Picnic at Porokorro, Hugo Charteris
Hugo Charteris

Picnic at Porokorro

On first publication in 1958, The Daily Telegraph's reviewer said «Hugo Charteris' Europeans are neurotic, frightened, clinging to their fragmented patterns…the sheer intensity of the whole book is terrifying.» In the wilds of British West Africa, in the 1950s, as colonialism is dying, a small group of whites administer and work a diamond mine, with African help. They are typical of their era in their casual racism, their preoccupation with British modes; the atmosphere can sometimes be likened to 'a Thames country club, circa 1938.' Around the mine are places where Africans from the surrounding area and neighbouring French territory also prospect for the valuable stones. This blasted landscape is the place from which the ferment of insurrection and dissatisfaction, which will bring about the colony's coming independence, arises. Porokorro, in particular, has been a troublespot lately. MacPherson, the local Provincial Commissioner, is nearing the end of his career. Wanting to spread a raft of calm upon these troubled waters, and wanting to show, from his intimate knowledge of the local people, that relations will never truly sour, he organizes what can only loosely be called a picnic — an outing to prove that all is well. With slowly coiling tension, Charteris loads the scene with many and varying points of view: Barber, the head of the mine, whose gregarious ease hides a calculated vision of exactly where the flashpoints might be hiding; Meyer, a diamond dealer, and survivor of Buchenwald, whose outward coolness hides a troubled marriage and a scarred psyche; Isobel, his much younger and seethingly restive wife, over on a visit; Warner, an idealistic journalist, who senses a story and is prepared to risk disaster in pursuing it; and Paul MacPherson, the Provincial Commissioner's young son out from school in Britain, who chases butterflies with his net, fascinated by the glimpse his father is giving him of a lifestyle which is slowly but surely ceasing to exist. The 'picnic' to Porokorro will change them all, and one of them won't come back alive. The spare, snakelike prose of Hugo Charteris' fourth novel explores the late colonial mindset with fascinating depth and unusual candour, creating a harshly vivid portrait of people trapped in the ending of an era.
236 afgedrukte pagina’s
Oorspronkelijke uitgave
Michael Walmer



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