Oh, the seductive allure of heaven!
But can heaven be the answer? Can one escape from life once dead?
As the illness Oswald had in Ibsen’s Ghosts was inherited from his father, the identity of the region is inherited. One is born into the region. The repetitive phrase that follows the names of the character, “Refentse, child of Tiragalong and Hillbrow,” for instance, constantly reminds Refentse and the readers that the bond between an individual and the region is stronger than one might assume, and perhaps unbreakable. It is interesting to note that Refentse, even after his death, remains in heaven, or our “new” Hillbrow, watching whatever is happening in the region. As mentioned in the novel, one cannot simply leave home. “Home travels with you.”
The unbreakable bond between the individual and one’s home in the novel somehow reminds me of the short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula Le Guin. Omelas, a fictional ideal village in the story, is maintained on one condition that one child must be kept in perpetual misery in a dark grim room. People who had lived happily in Omelas, when confront the truth where their happiness is coming from, are shocked. The majority keeps on living in Omelas but a few people decide to walk away from Omelas, leaving their ideal happy village behind. But are they exempt from the sins and problems of Omelas? Likewise in “Welcome to Our Hillbrow” some characters decide to leave their city either by simply moving somewhere or by committing suicide. All the characters, however, end up returning to Hillbrow. Walking away simply does not clear one from obligations.
The book concludes with Refilwe’s death, welcome by “our heaven.” The characters, even after death, will reunite in heaven. They continue their existence. It’s quite scary when we think that there is no end. Hillbrow will keep welcoming its returnees again and again and again and…