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Veteran Canadian writer to talk about his journey through Africa

Veteran Canadian writer to talk about his journey through Africa

Veteran Canadian writer Gary Geddes will talk about his journey through Africa and the book Drink the Bitter Root next Tuesday as part of the Creative Writing Speaker Series.

The event will take place Nov. 15, from noon to 2pm, in the Paul Delaney Gallery, 320 Bethune College, Keele campus.

Drink the Bitter Root: A Writer’s Search for Justice and Redemption in Africa (Douglas & McIntyre) is Geddes’ account of travelling across sub-Saharan Africa, a trip he had long been drawn to. His journey, however, was haunted by the 1993 murder of a Somali teenager by Canadian soldiers in what became know as "The Somalia Affair".

He questions whether the international Criminal Court in The Hague can change things on the ground in Africa and if international aid and intervention can improve the lives of ordinary Afri­cans, or whether it contributes to their suffering.

Geddes travels to Rwanda and Uganda, where he attends grassroots criminal courts and encounters rescued street kids, women raped and infected with HIV during the genocide and victims mutilated by the Lord’s Resistance Army. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Somaliland, with the help of fixers, guides and the occasional armed guard, Geddes finds himself in the instructive – and at times redeeming – presence of child soldiers, refugees and poets turned freedom fighters.

The stories Geddes brings back are hailed as uplifting, terrifying, stark and sometimes almost unbearable, but he presents them all with the essential lightness that Jean-Paul Sartre insisted is so crucial to good writing. His book is a blend of history, reportage, testimonial and memoir, a harsh condemnation of the horrors spawned by greed and corruption, and a tribute to human resilience.

Left: Gary Geddes

A poet, Geddes has taught creative writing and has written and edited more than 40 books. He has received numerous literary awards, including the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence and Chile’s Gabriela Mistral Prize. He is the author of two bestselling travel memoirs, The Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things (HarperCollins, 2005) and Sailing Home: A Journey Through Time, Place and Memory (HarperCollins, 2001).

His poetry collections include Falsework (Goose Lane Editions, 2007), Skaldance (Goose Lane Editions, 2004), Flying Blind (Goose Lane Editions, 1998) and Girl by the Water (Turnstone Press, 1994).

Republished courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.