The Last Resort
Gotham teacher Douglas Rogers has just seen the release of his memoir The Last Resort
. The book tells the tale of Rogers returning to his native Zimbabwe, where his parents are struggling to hang on to their game farm/backpacker lodge. They must resort to unorthodox measures in the now war-torn country. Among other things, the parents grow pot, abet diamond smuggling, and use their premises as a bordello. It’s humorous, frightening, and all completely true.Time
calls it a “chronicle of a nation,” and Publisher’s Weekly
says, “This rousing memoir should win over anyone with a taste for exotic can’t-go-home-again stories.”
Here’s a glimpse of the book’s opening:
I was five thousand miles away, drunk and happily unaware at a friend’s birthday party in Berlin, when I learned that the first white farmer had been murdered.
Someone had left a television on in the corner of the apartment. I knew, even with the sound off, that it was a news report on Zimbabwe. There’s something about rich red earth the color of blood that you can never wash away, no matter how far you’ve traveled, or how long you’ve been running.
For the previous month back in Zimbabwe the government of President Robert Mugabe had been threatening to take away land from the country’s forty-five hundred white farmers. Still, it was a shock to discover that a farmer had now been murdered. His name was David Stevens. He had been savagely beaten, and then shot in the face and back at point-blank range with a shotgun, after a mob abducted him from his farm in the district of Macheke.
I had been out of Zimbabwe for seven years, but I knew that Macheke was only an hour’s drive from my parents’ game farm and backpacker lodge in the eastern mountains of the country, and that they were in terrible danger. If they didn’t leave fast, they would die like this man Stevens.
I frantically dialed their number. My mother finally answered.
She sounded on edge, her voice high- pitched through the static.
“Hello, yes, who’s this?”
“It’s me, Douglas. Jesus, what’s happening? You guys all right?”
“It’s terrible,” she said.
I pictured her and my father barricaded in the house, a mob rattling their gates.
“What’s happening? Mom, what’s happening?”
“We’ve already lost four wickets.”
“Four wickets, darling. Not going well at all. It’s ninety-one for four. . . .”Christ.
She and my father were watching a cricket match. I could hear the crackle of the commentary on the TV in the background. I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or horrified.
“Jeez, Ma. Not the cricket. The farm
. Have you any idea what’s going on? This guy has been murdered up the road from you.”
There was a long pause, as if I had sucked the air out of a balloon. I heard her take a drag of her cigarette. She would have a drink nearby. Bols brandy on the rocks. She’d switched from gin years ago.
I could picture my father clearly now, too, down the passageway, around the corner in the living room, feet up in his recliner. Sunlight would be streaming through the arches of the veranda, illuminating the mountains behind and setting on the farmland in the valley below.
Those farms could have been on fire for all my parents knew.
” my mother finally said.
“Yes, well, it doesn’t look very good, does it? I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see.”
Wait and see didn’t seem a wise option to me. I told her I thought it best they pack up fast and lie low, whether in Mutare, the closest town, over the mountain pass, or, even better, across the border in Mozambique.
But my parents, I discovered on that phone call, were not going anywhere.
“Darling,” my mother said, “don’t be ridiculous. We are Zimbabweans.This is our
Then I heard steel in her voice, fury rise in her throat.“Over my dead body will they take this place. Over my dead body.
Reprinted by permission of Random House. For more information about Douglas and his book, visit www.douglasrogers.org