Colonialism is a reality that is faced by many around the world, bringing with it a world of conflict. Edward. W. Said concludes: “every empire, however, tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate.” The following books tackle different situations that all undergo the same issues. The state may be different but the conflicts are still somewhat similar.
- M Forster – A Passage to India
A Passage to India is a gripping story of the destiny of individuals who are trapped amid the political and cultural conflicts of the modern world.
As soon as Adela Quested and Mrs Moore reach Chandrapore, an Indian town, they feel imprisoned by the narrow-minded community. Following the charismatic Dr Aziz, they escape the parochial district and begin to explore the other side of India. However, whilst they are sightseeing, a mysterious incident takes place which leads to the doctor being involved in a huge scandal which incites ferocious urges between both the British and the Indian.
2. Ahdaf Soueif – The Map of Love
The Map of Love is a compelling story, highlighting the importance of love and heritage and how destinies are sometimes intertwined together.
Two women fall in love with men outside their accustomed worlds. In 1901, Anna Winterbourne moves to Egypt from England. She finds herself beguiled with Egypt and she falls in love with Sharif Pasha al-Baroudi. Almost a hundred years later, Isabel Parkman, a desencdent of Anna and Sharif falls in love with Omar al-Ghamrawi, who is a talented yet challenging Egyptian-American conductor with his own fanatical politics. Isabel endeavours to learn the truth behind her heritage, so she commences her quest to Egypt and with the help of Omar’s sister, uncovers the story of Anna and Sharif’s love.
3. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Half of a Yellow Sun
Half of a Yellow Sun is a haunting novel of the hope, promise and disappointment of the Biafran war.
In Nigeria, in the 1960s a boy from a destitute village goes to work for a radical university professor, Odenigbo. Shortly after, Olanna, a young woman who has left behind a privileged life to live with her alluring lover enters their world. Soon they are joined by Richard, who has fallen for Olanna’s witty sister. When the deplorable horror of civil war consumes the land, their loves and loyalties are brutally tested. Their lives fall apart and then crash into each other in ways that they had never imagined.
4. Kiran Desai – The Inheritance of Loss
The Inheritance of Loss is a vivid story of joy and despair at a time when Civil unrest is making itself being felt, turning nationalism against love, and the past against the present.
A bitter judge who is haunted by his past and wishes to retire in tranquillity lives in a run-down remote house at the bottom of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas. However, when his orphaned granddaughter, Sai lands at his doorway, his world is turned upside down as she begins to fall in love with her attractive tutor, regardless of their backgrounds and morals. The judge’s cook takes care of her, albeit absentmindedly for he is consumed with thoughts of his son, Biju who is travelling from one New York restaurant to another. The forces of rebellion and change whirl around the house, rousing internal conflicts.
5. Uwem Akpan – Say You’re One of Them
Say You’re One of Them is a heart-wrenching tale, exploring the emotional toll of religious conflicts in Ethiopia.
A family, residing in a do-it-yourself shanty in urban Kenya scamper to find gifts for the looming Christmas holiday. A Rwandan girl narrates her family’s struggles to uphold a smokescreen of normality among horrifying deeds. A young brother and sister deal with their uncle’s endeavour to sell them into slavery. On a bus filled with refugees, a Muslim boy beckons his faith to tolerate a treacherous ride through Nigeria. The numerous conflicts in Ethiopia become viscerally clear through the eyes of childhood friends.
Every story is filled with some pain and some joy, only through the short bursts of pain are you able to fully appreciate the true heights of joy.
May we all experience more joy than pain, more freedom than confinement.