Vassanji’s Third and Final Continent

MG Vassanji goes home again in an elegant memoir: Open

Home_Was_Kariakoo_220‘Surely a returnee has some claim to the land which formed him—which is not in some godforsaken corner of the globe but in the centre of his imagination. And surely distance lends objectivity.’ Fierce words for a gentle writer, but on the subject of reappropriating true homes, he cannot be dissuaded. Canadian MG Vassanji—acclaimed author of six novels, two collections of short stories and a memoir of travels in India—is one of the more reticent writers the Indian diaspora lays claim to, and in this keenly-observed travelogue-cum-memoir, he makes his own claims, not on India but on the land which raised him and which is often misrepresented. East Africa and the lives of its people is his particular province as a writer, and here, as he has previously attempted, he speaks for Indian or Asian Africans, who are sometimes dispossessed twice over in a confusion of countries. African literature has claimed him, but he must still defend his identity, it is evident.

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