Bench blog and after reading the interview with the author I couldn't resist, though I can't say I had much interest or knowledge about Zimbabwe.
This book blew me away. I learned so much about the history and culture of Zimbabwe, while being kept on the edge of my seat. To make a long story short, the dictator of Zimbabwe, in an attempt to hide his own incompetence on his country's economic problems decides that the white minority in Zimbabwe will make a convenient scapegoat. Laws are enacted that take away homes/farms from the white population. This book details the saga of the Rogers' parents trying to keep their home and land. Originally a tourist resort, the Rogers are forced into all sorts of crazy adventures when the tourists disappear and corrupt government officials move in next door. The Rogers' resort turns into a brothel with a marijuana plantation, and later, a gathering place for Blood Diamond trading.
Through it all the Rogers ability to remain hopeful is inspiring. I hope one day his Mom's proposed cookbook gets published. This book is a page turner... every time you turn one you think this is when they lose their house, so you have to keep flipping.
This is an excellent book about extraordinary people living through unbelievable times in Zimbabwe. Over the last few years I have read a number of novels set in that country in the post independence period which have been deeply moving in their depiction of the evolution of that country and the effect on the lives of its people; but none of them delivered their story with the power of this one. It is well written in a journalistic style as opposed to a literary one, which is not meant to demean it in any way, because the clarity of the writing brings home the mixture of horror, humour and fact. There were times when I was incredulous at the inhumanity of the government and their supporters as well as at the combination of stoicism, pragmatism and bravery shown by the writer's parents, their staff, friends and associates. It is described as a travel book, but in reality it is a very personal history which I think should be essential reading for anyone interested in either sub-Saharan Africa or post colonialism. As I reached the epilogue my mind flicked across to The Eagles' song "The Last Resort", so I looked up the lyrics and, although I don't think that Douglas Rogers had in in mind when he titled the book, I was surprised by its relevance. I picked up this book not knowing what to expect. I urge others to try it for themselves.
A memoir that beautifully shows how hope, humor, and being willing to reinvent yourself are the strongest defenses against uncertainty and brutality. If, like I was, you are unaware of what happened in Zimbabwe from 2000-2008 then you should read this book. I can't wait to go stay at Drifters in Harare someday.
Life got in the way of me finishing this book. I enjoyed reading about the history of Zimbabwe never really had an interest in it before. It’s hard to imagine how it got so bad so quickly and hearing about the diamond trend. The parents were my favorite, their house and farm in my mind seem so lovely. Also their son Douglas coming home and his experiences throughout the book. I met the author they live outside of my hometown. I really enjoyed it once I was able to make time for it.
Douglas Rogers begins his tale, “The Last Resort,” with one of the first white farm land invasion in Zimbabwe in April 2000, and begins to take readers through the ups and (mostly) downs of the country, including the fight for his parents’ land and survival. Throughout the book, readers learn of the repressive actions taken by the government and the innovative ways in which Zimbabweans deal with them. The Rogers’s resort, Drifters, develops into an informal brothel, Mr. Rogers begins to plant marijuana, the political commissar becomes their new land-hungry neighbor, Drifters’ bar becomes a hot spot for diamond dealers, the Rogers become dangerously involved with the opposing political party: the MDC, and all the while they are constantly fighting to maintain ownership of their land and their right to be Zimbabwean. There are many cultural differences that become evident from reading “The Last Resort,” including heavy racism towards whites (the reverse of what is experienced in the U.S.), and the government’s oppressive role in society. Since the Liberation War, there has been racist tension between blacks and whites. Many whites struggle to be considered Zimbabwean or even African. A common remark to whites is to “go back to Britain. Go back to Blair.” In Rhodesia (Zimbabwe before they were liberated from Britain), five percent of the population was white. Currently, less than one percent of the population is white. The government in Zimbabwe is very repressive and corrupt. Police run illicit trades and many government departments will only make verbal agreements so that they can go back on their word. In result, elections are of very high value to the people of Zimbabwe and what side they support can mean life or death. The secret police, the CIO, constantly torture and kidnap MDC activists. Reporters also risk their lives trying to report on what the government does and what happens in the country. Rogers wrote “The Last Resort” to tell the story of his family’s struggle, as well as the story of those who suffered around him. He told both sides of the clash: other white farmers, like the de Klerks, and their effort to survive, while also adding in the Political Commissar and Walter, the soldier, and their moral battles. Rogers gave background information for almost every person he mentioned because they all had their own unique story that added to the reader’s understanding of life in Zimbabwe and the effects of the government. A recurring theme of resilience and determination tied all the stories in this book neatly together. Roger’s parents never left their land. They never gave up being Zimbabwean. Rogers continually stated phrases such as, “they refused to be victims” and “it was something all Zimbabweans learned” to emphasize their adaptability and determination to stay strong. In almost all the stories that he tells, the character is determined to do, get, or be something, such as getting a herd of cattle back. Rogers also juxtaposes heavy and dark topics with light-hearted and funny events that showcase how Zimbabweans deal with tough times by being resilient and still able to enjoy life and have a laugh every now and then. I enjoyed the stories and history that Rogers wrote neatly and comically together. Not only did I learn so much about Zimbabwe through his book, but I also grew fond of Rogers’s family and friends and wanted to keep reading to see what would happen to them. The only thing that I found difficult about the book was trying to keep track of all of the names and characters that he introduced. Therefore, I would highly recommend the book.
