Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Seychelles: The Saga of a Small Nation [...], by Sir James Mancham

Second paragraph (and first paragraph of embedded quote) of third chapter:
This is what the cover page of Seychelles Political Castaways stated when it was published in 1976, the year of our independence:
Seychelles: ninety-two islands and atolls lying 1000 miles east of the Kenya coast in the Indian Ocean, and often described as the world's most beautiful archipelago. Each of the coral banks or islands has a beauty of its own that is captured rarely by camera and almost never by pen. Straight palms, white sands, vari-coloured seas and clear lagoons with their patchwork of coral form a backcloth to a nation that was, until 28 June 1976, listed in the guide books and the ledgers of Whitehall as a British Crown Colony.
Four years ago I attended a conference in Florence, Italy, and fell into conversation with an elderly gentleman with a spring in his step and a glint in his eye. He whipped out a copy of his latest book, signed it with a flourish and handed it to me. I am sorry to say that it sat on the shelves for some time before I read it, and in the meantime Sir James Mancham has shuffled off this mortal coil. But I really appreciated the gesture.

The book is mainly about the geopolitics and economics of the Seychelles, but that is a subject deeply entangled with its author's life. He became President of the Seychelles when the islands became independent in 1976, and just a year later was overthrown by his own prime minister (while he himself was in London attending the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations). He was still pretty sore about that, but on the other hand had relished the opportunities opened up by his return from exile in 1992 to promote the interests of his homeland, particularly since the invitation to return came from his usurper.

The Seychelles is a really small place, with a population of less than 100,000, but that clearly leaves plenty of room for local politics and palace politics; Mancham hints at the effects of high net worth individuals coming in to buy individual islands, a phenomenon he himself was sanguine about. He's much less sanguine about what he still sees as his betrayal by the British and Americans in 1977, facilitated by the French and culminating in the islands becoming a Soviet satellite. (It would be interesting to read an account of those events from another source.) I was amused to realise that I know most of the EU officials he mentions in the relevant chapter.

I doubt that this is the best book ever written about the Seychelles, or even the best book written by Sir James Mancham, but I learned more than I had expected from it. You can get it here.

This was my top unread book by a non-white writer (Sir James was proud of his Chinese grandfather). Next on that list is And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hossaini.
Tags: bookblog 2018, world: seychelles

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