Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The General Is Up

"This Brilliant novel, based on the Asian Expulsion by the Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, does what all great novels do: seamlessly blur the line between truth and untruth."  Sasenarine Persaud, from front cover flap

How many people remember Idi Amin's expulsion of Indians from Uganda 40 years ago? You can almost hear someone saying: You didn't mean Asians, did you? This was how the press largely termed this variety of ethnic cleansing. No, Indians. Every year, there is a reissue of a book, or a new book, or movie on the cleansing of Hitler's Germany of Jews. We cannot, should not forget. To be sure, others were cleansed--the Roma, for instance, the largely forgotten, maltreated and discriminated Indians of Europe. You can almost hear someone say: ah, perception of slight. Indians in Europe, the Americas, Africa, the Caribbean--the Diaspora--are supposed to be quiet, are supposed to be good world citizens. In Guyana, in the 2008 Lusignan Massacre, 12 villagers were murdered just because they were Indians, or perceived to be Indians--11 of Indian ancestry--the trial making headlines in September of this year, and still ongoing. The Goebbels of Caribbean Literature call this kind of discrimination, this massacre, perception of slight. Meaning, do not write about the discrimination of Indians, or we will punish you any way we can. Write about flowers, love, sunshine...but not about the discrimination of Indians in the Americas, Europe, or Asia, or Africa. Sam Selvon, the great and famous Indo-Caribbean novelist, once said, "but what that means to me is that we best don't talk too loud before we antagonize the black people and cause further botheration." This from his opening address at a conference at the University of the West Indies in 1979--7 years after the Indian expulsion from Uganda by Idi Amin. The General Is Up.  The generals are up, a few occasionally wearing skirts.The facts and figures are around on this thing we call the Internet. Quarrel with Wikipedia if you will: 60,000 fled Uganda (27,000 to the UK; 6,000 to Canada; 4,500 to India; smaller amounts to other countries; and some 20,000 unaccounted for) almost all Indians--people of Indian ancestry, if we must water this down. Peter Nazareth's novel, a brand new reissue by a third publisher, the third edition, is based on this cleansing of Indians from Uganda under Idi Amin. This novel, The General Is Up, is cause for celebration on, at least, three counts: (1) It is a fine novel (2) Nazareth refuses to be silent (3) It is a very fine novel. Selvon again, at that 1979 conference: "If we feel we are being oppressed and suppressed, all the more reason, I say, to blow our trumpet loud and fly our kite high."                     

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