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The Kalahari Typing School for Men

The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith
Apr 29, 2003 | 192 Pages
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    Mar 09, 2004 | 224 Pages

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    Apr 29, 2003 | 192 Pages

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    Jun 08, 2004

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“The apparent simplicity of the story belies McCall Smith’s keen eye and sly sense of humour.” — Layla Dabby, The Gazette (Montreal)

“They [McCall Smith’s books] are closer to being moral fables, fascinating explorations of guilt and conscience and reparation and atonement. … [Mma Ramotswe’s] cleverness lies in her way of resolving the situations that arise to the satisfaction of all parties. I can’t even begin to say how profoundly satisfying this makes the books. …[A]t a certain point in reading the Ladies’ Detective books, I experienced something I haven’t felt since reading Nancy Drew books as a child. I no longer wanted to read about Mma Ramotswe: I wanted to be her.” — Sara O’Leary, The Vancouver Sun

“Reader, be warned: This is not your ordinary detective novel. With more than a touch of whimsy, Alexander McCall Smith filters his sometime homeland of Southern Africa through the Agatha Christie medium, and emerges triumphant…. The Kalahari Typing School for Men maintains the breezy-to-read, gentle tone of Smith’s previous work, and leaves us wanting more adventures ASAP” — Daneet Steffens, The Globe and Mail, April 26, 2003

“There are no great mysteries in this book, simply a sweet tale of a small town, some dastardly tactics and some evocative descriptions of a satisfied life lived in a barren and unforgiving place.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“[A] sweet and uplifting tale.” — Toronto Star

“I confess: I love spending time with Precious Ramotswe. She makes me feel good. She is an oasis of calm in my hectic world. … Alexander McCall Smith spins sparkling gems about human nature. McCall Smith’s crystalline writing — not a word too many nor too few — lets the readers discover the depth. Like Faulkner or Twain, the joy is finding your own truths reflected back at you or refracted through the lenses of the characters. Here the epiphanies are less smack-on-the-forehead moments than crinkle-at-the-corner-of-your-mouth.” — Mark Whittington, The Hamilton Spectator

“There’s no mystery as to why Alexander McCall Smith’s books are everywhere. … His works are engaging, delightful events, immersing readers in a world that is foreign, yet familiar, where good people try to do their best in life, with mixed results. … [T]his is a love letter to Botswana and her people. … The memorable characters, cadence, turns of phrase and imagery create a pleasing, haunting, [sic] tableaux readers will want to visit more than once.” — Ruth Myles, Calgary Herald

“The fourth appearance of Precious Ramotswe, protagonist of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and two sequels, is once again a charming account of the everyday challenges facing a female private detective in Botswana…. But the real appeal of this slender novel is Ramotswe’s solid common sense, a proficient blend of folk wisdom, experience and simple intelligence…. A dose of easy humor laces the pages, as McCall Smith throws in wry observations, effortlessly commenting on the vagaries his protagonist encounters as she negotiates Botswana bureaucracy. This is another graceful entry in a pleasingly modest and wise series.” — Publisher’s Weekly

“His fondness for the country is deeply felt and his highly amusing books are gems. … Smith’s characters, too, are captivating, their sanguine celebrations of life the perfect backdrop to small and curious adventures.” — The London Free Press

“Gentle humour plus the exotic setting of Botswana add up to a fun light read.” — Chatelaine

“It’s a novel rich in humour and insight that provides a glimpse into African culture.” — The Observer

Praise for The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and Alexander McCall Smith:

“General audiences will welcome this little gem of a book just as much, if not more, than mystery readers.” — Publishers Weekly

“The author’s prose has the merits of simplicity, euphony and precision. His descriptions leave one as if standing in the Botswanan landscape. This is art that conceals art. I haven’t read anything with such unalloyed pleasure for a long time.” — Anthony Daniels, The Sunday Telegraph

“I was enchanted by the character of Precious Ramotswe and the sly humor of Alexander McCall Smith’s writing, his deft evocation of a culture.” — Anthony Minghella, who, with Sydney Pollack’s company Mirage, will be producing The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency TV series with New Africa Media Films