A great read. I was 'privileged' enough to have lived through most of the period encompassed by Roger's memoir in Zimbabwe, albeit mainly in Harare. Most of the narrative takes place in vicinity of Mutare which is quite some way off but the politics was national and the problems of hyperinflation and the attendant ills were unavoidable wherever one lived.
One thing that will be evident to anyone who has read this book is that many people, white and black, were disenfranchised by the policies of the incumbent government. Taken as a purely racial demographic it has been black people of various tribal affinities who have suffered worse in terms of shear loss of life and physical displacement. Rogers alludes to this and gives an estimate of several hundred thousand or more farm labourers who were internally displaced, wandering the country like 'ghosts'. I remember seeing some of these poor souls in the countryside in the vicinity of the Selous farming district: threadbare and desperate.
A few paragraphs are given over to those whites like the author's father, who feel an entitlement to be called African by virtue of their ancestors arriving on the shores of the continent several hundred years ago, viz-a-vis the Dutch-Afrikaans peoples. At that time the geopolitical landscape was nothing like it is today. European settlement in the Cape colony spread gradually further north and present day Zimbabwe was only settled by Europeans in the late 19th century. But what of it? It is this: the white tribes banded together and sought a land to call their own. Ian Smith's governement declared a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the colonial motherland, Britain, and a great deal of effort and life was expended in a decade of civil war. Rogers does a good job of tying this all together. The inclusion of a black combatant in the narrative who survived an atrocious attack on his military training camp highlights the complexity of inter-racial politics. "One party won that war and only one party will ever rule this country" is how he put it and that pretty much sums up the state of affairs. Nothing short of another civil war to my mind will see a transition of power to another political party.
One could argue that the somewhat arbitrary territorial designations of the colonial powers has had a self-reinforcing effect. However much the European powers may be denounced for doing so they did give a sense of identity to the inhabitants which preceding black leaders, Mugabe included, have sought to entrench and protect. All the same cultural affinities extend deeper than territorial ones. The former arch-enemies, the Boers and the English, were both complicit in the apartheid system of government in South Africa. It was mutually beneficial to do so. It will be interesting to see if these old allegiances are revived during future conflicts or political upheaval or if it really is the end-of-the-line for white settlement on the sub-continent. Just read the book and one will get a sense of the slow squeeze from north to south...
I've always been fascinated by Africa, especially after I spent a month in Kenya on a mission trip with my church in 1996. We here in America will sometimes complain about our lives, but it's nothing compared to the poverty I saw while in Kenya. Not even Nairobi is spared; electricity in the capital city is never a guarantee. But at least it's somewhat stable, unlike Zimbabwe, Rogers's home country.
When most people think of Africa, we think of white colonists coming over and carving the continent up into countries convenient for them, ignoring tribal lands and boundaries. So when we hear about the colonists losing their privileged status, perhaps we are a little glad to see the land reverting back to its native sons and daughters.
Yet Rogers's family has been in Zimbabwe (or Rhodesia, as it was known before independence) for longer than the United States has been its own nation. Should these white settlers, who have been in Zimbabwe for hundreds of years, be thrown out even though they feel that they too are part of the fabric of that nation? By that metric, all of the whites in America should return to their countries of origin.
This is a fascinating account of Rogers's parents, who love Zimbabwe with all their hearts, and who are eager to see a country unified and whole with people of all colors who have made it their home. They own a place called Drifters, which had once been a hostel of sorts, but which also turned into somewhat of a brothel once lawlessness began to descend upon Zimbabwe. Reading about the corruption and the rampant inflation (Zimbabwean dollars are pretty much worthless; you can be a billionaire and still be desperately poor) and the inability to hold an honest election makes my heart ache, but somehow Rogers's parents learn how to survive in the face of famine and food shortages and a lack of electricity. To leave Zimbabwe, the land that they love, is unthinkable for them, even if staying is downright terrifying.
