Day 23: 🇲🇺 Silence of the Chagos

In a Nutshell:

What a gem of a book this is. It tells the story of Charlesia and Désiré, both from the island of Diego García. It is also about the plight of the Chagossian people, expelled from their archipelago to enable the United States to build one of their main military bases.

The book consists of a 150 page novella and an afterword, which are well worth a read.


I knew of Diego Garcia, that it is one of the small islands forming the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean and that it is a military base for the USA, but I had no idea of the details of how the Chagossians were thrown off their land.

I read this summer 2020 as we left Tanzania for good- we spent three years living there. We flew from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to the Comoros Islands, en route to Ethiopia and then on to London.

Shenaz Patel was awarded the Grand Literary Prize of the Indian and Pacific Ocean (Paris) in 2007 for this novel.


“She was one with the sea.”

“For the Chagos, the year 2019 marks half a century since an entire population was uprooted and deported from an archipelago which, by dint of its position in the middle of the Indian Ocean, caught the attention of the United States.”

Silence of the Chagos

Written by Shenaz Patel

Translated from the French. by Jeffrey Zuckerman

21/11/2019, Regan Arts

ISBN: 9781632062345

#WITMonth for 2021 is curated by Jess Andoh-Thayre

I am 35, from London but currently living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I have lived in Tanzania, Chile, Spain and now Cambodia. I am married to a diplomat and we have been posted in Dar es Salaam 🇹🇿 and now Phnom Penh 🇰🇭. Prior to married life, I had also lived in La Serena, Chile and Madrid, Spain.

I am a French, Spanish and English teacher, translator, avid reader and now blogger. When I am not teaching, reading and blogging, I love seeing a brilliant sunset, swimming and hanging out with my husband and son.

Please follow me @jessandohthayre on Twitter and follow my book journey here.

Author: Shenaz Patel

Shenaz Patel is a journalist and writer from Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean.

She has published four novels, numerous short stories in French and Mauritian Creole, three plays, three graphic novels, four children’s books.

She was an IWP (International Writers Program) Honorary Fellow in the U.S. in 2016, a fellow at City of Asylum, Pittsburgh the same year, and she completed a research and writing fellowship at Harvard University in 2018.

Shenaz Patel likes to define herself as an explorer:

Try to unearth the untold, the unsaid, approach our secret humanity, dig deeper into things and people’s lives, with the broken but stubborn nails of words.”

Translator: Jeffrey Zuckerman

Jeffrey Zuckerman is an American editor and translator, he translates from French. He works in New York.

He has worked for various agents and editors in book publishing, he was a judge for the 2016 PEN Translation Prize, and is now Digital Editor at Music & Literature Magazine. He is a recipient of a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant for his ongoing work on the complete stories of Hervé Guibert.

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