A potpourri of world influences

A FOREWORD by Vikas Swarup - author of the highly acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire, is either meant to inspire or intimidate.

But when Swarup concludes the preamble, you forgive the editor, as it dawns on you the aim - accomplished - was the former, not the latter: "And you realise with a smile, you are not a world away from home. You are at home in the world."

Swarup is himself an itinerant citizen of the world - an Indian diplomat based in Japan whose family Skypes all the time with a son in Montreal, Canada.

But this book is not about him. It is a collection of experiences by South Africans, immigrants and emigrants, all over the world. It reinforces the latter-day thinking that the world has become one global village. Any place in the world could satisfy the cliché and be "a home away from home".

It is not difficult to see why Louis Greenberg could have come up with an idea like this one. His father was a Jew born in Latvia "while his family fled atrocities in Belorussia".

He, the father, came to Cape Town as a toddler. Greenberg's maternal grandfather was a Cypriot Greek - whatever that means - who was educated in Paris and worked as a lawyer in the Sudan before reaching Johannesburg, he says.

This potpourri of world influences made him seek out fellow writers with similar backgrounds.

He ends up with the likes of Zukiswa Wanner, a Jozi-based writer born in Lusaka, Zambia; Moky Makura, best remembered for her role in Jacob's Cross, born in Lagos, Nigeria; Jassy Mackenzie, born in a time and place before Salisbury and Rhodesia were given their proper names.

In reading this book, in the words of Swarup, you will have "traversed twenty-four time zones in five hours, leapfrogged six continents".

The writing, as befits writers of the calibre of the contributors, is top-drawer material.

Helen Moffett writes: "In Alaska, it's illegal not to pick up hitchhikers."

In the British capital at 6pm, Kathryn White opens her account thus: "I'll say it again: I hate London. Truly abhor it."

Born in Jelenia Gora, Poland, but now counted among Capetonians, Karina Magdalena Szczurek writes in her opening: "You are like me." And how does she end it? "I am like you. It's terrifying."

Anything more beautiful is still being edited for publishing!