Silence of the Chagos

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Silence of the Chagos


by Shenaz Patel

Translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman

Based on a true, still-unfolding story, Silence of the Chagos is a powerful exploration of cultural identity, the concept of home, and above all the neverending desire for justice. Shenaz Patel draws on the lives of uprooted Chagossian activists in this tragic example of 20th century political oppression.

Book Details

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

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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 the small island in the Indian Ocean that she and her people have been deported from. But the island is “closed,” there is no going back. Charlesia waits in vain for a ship to take her and her fellow Chagossians back to their home on Diego Garcia. With no explanation, and only an hour to pack, the Chagossians are deported from Diego Garcia and relocated to Mauritius. Charlesia mourns the loss of her life on Diego Garcia, where she spent her days working on a coconut plantation and her nights listening to séga music with her family and friends. But most urgently, Charlesia seeks answers for how and why this injustice happened to her people.

As Charlesia struggles to come to terms with her life on Mauritius, she 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 his people, he learns of the home he never know, taken from him before he was born and transformed into a military base.

Shenaz Patel artfully reconstructs the lives of the Chagossians, whose cries for a return to their homeland are no longer being silenced. With the sovereignty of Chagos currently being debated on an international judiciary level, Silence of the Chagos is an important and timely examination of the rights of individuals in the face of governmental corruption.


Praise for Silence of the Chagos

“‘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.”

Le Monde

“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. A journalist and author, she has been a Reuter fellow, worked as editor in chief of a political newspaper, before setting up of the arts, culture and society section of one of Mauritius' biggest weekly where she still works as a columnist. Patel has published four novels, numerous short stories in French and Mauritian Creole, two plays, three graphic novels, and four children's books. She was an IWP (International Writers Program) Honorary Fellow in the U.S. in 2016, and was a fellow at the Hutchins Centre-W.E.B du Bois Institute 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.