The Village of Waiting

by George Parker. Vintage/Random House, $7.95. As a Peace Corps volunteer in the early 1980s Mr. Packer was shipped to Togo, given a crash course in one of several local languages, and sent to teach English in the village of Lavié. Lavié means “wait a while,” and waiting, in Mr. Packer’s opinion, is what all of Togo is doing— waiting for development, social freedom, and prosperity, which, in a country divided by different languages, haunted by old tribal suspicions and hostilities, and encumbered by authoritarian habits instilled by former colonial proprietors, are not likely to arrive. The author’s account of his experiences in Africa is partly a frank, subjective description of the loneliness, bewilderment, and occasional panic that beset him in his isolated post, and partly a sympathetic and respectful study of the Togolese whom he came to know. His report is informative but not optimistic.
—Phoebe-Lou Adams