Touted as “collaborative fiction” and an “experiment” on its jacket, as one digs further into Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams’ beguiling, wilfully disjointed quasi-novel Diego Garcia, certain details begin to link together, even as the form becomes stranger and less linear.
It’s set in Edinburgh circa 2014, but its scenes often drift to London and the Chagos Islands in Mauritius: Diego Garcia, the largest of those islands, had its population forcibly deported in 1973 by UK soldiers, one of the more recent (indeed ongoing) disgraces of British colonial history. Soobramanien is herself of Mauritian heritage, which aids the understanding that this book is autofiction of sorts – she and Williams share various biographical details with itinerant writer pals Damaris and Oliver, the two central characters. (The heaviest is only revealed after the novel is finished, in its acknowledgements.)
Diego Garcia’s experimental tendencies often manifest as perverse language choices or uncompromising cultural references. Books and cigarettes are constant features of Damaris and Oliver’s lives, except they’re never referred to by those names: always “blocks” and “tubes”. Mentions of niche or obscure literature and music will render certain scenes barely comprehensible to readers lacking appropriate knowledge (this was often the case for me), and lengthy passages are presented as interviews, letters or diary entries. There is a prevalent sense of mild interior-life chaos, simmering anger at spiteful injustice, and the feeling that events herein are profoundly real, perhaps because they are.
Diego Garcia, Natasha Soobramanien & Luke Williams
Price: £12.99/£5.99 Ebook. Info: here
words NOEL GARDNER
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