David Pownall H. B. Mallalieu - Essay

H. B. Mallalieu

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In] African Horse it is the style, Swiftian in its sharpness though contemporary in its influences, which keeps the reader interested: plus a very imaginative and vivid satirical view of an environment—the copper belt of southern Africa—with which he is so familiar. If an author should know three times more about his subject than is required for a particular work, Pownall is an example to others who have written more…. Despite a scenario acted out in the manner of the Marx brothers at their best, the author makes us believe that life is like this, larger and more eccentric than we think…. What [his characters] say and do may seem mad, or madly comic, but their accents ring bells. Haven't we ourselves come across such oddities, if oddities they are? There is a hero, Hurl Halfcock, whose search for his identity gives a narrative continuity, yet it is not so much him we remember as the atmosphere in an emergent black nation as self-seeking, as ridiculous, as incompetent as its former rulers. In spite of the craziness, the goonery, the cruelty even, a compassion comes through. If men are all villains, fools, or failures, for whom else can we have compassion? To make a precis of the book, if it were possible, would destroy the surprises and the fun. David Pownall has established himself as a writer in running for promotion to a major league. (pp. 73-4)

H. B. Mallalieu, in Stand (copyright © by Stand), Vol. 17, No. 2, (1976).