Comfortably Numb

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Book review: In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne

Meanwhile, migrants elsewhere…..

In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne, Hachette India. 2018 release.

So,  in a dreary London Council estate,  there lives a set of young people,  Selvon, Yusuf and Ardan, `those with elsewhere in their blood,` whose people have come over from places like the West Indies, Pakistan and Ireland.

They are a cheerful bunch trying their best to deal with everything  life has thrown at them ever since they were born, and is still throwing at them relentlessly. The `youngers` all speak in different patois, and that alone makes this book a standout.

Sample this. Nelson come upon a sign: Keep Britain White, Wogs Out! And this is his anguished thoughts on it:

“This sorta graffiti showing up all over the place. We was all tired of being shame like that. Shame for what? Every day we come out and see the road what hate we.

The Coloured Peoples Association was the key group in the patch. So one Saturday we all take a bucket and a brush and manage how we can. I remember the paint was still wet when we clear it. And after I had cleared one sign, the words would show up again the next day on the very same spot. I want smash that wall down…so they have nothing.“

London is seething with race resentment,  race riots, race-related violence,  especially in the Stone Estates where our gang resides. A mosque is set afire and everyone goes berserk, and of course,  our youngers are caught up in the backlash.

Only, by then the reader has discovered an affinity for them, sympathy for their seemingly hopeless lives, and so, what unfurls hits that reader hard.

I`d watched the 2019 film Les Miserables just a while  ago, and what struck me forcibly was that the story in this book could well be the British version of immigrant lives that the French film so powerfully delineated.

Guy Gunaratne`s  is a strong voice relating a powerful story. The book is absolutely a must-read.



Guy Gunaratneimmigrant livesimmigrantsIn Our Mad and Furious LandLondonrace resentmentrace riots

Sheila Kumar • July 29, 2020

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