With his nineteen-year-old daughter, a collection of maps and the help of an opinionated GPS, Peter Midgley sets out across Namibia. Visiting small-town museums and gravesites, crossing border checkpoints and changing tires, they travel the length and breadth of the country uncovering every facet of it. Stories about Portuguese explorers and the first genocide of the twentieth century collect on the back seat of their car alongside the author’s earliest childhood memories of growing up in the country. By the end of the journey, the stories piece together into an understanding of Namibia’s present and make it possible for Midgley to share his love for this complicated, vibrant place with his daughter.
About the author
Peter Midgley is an independent scholar, writer, and editor. He is the author twelve books for children and adults, including three volumes of poetry. His latest book of poetry, let us not think of them as barbarians, was shortlisted for the Writers’ Guild of Alberta’s Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry.
Excerpt: Counting Teeth: A Namibian Story (by (author) Peter Midgley)
Banie’s demeanour changes. "Well, that's different, then. That's bloedsake — blood matters. It's in your blood. You have to go. Actually, it's quite nice to see them march all dressed up in their finery. Ja, just there by the swimming pool there's a bunch of old Herero graves. They're probably headed for them. You know, those people and their ancestors."
"Ja, it's Maharero's grave, isn't it?" I gently hint at the fact that the march commemorates the death of Samuel Maharero, the leader of the Ovaherero at the time of the genocide.
"Ja-nee," Banie reaffirms, "Dis bloedsake vir hulle. It’s about blood for them. People have to follow their blood. Now, where did you say you lived now?"
"Bloody awful place," he says. "Cold and dark. We have a geologist from Canada here and he went back for a week before he came back to Usakos. Couldn’t stand the place. Where in Canada do you stay?"
"Is that near the Lakes?" He doesn’t wait for me to respond. “I know the geology of the land. There’s stones there." And he starts to talk stone. It’s a language the people here understand.
"A rich and fascinating tale." – Esi Edugyan, author of Half-Blood Blues
"Impeccably researched and written with palpable affection, Peter Midgley’s Counting Teeth: A Namibian Story reveals how the history of a nation can also be the narrative of a human heart." – Marcello di Cintio, author of Walls: Travels Along the Barricades