Roger King | A Girl From Zanzibar
Marcella's life, as she looks back on it, is a case in point. She corrects him: ''I'm from nowhere. The layering adds depth to a vivid, precise and fast-paced narrative, told with graceful, at times almost arch, concision. Aunt Stella or Mrs.
F, as she's known , a Dickensian eccentric for sure, insists that Goans are ''really Europeans in disguise. We've been European for years. We eat beef. We drink alcohol. We ballroom dance. We're European. View all New York Times newsletters. This fine comic passage has a grim subtext, since, when independence came to East Africa, Indians and Arabs by the thousands were expelled or killed. Marcella's own father is said to have perished in the massacre that preceded the union of independent Zanzibar with Tanganyika to form Tanzania. Twenty years later, as she prepares to leave the country, violence is still in the air: ''The degree of delicacy and tentativeness we brought to our social encounters was that of people tiptoeing among light-sleeping lions.
Marcella makes her getaway at last with the help of a Tanzanian bureaucrat and that well-meaning British aid worker. And the result is a migration from the sorry stagnation of Zanzibar under state socialism to the feeding frenzy of London under rampant capitalism. In Zanzibar, Marcella -- who, like her ancestors, has a head for business -- ran a prosperous ice cream stand. In London, she quickly makes a killing in real estate. She also finds the love of her life, Benji, an Indian from Singapore who recognizes her at once as a kindred spirit.
Not only is their skin the same color, they are, as he puts it, ''both godless business Indians with Portuguese names, once displaced and twice removed.
He does business out of his car and sleeps in half-built apartments. He has contacts everywhere. But ambition and ego lead him astray. In the end -- the point is belabored a bit -- all the horrors of Zanzibar, from murder to corruption to terrorism, converge on London too. As we have known from the beginning of the novel, Marcella will go from a life of success to a prison cell, and she'll do it in a single day.
Her friends and business associates, even Benji, vanish. She serves an eight-year sentence for a crime she did not commit. Marcella is the author's mouthpiece, his stage manager, theorizing, summing up the action, signaling transitions, and at times these extra roles blur her outline.
But the minor characters are just themselves, seen whole with tragic clarity. Kamara, a political refugee from Sierra Leone, a committed socialist, gradually becomes embroiled in the petty corruption of the government office that employs him. Monique, a beauty from Mauritius, drifts into a soul-destroying marriage with a a kind of modern slave trader.
Bacteria EATS girl's eyeballs in Zanzibar!!!!
Even that Iraqi doctor, glimpsed now and then unloading a tray of pastries from his car, suggests a painfully reconstructed life. There is no safe haven, this brilliantly prescient novel suggests, and nothing to hold onto. For better or worse, we are all migrants now. Her older brother - Majid - inherited the throne after their father died in But a palace revolution broke out between Majid and her other brother, Barghash. Like most of her siblings, Salme sided with Barghash and became his general secretary. At the age of 15, she was writing letters to chiefs who had decided to follow her rebel brother.
Abandoned by her siblings and feeling increasingly alone, she began to feel drawn to other outsiders. Specifically, the Europeans in Zanzibar. Salme's new house in Stone Town was situated next to that of a young German merchant by the name of Rudolph Heinrich Ruete.
The couple would occasionally leave Stone Town but were still visible enough to be seen. Several sightings of them were reported to the sultan by German companies. When Sultan Majid heard about the rumours surrounding his sister and the German, he sent for Salme and had his executioner at the ready. The sultan was reportedly only calmed down by his stepmother who insisted that they wait and see if the rumours were true.
A Girl from Zanzibar
So she fled to Aden, a port city in Yemen, where she gave birth to, and tragically lost, a child. When her German lover joined her several month later, they married, moved to Germany and had three other children. But tragedy struck once more when, shortly after the birth of their youngest child, Rudolph was killed in a tram accident.
Salme died in and was buried with a small bag of sand from a beach in Zanzibar, which she reportedly always carried with her. Olga, who grew up in England, fell in love with an American diplomat and moved to the US and had Anne - Michael's mother.