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Ama’s story 

My friend Michael Smolens, who is labouring to bring print-on-demand to the world, has passed me an interesting email from Ghanaian author Manu Herbstein.

Herbstein has written a novel about the slave trade, Ama, told from the perspective of a young African woman captured in 1775. Ama has been critically acclaimed, winning this year’s Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best first book. It is available as an e-book, but Herbstein has been unable to find a conventional publisher.

Here’s Herbstein’s problem: “People stop me to congratulate me and ask me where they can buy a copy of the book. I have to direct them to an online vendor abroad. Freight charges can double the list price. Few readers in this country [Ghana] can afford to shell out some $30 for a paperback. Our local bookshops have such cash flow problems that they are reluctant to order the book from abroad.” So he wants a print-on-demand machine in Accra to supply demand.

Roll on the day.

Olympic truce 

I haven’t consciously sought a classical theme in the last few days, but that’s what has happened. Nelson Mandela was in Athens yesterday supporting a campaign to revive the ancient Greek idea of an Olympic truce. According to The Guardian, “The idea has been widely derided as both silly and unworkable.”

It’s true that the chances of combatants today laying down arms because of a sporting event are low, but I still think the idea deserves support. In 1994 apparently, a one-day truce was observed in Bosnia during the Winter Olympics; Unicef vaccinated 10,000 children in that window of peace.

There’s a lot of guff spread about the wonderfully civilised world of classical Greece (perhaps a subject for a longer disquisition one day), but for 12 centuries the usually warring, disputatious ancients did observe a truce during the sporting and religious observation of the Olympics. It’s a noble aspiration for us to do the same.

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