Saturday, July 06, 2013

#Quotes: Quotes from Bessie Head's Tales of Tenderness and Power*

*Bessie Head would have been 76 years on this day. This is the first in the series of posts to celebrate Bessie Head's birthday (b. July 6, 1937). You can join us with posts on the author from to day to July 12, 2013.
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In a broad sense then I would say a person's character type makes him gravitate to a certain type of work. The fussy-fussy, jumpy sort of woman becomes a typist where she can mess around all day minding other people's businesses. The rather heartless, dominating you-actually-deserve-all-you-get type becomes a social worker. The tough guy with sadistic tendencies becomes a jail warder or a policeman. The dull, drab and toiling type a waitress, shop-girl or nurse. And so on. [Let me tell a story now... 16]

If I had to write one day I would just like to say people is people and not damn White, damn Black. Perhaps if I was a good enough writer I could still write damn White, damn Black and still make people live. Make them real. Make you love them, not because of the colour of their skin but because they are important as human beings. [Let me tell a story now... 17]

To leave Cape Town would be like dying. It would be the destruction of all that he is as a man. He just doesn't have the kind of pretentiousness that makes an American tourist come and gape at the Zulu dancers. [Let me tell a story now... 18]

Funerals had a prestige value; all the crying and fainting and sensationalism were talking points for weeks and weeks until some more sensational happening pushed yours into the background. [Oranges and Lemons 19]

Gangsters were the heroes of eh day in their environment and they were the children of rape and all forms of uncurbed brutality. [Oranges and Lemons 20]

It is strange, too, how one's life is rather like a railway station. People pass in and out all the time and yet so few are of consequence to one's destiny. [Snowball 28]

The thing I like about politics is that it's such a dirty game any bastard can play. It's a kind of game I have stamina for. Sure I backed a loser, but I'd still make a good opposition. So I'm sticking around. [Sorrow Food 34]

Poverty has a home in Africa - like a quiet second skin. It may be the only place on earth where it is worn with an unconscious dignity. People do not look down at your shoes which are caked with years of mud and split so that the toes tick out. They look straight and deeply into your eyes to see if you are friend or foe. That is all that matters. To some extent I think that this eye-looking, this intense human awareness, is a reflection of the earth all about. [Village People 41]

'No.' she said curtly. 'I am not ill. I am hungry.'
The crowd laughed in embarrassment that she should display her need so nakedly. They turned away; but old ladies have no shame left. They are like children. They give way to weakness and cry openly when they are hungry. [Village People 43]

Tell them too. Tell them how natural, sensible, normal is human kindness. Tell them, those who judge my country, Africa, by gain and greed, that the gods walk about her barefoot with no ermine and gold-studded cloaks. [Village People 43]

Between the few who have and the majority who have not is a great gulf fixed. The few who have become the thing they have till man can no longer separate himself from his possessions. Without them he would be a shaken, frail, shrunken, lifeless skeleton for he has put all of himself into his possessions. [Tao 52]

To have and yet not to lose the self in the possessions; to know that there is no possibility of fulfilment of the insatiable cravings of the human soul is to know that the life of man is an ever-expanding horizon. Those who seek to constrict that horizon to possessions and things condemn themselves to a living death and a dread emptiness. [Tao 52]

The laughter and gaiety of the poor are because for them life is an expanding horizon of untainted and seemingly unattainable desires. Blessed are the poor, for they do inherit the earth. [Tao 52]

[E]ven a bush village in Africa begins to feel the tug and pull of the spider-web of life. [The Woman from America 59]

The universe had a more beautiful dream. It was not the law of he jungle of the fittest but a dream that had often been the priority of saints - the power to make evil irrelevant. [A Power Struggle 72]

People are unreasonable. They had elected him their leader and Saviour on a tide of wild enthusiasm and after a time it became difficult to reject a God they themselves had created. [The General 102]

People may be unreasonable in the way they change their mind about their chosen Gods but they are not fools. [The General 103]

There is more logic in evil events than good. [The General 111]

'Answer this question, Father. How is it that when the white man came here, he had only the Bible and we the land. Today, he has the land and we the Bible',... [The Coming of the Christ-Child 133]

It was always subtly implied that black people were violent; yet it had become illegal in the year 1883 for black men to possess arms. They had little beyond sticks and stones with which to defend themselves. Violence was never a term applied to white men, but they had arms. Before these arms the people were cannon fodder. Who was violent? [The Coming of the Christ-Child 135-6]

Every oppressed man has this suppressed violence, as though silently waiting the time to set right the wrongs that afflict him. [Dreamer and Storyteller 142]

South Africa made white people rich and comfortable, but their ownership of the country is ugly and repellent. They talk about South Africa in tourist language all the time: 'This grand sunny land', they say. The cheap, glaring, paltry trash of a people who are living it up for themselves alone dominates everything, infiltrates everywhere. If one is a part of it, through being born there, how does one communicate with the horrible? That is why South Africa has no great writers: no one can create harmony out of cheap discord. [Dreamer and Storyteller 143]
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