Love and Betrayal in Colonial Africa

Linked with our presentation of Laila Lalami – Morocco.

Excerpt: … The archipelago of Zanzibar was, at various times in its history, under the rule of Persians from Shiraz, Arabs from Oman and Europeans from Portugal and Britain. The islands’ location in the Indian Ocean, along major trade routes between Africa and Asia, made them a particularly enviable prize for conquerors. With few exceptions, the settlers tended to mix with the locals until the next wave of colonizers displaced them, resulting in a merging of languages and customs that makes the country one of those places for which the term “confluence of cultures” seems to have been invented. Abdulrazak Gurnah, one of Africa’s most celebrated novelists and a native of Zanzibar, has mined his homeland’s rich history in several of his books, and he returns to it with Desertion, a novel about–what else?–colonialism and miscegenation. Now a professor of English and postcolonial literature at the University of Kent, Gurnah left Zanzibar in 1968, a few short years after the country gained independence. He chose to stay in Britain, like many other educated people of his generation. This exodus has been the focus of much of his work; all of his previous novels feature a man displaced from Zanzibar to England for political or personal reasons, an immigrant who retains ambivalent feelings about both his homeland and his adopted country.(Read the rest of this 4 pages long article on The Nation).

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