"Southern Angola, which forces you in other seasons to search for a dry spot, has become a sea of dust and desperation. The explosions and thunder of Cuban MiGs, invisibly shattering the blue sky just north of us, gets closer every day" (11)
In this description the author is using weather conditions to appeal to all of our senses, as even the sound of the airplanes is described as a "thunder." The quiet is palpable until the fighter jets come overhead, and we sense the sudden noise that returns eerily to quiet again, each day the only reference point for the soldiers that tells them how close the jets are getting to their positions. The dust and desperation is a stronger image because of the alliterative quality of the description, and we are also able to not just feel the dust and the dryness but to almost taste it as well.
"One grows accustomed to the dust. Even when I opened the last of the ratpacks this morning it took just seconds before everything was covered in a layer of dust. It's useless trying to get rid of it. The radio is positioned beside me on the ground. When I turn the frequency knobs, there's the grinding sound of grains rubbing against metal" (18)
Again, the overwhelming feel of the war zone that the adult Marnus finds himself in is one of desolate, dusty discomfort. The reader is able to both feel and taste the dust, and its seeming to cover absolutely everything in sight, but this passage also allows us to hear it as well, as it grinds and scrapes along with the movement of the dial on the radio. It is therefore governing every sensation that both Marnus and the reader are feeling.
Marnus' Bedroom At Night
"When the roof-window is open, I can fall asleep at night with the sound of waves and the smell of salt-water and sea-bamboo coming in from the other side of the railway line. In the afternoons when I sit at my desk in front of the window, I can look across the whole bay" (27)
Marnus loves his bedroom and the main reason for this is its magnificent view of the bay. This description appeals to both the reader's senses of smell and hearing, as in the darkness the only perceptible sounds and smells are coming from the ocean with its distinctive smell of salt-water and the sound of the waves. Referencing the railway line also suggests that there is the presence of the sound of this as well. Marnus' description of his bedroom indicates that his comfort is coming not from what he can see, but from what he can hear and smell.
"I've seen them jump up into the air and then strike the water again, making the most terrible thunder and spray. Ilse says they do that when they are mating. But there aren't as many whales now as Jan Bantjies says were here years ago. One year we didn't even see a single one, and then Jan said it was because the bay doesn't belong to nature anymore. He says the bay has been taken over by the factories" (27)
The first part of this description enables the reader to imagine the magnificent sight of whales jumping at each other, creating an imposing thundering sound, and adding to this wondrous visual image with spray from their landing back in the water again. The description also enables Marnus to compare the bay then with the bay now, and the sad fact that man is driving the whales out of their natural habitat, factories bringing in totally different smells, sights and thunderous noises and driving out the whales almost entirely.
Ruined Village of Cuitado
"In the ruins of the small Catholic church, where Portuguese women with shiny hair once murmured confessions, brown elephant grass grew from crags like tufts of hair from armpits, and the sun cast long shadows across what was once a neatly-tiled floor. From dongas caused by hand-grenades and mortars exploding on the town square, thorn bushes now stood waist-high. Painted against the roofless grey walls of what were once homes was the evidence of countless military patrols that had passed through over the years" (29)
This image cleverly ties in the themes of both war and the way in which man destroys his surroundings. The village was once vibrant with the murmuring of confessions that would have been like a human white-noise in the background of the other sounds of village life, along with the hustle and bustle of people coming in and out of their homes. Now the sounds are military—thunder, explosions and bombings, and of course the inevitable silence that comes along afterwards. The image is one of beauty spoiled, and now everything is thorny and colorless. Even the grass is growing from a hole caused by a mortar attack. This is a very effective "before and after" description that enables the reader to visualize how the village looked before the war, to imagine the sounds of its destruction, and then to visualize the shell of a village it became after the attacks.
The Smell of Apples Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Smell of Apples is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.