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Excerpt: Back to Angola by Paul Morris

Back to AngolaIn Back to Angola Paul Morris recounts his return to Angola in 2012 after going there in 1987 as a soldier. Morris, who was reluctantly conscripted just before he turned 19, goes back to the country to try and put his memories of war to rest and replace them with images of a peaceful Angola.

The narrative switches between his solo cycle trip and his memories of the war. Random House Struik has shared an excerpt from Chapter 13 in which Morris writes about being stationed on one side of the Lomba River floodplain and being fired at by the Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA), while trying to eat his breakfast of ProNutro.

Writing about his recent cycle trip, he describes meeting an English-speaking Namibian truck driver and finding it “as good as meeting someone from home”.

The man walks out of the darkness. He’s wearing a trench coat and a cap and his features are difficult to make out in the shade of his headgear. ‘You must put the light out,’ he says. His voice has the calm authority of a man used to command. He’s referring to the red tactical light that is on in the doorway of the Ratel. The section leader corporal, Dave, is writing a letter. ‘I thought the red light would be fine,’ says Dave. He’s not arguing; he seems to sense that even if he has the rank in our vehicle, this man’s authority comes from his experience rather than from anything displayed on an epaulette. We’re fresh and frightened. ‘They will see it,’ says the man. Dave switches off the light. ‘Do not be afraid,’ the man says before he turns and disappears into the night.

John gives a nervous little laugh. ‘Those UNITA okes have fuckin’ seen it all. I feel better knowing they’re just over there, hey?’ He jerks his thumb in the direction of the UNITA platoon.

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