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Reading ‘Exile’ in Juba

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The book: Exile (#2 in the Garnethill Trilogy), Denise Mina

The place: Juba, South Sudan

Yet another example of book / place mismatch. Given that I actually (nominally) live in Glasgow, it is odd that I read the first book in the trilogy in Cairo last year and the second in Juba now. On the other hand, reading books set in Glasgow while outside of Glasgow gives me a pleasant form of homesickness (which is also odd, given that the picture that Mina paints of Glasgow is not particularly flattering).

There is always a particular doubling effect that occurs when in South Sudan, given the relative comfort of the expat life one can access in Juba, compared to the dereliction of the rest of the country. This is even more intense at the moment, given that the country is actually having a war that is all-but-imperceptible from the capital. We are constantly refreshing online news sources (Radio Tamazuj) to get information about which towns have changed hands; there are horrendous stories from South Sudanese friends and colleagues about what’s going on in Bentiu or Malakal or Bor. And at the same time, here we are in perfectly pleasant Juba, where we can drink beer and eat steak cordon bleu* and sit by the Nile in the sunshine and swim in pools. Talking to a friend of a friend yesterday, who is a nurse in Juba Military Hospital, sewing up holes in the bodies of soldiers that are helicoptered back from the Front, it is very hard to square one image with the other.

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*Beef stuffed with cheese and bacon, served with mashed potato. Perhaps my palate is not so sophisticated, but it is hard to imagine a better foodstuff.


Written by Jess

May 4, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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