Every now and then one comes across a truly special memoir, and Beyond the Malachite Hills deserves to become a classic of its genre: a poignant, evocative, nostalgic account of a remarkable career that was dominated by Africa. But it is much, much more than this – it is a chronicle of Europe’s involvement with the continent, seen through the eyes of a man who never failed to appreciate the privileged vantage point his colour afforded him.
Much of Jonathan Lawley’s time abroad was spent in central Africa, including Zimbabwe, the country for which he has the most affection. Its tragic collapse dominates the last chapters of this fine and sensitive book.
Rich with insight and written with passion – and with an edge of anger and sadness at opportunities wasted and potential squandered – Beyond the Malachite Hills should be read by every diplomat setting off on an Africa posting, not to mention well-meaning aid workers and gap-year students. – Michael Holman, Africa editor, Financial Times (1984 2002)
This is a remarkable book. Autobiographies of former colonial officials who have served in Africa have proliferated in recent years, some of them both exciting and informative. Most of them however, read like funeral orations for a lost empire. Jonathan Lawley, by contrast, writes of his colonial career as an overture to the drama of independent Africa. There is no doubt that he regards his time as a colonial official as an important learning experience, and relying upon his diaries, he describes in understated language a contemporary experience un-tempered by the reservations and modifications of hindsight. His more exuberant writing he reserves for his colourful descriptions of Africas superb scenery and fascinating fauna and flora…
…The final third of the book is concerned with his plan for [Africas] future and his own role in laying its foundations. This is an inspiring piece of writing because it not only expressed hope, but also offers practical advice on converting hope into reality. His subsequent experiences in training Africans for management and, particularly, for technical management, is written with a full appreciation of the difficulties facing Africans who are trying to establish their credibility in their own eyes as well as in those of their subordinates of their managerial capabilities… It seems to me that Lawley points the way ahead and will prove to be something of a prophet. – Kenneth Ingham, Vice-President of the Royal African Society.Post published in: Uncategorized