Out of Africa

Assassinating Shakespeare: confessions of a bard in the bush

Thomas Goltz Saq

Twenty-eight years ago, the war journalist Thomas Goltz travelled around Africa with no money and the complete works of Shakespeare. With the frequently forgotten purpose of finding his itinerant guitar-player brother, he wanders the continent, sleeping rough or in dirty hostels, and getting into dangerous scrapes. Goltz is generally very funny, and gives fascinating insights into war-torn Ethiopia and the seedier sides of low-budget travel and segregationist Africa. The links between Shakespeare and his adventures can, however, be decorative rather than integral.

At his best, the youthful Goltz is an idealistic Quixote, performing soliloquies and whole scenes with masks and puppets to witty locals, sheltered tourists, heckling whores and grateful expats. But he also participates in the darkness of the Dark Continent. While he starts off as an innocent, he ends up smuggling emeralds in Zambia, sleeping with women he doesn’t bother to understand and congratulating himself for performing Shylock’s “sufferance is the badge of all our tribe” speech at the “coloured” schools in apartheid South Africa. Unfortunately, he does not always maintain a quizzical Shakespearean distance from his youthful self.

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