Magazine article Geographical

Alexander McCall Smith Is a Professor of Medical Law, a Member of the Really Terrible Orchestra and Author of the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novels, Which Sold More Than Two Million Copies Last Year. Nick Smith Met Him at the RGS-IBG to Discuss the Ways in Which Africa Has Inspired His Writing

Magazine article Geographical

Alexander McCall Smith Is a Professor of Medical Law, a Member of the Really Terrible Orchestra and Author of the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novels, Which Sold More Than Two Million Copies Last Year. Nick Smith Met Him at the RGS-IBG to Discuss the Ways in Which Africa Has Inspired His Writing

Article excerpt

Why did you choose to set the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series in Botswana?

I spent my childhood in Zimbabwe, and in the early 1980s, I went to work in the University of Swaziland and I set a number of short stories there. I was then asked to go to Botswana to set up a law programme at the university and that was when I first became attached to the country. I set the series in Botswana because it's such an exceptional, striking country and it has such an effect on people.

Your characters ale very proud of their traditional ways. Are you recording an old Botswana before it disappears?

I think that many sub-Saharan African societies have their own interesting features, but modernity is having its impact. Some of the fine qualities of the older societies have survived and will/survive. Others are rather bruised by contact with Western materialist values, to use a cliche.

Botswana is quite a successful country, in terms of sub-Saharan Africa ...

If you look at the history of Botswana, it has probably been the only really successful modern national state. Since independence in 1966, it has been consistently well run, with little corruption by African standards. Open politics has tolerated an opposition, it pinned its colours to a human rights constitution and it has also observed the rule of law, which is so important. It is an extraordinary society, but it does have one or two problems.

Such as AIDS?

I don't want to make too much of AIDS. I allude to it very discreetly in my novels, because that's how they tend to talk about it. People in Africa don't want to be seen by the test of the world as being sick. They want to carry on with their lives. We can call that denial, but you can't contemplate the horror of AIDS for too long; you have to go on living. Precious Ramotswe [the main character of the novels] wouldn't sit there and talk about it all the time in real life.

There are a lot of orphans in your books--the local orphanage is central to your story. Is this something that is close to your heart?

The orphanage is becoming much more prominent for obvious reasons, in Botswana, there are 69,000 registered orphans in a population of 1.4 million. In the traditional society, the grandmothers would have looked after these children. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.