cover image Silence of the Chagos

Silence of the Chagos

Shenaz Patel, trans. from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman. Restless, $17.99 trade paper (178p) ISBN 978-1-63206-234-5

Patel shares the unfamiliar story of the Chagossian people’s displacement in her somber English-language debut. In 1968, Charlesia travels from the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean to Mauritius for medical care for her husband’s illness. After he recovers, she is confused and distressed to hear that the Chagos are closed and there will be no boats back to Diego Garcia. She doggedly visits the dock to watch the ships for years, hoping one will resume passage to her homeland. The novel then shifts focus to mid-’90s Mauritius as Désiré, a 20-something man, questions his mother about his nickname, Nord. He learns he was born aboard the ship Nordvaer after his family was forcibly relocated from Diego Garcia in 1973 to make way for an Anglo-American air force base. Aware of his exile for the first time, Désiré fixates on returning to the Chagos and seeks out employment that could bring him closer to the islands. As his plans fizzle, he hurtles towards a chance encounter with Charlesia that brings uneasy, incomplete resolution. Patel provides a clear sense of Chagossian culture amid her eloquent tracing of her characters’ pain. This is a moving exploration of helplessness in the face of global powers. [em](Nov.) [/em]