Alexander McCall Smith: To the Land of Long Lost Friends

Človek bi si mislil, da bodo v dvajseti knjigi po vrsti zadeve prejkone postale dolgočasne, a je resnica pravzaprav daleč od tega. Upam si celo trditi, da je vsaka naslednja boljša od tiste prej: vsebina je bolj poglobljena, teme bolj pereče, skupaj z zgodbami (in tega si verjetno želi vsak bralec) pa raste tudi pisatelj. Skoraj prepričana sem, da se nekaterih tem, ki jim v zadnji knjigi namenja kar nekaj pozornosti, v svojih prvih pripovedih nikoli ne bi mogel dotakniti. Sedemindevetdesetodstotno.

The land was waiting for that first rain, and the people too, but this did not mean that life did not go on as normal in spite of the dryness. Those who planned to move house or change their job, or start studying for something, or paint their kitchen, or turn over a new leaf – all of these people would go ahead with these things even though many of their waking hours were spent waiting for the relief of rain. You had to, because otherwise life would grind to a halt, and nobody would be ready for the rains once they came

Of course those were parental interests rather than the interests of the bride and groom themselves, but it was of the utmost importance, Mma Ramotswe had always maintained, that families should get on in any prospective marriage. The reason for that was that you did not just marry a man, you married his father and grandfather, his grandmother and, most importantly, you married his mother. That last relationship was weightier than any of the others, because a mother-in-law could make or break a marriage, sometimes even without saying anything at all. Sometimes body language was quite sufficient.

Foolishness was something that afflicted men and women equally. Neither sex had the monopoly of wisdom, she said, although on balance she thought that women might perhaps have just a little bit more sense than men. But only a little bit, and it was not a point that she would care to make, normally, as Mma Ramotswe liked men, just as she liked women, and did not think it helpful to put a wedge between them. People were people first and foremost, she felt, and it was only after you had judged them as people that you should notice whether they were wearing a skirt or trousers, not that that was grounds for distinction these days.

He shrugged. “If they want to wear ladies’ clothes,” he said, “then I suppose they should be allowed to do so.” He shook his head. “Although I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re underneath a car fixing it. Overalls are the answer, Mma, for that sort of thing – for both men and women. Overalls.”

Overalls, thought Mma Ramotswe. Was that the answer to all these issues that people were worrying away at – issues of who was a man and who was a woman? If we all were to wear overalls, would that argument simply go away? It would be nice to think that it would, as Mma Ramotswe wanted people to be happy in whatever way they needed to be happy, but somehow she doubted whether the provision of overalls for everybody was really the answer.

The security guard spoke patiently, as if explaining something elementary to a person who might not be expected to grasp a simple enough matter. This made Mma Ramotswe feel momentarily annoyed: there was a certain sort of man – usually an older man – who still harboured an old-fashioned attitude towards women. Women, they thought, had to have things explained to them by men. It was hard to believe that there were still men who took that view, even when women had fought back so successfully and exploded the nonsense behind it. Yet such men still existed, as Mma Makutsi had once said, because they were weak within themselves.

Mma Ramotswe, of course, was only too ready to attribute sayings to the late Seretse Khama, first President of Botswana, and a great man in so many respects. If there was a point she wanted to make, then she would say that Seretse Khama said something along those lines. But Mma Makutsi did not believe that Seretse Khama had said half the things that Mma Ramotswe insisted he had said. Why, one lifetime would hardly be enough to pronounce on as many subjects as that. You would have to get out of bed early every morning in order to start saying wise things before breakfast, and then you would spend much of the rest of the day making observations about the world and its workings, about human nature, even about the best way of taking mud off a pair of boots or cleaning a kitchen window. Much as she admired Seretse Khama, she did not think that he had given an opinion on everything.

“Anyway,” said Mma Ramotswe, “it doesn’t matter who you like. If you are kind and good to people, then you should be left in peace. Nobody should care – it’s not their business.”

If husbands started to question their wives’ decisions, then where would it end, and what purpose would it serve? You could not undo what your wife had done. Some men tried it, he knew, but they almost always failed, because women so often did the right thing, and the right thing may be beyond undoing. It was far better to accept what had happened and make the best of it. It was also the case, he reflected, that Mma Ramotswe usually got her way. She was so nice about it, so disinclined to be insistent or pushy, but she usually got him to do what she wanted – and he was happy enough about that when all was said and done.

She knew about that problem – the problem that so many men experienced. It was all to do with women and the effect that women had on them. Some men simply could not resist. It was not really their fault, she felt – it was a sort of design flaw in men. But they would have to try, and if Mma Potokwani, or her like, was around to help them try, then that might make it a bit easier for them. Poor men.

Druge afriške:
Alexander McCall Smith: The Colours of All the Cattle
Alexander McCall Smith: The House of Unexpected Sisters
Alexander McCall Smith: Precious and Grace

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