Photo of Thamaga, Botswana, by Lee Otis used under a Creative Commons license.
Norman Rush, Mating (Vintage, 1992).
The narrator of Rush’s novel is a postgraduate student in anthropology. Hanging around the expatriates in Botswana’s capital, she meets Nelson Denoon, another American, who has founded a utopian experiment, a rural village called Tsau run by needy local women, although then there is Denoon’s peculiar role. Taken with Denoon and his description of Tsau, she follows him there. Mating is a sprawling book, filled with many themes and erudition of all sorts. This may not be to all readers’ liking, but it did win the National Book Award in 1991. Rush served in the Peace Corps in Botswana from 1978 to 1983 before he wrote the novel.
Here are three excellent posts about Mating at Critical Mass: the first (or last, chronologically) by Scott Esposito, the second by Tim Burke, and the third a Q&A between Esposito and Rush. Sheila O’Malley says that Mating is a great book which has followed her through her life. It’s a favorite of Cynthia Joyce’s, too.
Jim Shepard reviewed it for The New York Times. Elisabeth Harvor reviewed it for The Toronto Star. John Leonard reviewed it for The Nation (scroll down). Isaac Sorkin and Bob Corbett write about it. In a review in The New Yorker unavailable on-line but quoted here, John Updike took Rush to task for his arcana vocabulary.