I would highly encourage people to read this book not only to learn a bit about a country that may be overlooked by we in the West, but also to give thanks that we live in such a stable environment. You may also wish you could sit down with Lyn and Ros, just to watch them drink the young folk under the table once more.
Douglas Rogers's memoir is brilliant, moving, and hilarious--the story of his parents' struggle to hold onto their game lodge and farm in eastern Zimbabwe as the country spirals out of control following President Mugabe's disastrous farm seizure policy that has uprooted both black and white farmers since 2000. Rogers's parents turn their backpacker lodge into a haven for homeless farmers, most of whom are older white women, including a liberal aristocratic woman who held the best parties in the valley, parties that his parents never got invited to because they were "bloody chicken farmers," a line his mother delivers with characteristic dry wit. The memoir thoroughly lacks self pity, showing instead how Zimbabweans survive with grit and humor, laughing at the absurdity of their circumstances: prostitutes, political activists, and later, diamond dealers, hang out at the lodge; pot grows instead of crops; and their new protector is a soldier who fought to end white rule in Rhodesia. The book is at its most poignant when the soldier-protector, who promises to get the Rogers's title to their property back, realizes that as a boy Douglas collected the Chinese made artillery shells that he fired toward the chicken farm where Douglas grew up. "Don't tell me, Rogers Junior!" the soldier said. But he too has become disillusioned because he gave up his childhood to fight for liberation, and he is still a lowly soldier. A complex, nuanced, and compelling read.
The story of a married older couple of white Zimbabweans, the Rogers, who owns a tourist resort, restaurant and bar. Of course the horrible Robert Robert Mugabe is president and runs a mafia type government, responsible for much violence and killing, snatching property from white Zimbabweans all over the country by proclamation, without any rule of law or legal process. The Rogers' son is a journalist who writes their story of endurance, trying to keep their property in the face of serious threat. It is an intriguing, sometimes exciting and nerve wracking story - especially toward the end -- worth reading.
This is a fascinating true story about Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) and the remaining white settlers who stayed after Independence in 1980. It alternates between humor and terror as the author describes his elderly and determined parents - who will not leave this country where they were born and the home where they’d lived for so long. The story is an interesting description of white rule in an African country, and the radical changes to all citizens when the Africans come back into rightful power.
From BBC radio 4 - Book of the Week: The Last Resort by Douglas Rogers read by Jack Klaff. Abridged and produced by Jane Marshall Productions. The author tells the story of his parents fight to stay on their backpacker lodge in Zimbabwe despite the political upheaval of the last decade. When he hears the news of the death of the first white farmer, Rogers is concerned for his parents safety but when he returns home to visit them, nothing has prepared him for what he finds.
4.3 stars. Great book by the son of white Zimbabwean farmers. While this is told through the eyes of a white guy, his journalist background helps him capture the perspectives of the black majority as well, most meaningfully through the workers of his parents' backpackers lodge. Much of the history of the country (from roughly 1993-2008) is told through the lens of this lodge, which went from a popular tourist destination to a desolate place no tourist would step foot in, to its rebirth as a welcome landing spot for prostitution and 'second wives', and ultimately to a hangout for illegal diamond dealers.
I read a lot of African memoirs, and this one did the best at keeping me informed and engaged about the larger picture of the how government impacts the daily lives of its citizens. African politics are confusing to Americans who are used to stability (current administration aside) and this one really helped me understand their elections and the rampant voter suppression, the underground economy and runaway inflation (50,000% at one point), and why some Zimbabweans were still ACTUALLY loyal to Mugabe, not just intimidated into saying so.
Douglas Rogers is a travel writer from Zimbabwe. He left he's country long before the decent into Hell when the land grabs started and lived in South Africa then England and finally settled in America.
He's parents bought (yes, bought) a property in Zimbabwe after the independence war and converted it to a backpackers lodge famous for it's Fridays pizza nights. But then it starts. People are attacked and their land stolen. First illegally and then very legally, you are amazed and stunned by the stories of how people loose their land and even citizenship.
But, the heart of the story is he's parents. Two pensioners, in their seventies and their struggle to hold onto their land. Ingenious ideas and plans they develop and their believe always that they are Zimbabweans, they are not leaving.
I put this off for longer than I should've fearing it to be to heavy. While some sections were heart breaking, the overall story is the strength of the human spirit to survive in the face of adversity, how we are the same more than we are different and Africans ability to laugh and find the best in any situations. Like always - we will make a plan.