“A standout series.” — The New Brunswick Reader

"In the course of her work, Mma Ramotswe offers ample evidence of her country’s complexities and contradictions….Practical yet softhearted, inventive yet steeped in convention, Mma Ramotswe is an appealing personality…. Mma Ramotswe’s methods — and her results — are as unusual as the novels they inhabit." — Alida Becker, The New York Times Book Review

“One of the best, most charming, honest, hilarious and life-affirming books to appear in years.” — The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

“Smart and sassy…. Precious’s progress is charted in passages that have the power to amuse or shock or touch the heart, sometimes all at once…. Thoroughly engaging and entertaining.” — The Los Angeles Times

“One of the most entrancing literary treats of many a year…. A tapestry of extraordinary nuance and richness.” — The Wall Street Journal

“A quiet joy, a little gem of a book set apart from the genre by the quality of its writing, as well as by its exotic setting. [It] uses simple but tellingly descriptive language to introduce readers to its warm and appealing heroine.” — The Boston Globe

Author Essay

What’s What and Who’s Who in THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY
Alexander McCall Smith’s Guide to the World of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

First and foremost, Mma Ramotswe:
Mma is the term used to address a woman, and may be placed before her name. It is pronounced "ma" (with a long a)

Rra is the rough equivalent of "mister". It is pronounced "rar", but with a slight rolling of the second r.

Mma Ramotswe is the daughter of the late Obed Ramotswe. African English makes frequent use of the word late in this context. People say: "My father is late" rather than use more brutal expressions. At one point Mma Ramotswe refers to a "late dog" which had been run over by a steamroller. This shows great delicacy.

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni always uses his initials. Why this formality? People in Botswana can be fairly formal with one another. In Mr J.L.B. Matekoni’s case, that is what he has always been called and nobody has ever found out what the initials stand for. The L is, in fact, Livingstone.

Sir Seretse Khama is referred to from time to time. Mma Ramotswe is a great admirer of his and feels proud of the first President of Botswana. Sir Seretse was a great man, who set the moral tone of the new republic.

Dr Moffat appears from time to time, together with his wife, Fiona. They are real people who currently live in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. Howard Moffat, a doctor, is a direct descendant of Robert Moffat, the Scottish missionary who first rendered the Setswana language in written form. Robert Moffat’s daughter married David Livingstone.

Setswana, the language spoken in most of Botswana. Most people speak English too and newspapers, for example, will be in both languages.

Bush tea is very important to Mma Ramotswe and her assistant, Mma Makutsi. It is a reddish tea, caffeine-free, which is also known as rooibos (red bush tea). It is an acquired taste, and may be drunk with honey, in which case it is called honeybush tea.

Masarwa. This term is commonly used to refer to the San people (previously called Bushmen) who inhabited the Kalahari and who have gradually moved away from their hunter-gatherer life.

The Kalahari is a semi-desert which occupies the central and western parts of Botswana. It supports light vegetation, but very few people.

The Orphan Farm exists, though not under that name. The orphans live in small houses presided over by a housemother. There is a matron (called, in the books, Mma Potokwani) and a man who is officially employed as a father figure, surely one of the more unusual job titles. In the past, the matron’s husband occupied that job.

The Bishop. Mma Ramotswe admires the Bishop. He is in charge of the Anglican Cathedral, which is directly opposite the Princess Marina Hospital. The last occupant of this office was the Bishop Walter Makhulu, who has recently handed over to Bishop Theophilus.

Mafikeng (formerly Mafeking) lies to the south, outside the borders of Botswana. Mma Ramotswe previously shopped there, but now that Gaborone has better shops she is content to do all her shopping there.

Zebra Drive. This is where Mma Ramotswe has her house. There is a Zebra Way in Gaborone. Mma Ramotswe’s house is the last house on the left before the Zebra Way turns the corner.

Tlokweng Road, the road on which Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors sits, goes to Tlokweng, some five or six miles outside Gaborone. The Francistown Road goes to Francistown, in the North, and the Lobatse Road goes to Lobatse. To get to Molepolole, one should take the Molepolole Road.

The Village is the old part of the Gaborone. Mr J.L.B. Matekoni lives on the edge of the Village, near the old Botswana Defence Force Club.

Acacia trees cover the land. They have light greyish-greenish leaves and harbour birds such as the Go-Away Bird with its famous cry, or doves.

Cattle are very important. They are everywhere. A person’s prosperity will usually be measured by the number of cattle he or she has.

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