The long journey home

Of memory, legend and return

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  • Published 20180206
  • ISBN: 9781925603293
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

WHEN I LOOK online, I do not find my great-uncle Michael Kanerusine’s name on any of the websites my research brings up – not even those that claim ‘97 per cent accuracy’. I know he fought in the Second World War. That’s one fact. It could be a matter of confusion over his surname, I tell myself. As a people, we identify primarily by clan, totem and then father’s name. Perhaps the surname that has eventually become the ‘official’ family name isn’t the one he enlisted under. It’s an imprecise thing, this English naming of Africans – seeking to determine equivalences in kinship patterns, to define what constitutes ‘family’ and inheritance. It can never really survive the translation from one culture to the other.

I am keen to find some verification of my great-uncle’s war record because my memories of his presence remain vivid from childhood and I realise, now that I want to pin down his story, there is no one from his generation whom I can ask. Lucia, my grandmother and Michael’s older sister, died seven years ago and though we spent much time together during my visits to Zimbabwe, we always had so much else to talk about. So much to laugh about. And now, every time I speak with my mother about him, the story changes.

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About the author

Ellah Wakatama Allfrey

Ellah Wakatama Allfrey OBE was born in Zimbabwe and raised both there and in the US. She is the former deputy editor of Granta...

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