Silence of the Chagos
Silence of the Chagos
by Shenaz Patel
Translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman
Based on the true, still-unfolding story of the expelled Chagossians’ fight for their homeland, Silence of the Chagos is a powerful exploration of cultural identity, the concept of home, and above all the neverending desire for justice.
List Price: $17.99 ISBN: 9781632062345 • Publication: 11/05/2019 • 5" x 7.125" • 178 pages • Fiction—Mauritian / geopolitics / indigenous peoples / family / immigration / activist • Territory: World English • eBook ISBN: 9781632062352
About the Book
Every afternoon a woman in a red headscarf walks to the end of the quay and looks out over the water, fixing her gaze “back there”—to Diego Garcia, one of the small islands forming the Chagos archipelago in the Indian Ocean. With no explanation, no forewarning, and only an hour to pack their belongings, the entire population of Diego Garcia was forced on a boat headed to Mauritius. Government officials told Charlesia that the island was “closed;” there was no going back for any of them.
Charlesia longs for life on Diego Garcia, where she spent her days harvesting coconuts and her nights dancing to sega music. As she struggles to come to terms with the injustice of her new reality, Charlesia crosses paths with Désiré, a young man born on the one-way journey to Mauritius. Désiré has never set foot on Diego Garcia, but as Charlesia unfolds the dramatic story of their people, he learns of the home he never knew and of the life he might have had.
With the Chagos’ sovereignty currently being adjudicated by the United Nations Silence of the Chagos is an important and humanizing exploration of the rights of individuals and a reckoning with displacement
on a global scale.
Praise for Silence of the Chagos
“A young man’s journey of self-discovery illuminates the heart-wrenching history of the Chagos Archipelago.... Patel, a Mauritian journalist, uses her cast of characters to narrate a keenly observed story, translated from French, about displacement…. A fierce and evocative telling of the strangled arc of a peace-loving people.”
—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“‘Some twenty years ago, I was struck by a photo showing barefoot women on the road facing the armed police. They were Chagossian women protesting in Mauritius with astonishing determination.’ This photo, which she's never forgotten, is the inspiration for the Mauritian novelist and journalist Shenaz Patel's third book. Mingling various voice, Patel describes, in a bitter, clear-cut style, the tragedy of the inhabitants of the Chagos, those coral islands of the Indian Ocean that were turned into an American military base and whose inhabitants had been banished to Mauritius between 1967 and 1972. With a prose that seeps and stings, and a sharp sensibility, Shenaz Patel breathes life into the painful nostalgia, the lingering memories, and the eternal incomprehension of these expelled from a string of lost islands.”
“This novel has two voices, those of Charlesia and Désiré, both of whom are foreigners, natives of the Chagos archipelago, living in exile in Mauritius, an island that is a paradise for some but a hell for them. The Chagos are an archipelago that would have been hidden in the depths of the Indian Ocean, had Americans not built a military base to bombard other countries. Charlesia and Désiré live and breathe; the Mauritian writer Shenaz Patel introduces us to them and gives them voice again.”
“From scenes of daily life to the horrors of forced exile, through the grief of deculturation and the experience of an impossible identity, Patel interrogates the relationship between political expediency and its all-too-human consequences, between the abstract needs of international security and the concrete needs of the individual, and above all between the rich and the poor.”
About the Author
Shenaz Patel is a journalist and writer from the island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. She is the author of several novels, plays, short stories, and children’s books. She was an IWP (International Writers Program) Honorary Fellow in the U.S. in 2016, and was a fellow at the W. E. B Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center at Harvard University in 2018.
About the Translator
Jeffrey Zuckerman is an award-winning translator from French of titles ranging from Jean Genet’s The Criminal Child to Ananda Devi’s Eve Out of Her Ruins.