The Coup (Penguin Modern Classics) by John Updike

By John Updike

Not anything in his past existence can have ready Colonel Hakim Felix Ellellou for his new function because the President of Kush. Neither the French military nor his American college supplied a grounding within the sophisticated abilities of innovative dictatorship. nonetheless much less did they anticipate him to obtain 4 wives...

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TO MY MOTHER fellow writer and lover of far lands Does there not pass over man a space of time when his life is a blank? --THE KORAN, sura 76 THE COUP I The country of Kush, landlocked between the mon-grelized, neo-capitalist puppet states of Zanj and Sahel, is small for Africa, though larger than any two nations of Europe. Its northern half is Saharan; in the south, forming the one boundary not drawn by a Frenchman's ruler, a single river flows, the Grionde, making possible a meagre settled agriculture.

Several of the officers staggered along, and one especially burly Slav playfully planted a foot in Mtesa's backside as we knelt to our deferred salat al-isha. Failing to fall asleep promptly within the smothering soft- ness of the Soviet bed, with its brocaded canopy and its stony little packets for pillows, I reflected back upon the customs and the orgy we had been privileged to witness, and located along the borders of my memory an analogy that seemed clarifying: with their taut pallor, bristling hair devoid of a trace of a curl, oval eyes, short limbs, and tightly packed bodies whose muscular energy seemed drawn into a knot at the back of their necks, these Russians reminded me of nothing so much as the reckless, distasteful packs of wild swine that when I was a child would come north from the bogs by the river to despoil the vegetable plantings of our village.

None seemed to look to him to lift the famine from the land. Only I expected this of Colonel Ellellou, who should have been in Istiqlal, signing documents and reviewing parades, instead of making his way with a few outcasts through the cloud of nomads that had been drifted toward the border by rumors of an impending miracle. The border of Kush in the northwest is nine-tenths imaginary. Through the colonial decades the border was ignored by the proud Reguibat, Teda, and Tuareg who drove their herds back and forth across it without formality or compunction; the vast departments of French West Africa were differentiated only in the mysterious accountancies of Paris.

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