Passion For Humanity

what's new

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: A Journey through East Africa by Elspeth Huxley (1948)

Edited by Admin
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: A Journey through East Africa by  Elspeth Huxley (1948)
Elspeth Huxley (1907-1997), perhaps best known for The Flame Trees of Thika, authored more than 40 books, among them  this first-rate travel journal that beautifully paints an image of a colonial East Africa at a crossroads. Between February and June of 1947, Huxley, a long-term English settler in Kenya,  travelled through Eastern Kenya, then to Tanganyika, Zanzibar, back to Tanganyika, on to Uganda and then back to Nairobi through Western Kenya. 


Her journal captured her observations of the countries and her interactions with people – the governors and the governed. She reports on the state of the politics, the economics, the agro-industry and traditions in transition.  It is an exhilarating, entertaining and enlightening read, flawlessly presented in a language devoid of political correctness.


This nook may not be palatable to those who are hypersensitive to the colonial English person’s (sorcerer) description of the African (apprentice).  

For example, during her swing through Gulu, Acholi District in the Uganda Protectorate, Huxley reports a conversation with and Englishman who had spent all his working life among the Nilotic tribes. “We Europeans can never really get to the bottom of the Bantu mind. It twists and turns into all sorts of queer channels where we can’t follow. But these Nilotic peoples – they think as we do. Our minds work in the same way.” And this is mild compared to a lot of descriptions best left to a new reader to discover. 


This was a masterfully written journal that laid bare the clash between the idealism of the colonial do-gooders and the reality of an East Africa that was rapidly moving towards a new ear – one for which the sorcerer (Britain) and his apprentice ( Europeanized African) were ill prepared.


At one point Huxley writes that “the air is black with chickens coming home to roost.” Mover than 70 years after Huxley’s trip, one reads her account with the advantage of hindsight and readily understands questions she raised. An outstanding book. 



Recent Posts

Popular Posts