Before the Chachacha
In Before the Chachacha by Frans Bijsterveld, an opening quote from Soren Kierkegaard reads: “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” It really sums up this delightful book as a whole, as well as the sheer joy Bijsterveld clearly had in writing it, as the excitement and life fly off the page as the reader combs through these wonderful and memorable stories.
The book begins with a beautiful opening line in the first story “The Junction”: “Perhaps inspired by the magnificence of the Milky Way, African crickets love to scream their lungs out.” It’s descriptive, evocative, and downright funny; a sure sign that the rest of the sentences, paragraphs, and pages will be equally so; and they are! Bijsterveld explains in detail the unusual story of an estranged love affair that ultimately ends in possible murder occurring at a specific junction. The author then links this story with that of a family traveling in a car with a sweaty young boy stuck in the back crossing this junction, with little knowledge of the history that has occurred there. It is indicative of the places people live and the places they go that are steeped in stories and histories of the past.
What makes Before the Chachacha so interesting and enjoyable is that these tales take place in countries and places that don’t usually get written about and read as much by the western world, making them both fascinating and very entertaining. Bijsterveld was born in Sri Lanka and spent a large part of his life living in Africa, and the stories in this book take the reader all over the world, from Kenya, Mozambique, and Botswana to Australia to Sri Lanka to the Netherlands. These are stories of the incredible life Bijsterveld has had, but also the lives of his family who have spread across the globe. Learn of sharpshooters who join the French Foreign Legion for a time, what it was like getting in-demand car parts in Zimbabwe, the story of one of the world’s most venomous snakes, a gliding adventure, or the story of piri-piri or bird’s eye chili.
Before the Chachacha has twenty stories in all, most of them short and easy to read in one sitting, whether one is at home, on public transportation, or traveling to another country. It’s the sort of book that can be enjoyed in any situation and Bijsterveld does a great job of immersing the reader in the world he’s describing and taking them to these far-off places, just as all good books should do.
|Page Count||173 pages|
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