Yesterday in Paradise 1950-1974 by Cyprian Fernandes (Balboa Press, Australia 2017)
Review by TREVOR GRUNDY
“History,” says a character in Louis de Bernieres’s novel Captain Corellis’s Mandolin,”ought to consist only of the anecdotes of the little people who are caught up in it.”
Yesterday in Paradise by Cyprian Fernandes is an anecdote-driven non-fiction book that paints a moving picture of the rise of an impoverished Goan teenager from the backstreets of the Asian quarter of Nairobi to a position of importance in the Kenyan media between the mid-1960s, through to the mid-1970s.
As such, it is an important contribution to our understanding of the problems facing ethnic and religious communities in post-colonial countries.
There are other books that tell you more about the Goans and their history. But for a full taste of what it was like to be a member of the minority Goan “tribe” in that rich and often staggeringly lovely country between the end of the Second World War and the mid-1970s when Cyprian, his wife and children were forced to flee, all of them in danger of losing their lives, this is a book that deserves our attention. Sometimes our tears, too.
Despite unspeakable poverty as a child, Cyprian and the young Asians he grew up with were members of a privileged community in British-ruled Kenya before its Independence in December 1963.
Caught in an ethnic and religious divide, Goans were the Europeans’ favourite non-whites. Most of them had abandoned their own language, Konkani They spoke English with a Portuguese accent (Sir Richard Burton called them the black Portuguese) and were – most of them – Christians (Roman Catholics).
Goans were to the British in Kenya, what the “Coloureds” (people of mixed ethnic groups) were to Afrikaners in South Africa before 1994.
In short, Yesterday in Paradise is the story of a man who escaped an impoverished childhood by bursting through the glass ceiling that the British called separate development and their enemies labelled as British apartheid, to become one of Kenya’s best known and most widely respected reporters and feature writers.
Both a personal triumph and eventually a political tragedy.
A triumph because of Fernandes’s relatively short time as a Goan success story in Kenya.
A tragedy, because he was forced out of the land of his birth after breaking the “Goan as a non-political activist” rule by questioning various scandalous land ownership deals involving President Kenyatta and his greedy, shopaholic wife Mama Ngina.
In 1974, Cyprian’s young and beautiful wife Rufina was advised to get out of Kenya with her children as fast as the wings of a British plane could carry them to London. Friends in high places told her that the ruling party’s hit men had a bullet with her husband’s name on it.
For students of ethnic/religious rights in Africa, this is a book of importance and one that should earn a place on the shelves of schools, colleges and universities throughout the Commonwealth.
Cyprian Fernandes was born in the all-Asian suburb of Eastleigh outside the “European” capital city, Nairobi, in September 1943.
Abandoned by an alcoholic father, the family somehow survived under the wings of a mother who Cyprian remembers with huge affection. “Uneducated, untrained, her only tools were her feet and hands, her eyes and, above everything else, her faith in God and an unshakeable belief that nothing was impossible.”
Mama Fernandes was unable to read or write but was fearfully ambitious for her children.
Despite the family’s poverty, they were proud of their Christian and Portuguese heritage. Goa had been one of the many jewels in the Portuguese Crown from 1510 to when it was taken-over by India in1961.
Goans played a significant role in the administration of British-ruled Kenya, Uganda and German East Africa (Tanganyika). The colonial administrations in those countries might have collapsed but for the skill and management of the Goan clerks and accountants who held it together until 1968 when they were given the stark choice of staying and becoming Kenyan citizens or leaving and returning to the womb of Portugal or some other part of the planet that would have them.
Most of them left.
In his early twenties, Cyprian landed a job at the Aga Khan’s stable of newspapers in Nairobi – the Daily Nation and the Sunday Nation where he fell under the influence of one of Kenya’s most able journalists, the Goan editor of the Daily Nation, Joe Rodrigues.
He excelled as a sports writer.
With the encouragement of several English expatriate journalists, he went on to became one of Kenya’s leading political commentators, travelling the world with President Jomo Kenyatta and his ministers, one of them the Goan Vice President Joseph Murumbi Zurate (half Goan/half Maasai).
He covered the Munich Games massacre in 1972: he interviewed the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin at a time when that unruly despot was slaughtering upwards of 250,000 black Ugandans and drop-kicking the entire Asian community into other parts of the world, mainly to the United Kingdom.
Fernandes belonged to neither of Kenya’s two main ethnic groups – the Kikuyu or the Luo. For that reason, he was seen and used as a “no threat” Goan by the men and women who ruled Kenya at that time.
”I travelled the world and our visits to the world’s capitals usually ended with R and R at the nearest sauna with Aquavit, champagne and caviar,” he writes.
Cyprian enjoyed the confidence of the elite until he started probing the wealth of the Kenyatta family.
From being the “darling Goan” of the elite, he became the “Goan mongrel,” to be whipped awhile in public and, if necessary, put down.
Cyprians terrified wife, the young and beautiful Rufina, returned to their Nairobi home one day in 1974 and told him that if he wasn’t prepared to up and leave then she would, taking the children with her.
She told him that people with friends in high places had told her that Cyprian’s murder was being arranged and that the police had a bullet with his name on it.
Only a born again fool would have ignored the threat.
So many critics of Kenyatta had been killed by unknown, unpunished gunmen: the Luo leader Tom Mboya and the Goan socialist revolutionary Pio Gama Pinto in 1965, to name but two of them.
The threat of that “silver bullet” with the Cyprian’s name on it forced the family to flee Kenya, first to England, then to Australia.
Yesterday in Paradise could not have been an easy book to write. It has been a long time coming and the author ends saying-” I have woken up each morning and my prayer has been: thank you, God. It is great to be alive, in Australia.”
The book is available on Amazon or Frederick Noronha may have a few copies in Goa!s
Memoir of a Fascist Childhood by Trevor Grundy (William Heinemann, 1998 and Arrow Books 1999) Literary agent in 1998/1999 was Giles Gordon, Curtis Brown, London
Also available on Amazon
Reviews of this 20 plus years old book were published in several magazines and newspapers in Britain.
They included articles in The Jewish Chronicle, the Jewish Quarterly and one by the Jewish affairs correspondent of The Tablet.
All the comments made by Jewish writers about the fascist phenomenon before and after the last world war were fair, balanced and constructive.
After my book was published, I made a short tour of Israel in 2000 and spoke to rabbis, students and ordinary Jews about Mosley in the 1950s and 1960s.
The following year, I completed a tour of colleges in different parts of the UK with large Jewish student intakes.
Trevor Grundy (right) with Sir Malcolm Rifkind at the home of the former British Foreign Secertary in 2000 in Edinburgh. There Grundy spoke to a large collection of prominent Scottish Jews about his childhood in the Mosley Movement in the 1950s and early 1960s. (Picture: David Kaplan)
In 2009, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, described the book as “an extraordinary chronicle“ adding, “I wish all those who are inclined to underrate the corruption potential of fascism could read and digest this.”
With the appalling rise of anti-Semitism in this country, in Europe and in the USA it might be a book to show to young people tempted to support race hate organisations. And there’s plenty of them.
The late David Cesarani, one of the world’s leading authorities on the Holocaust, urged me to write a follow – up after I told him in London that I had cut out ‘quite a lot’ to protect, not the dead but the living, people I once knew and loved.
Today, almost all of them are either dead or have left Britain. For me, the road is open once again.
“Give me the child of seven and I will give you the man,” said St Ignatius Loyola.
How I hope he was wrong.
It is possible to change but it takes luck as well as determination.
I was saved by chance – meeting a man who turned my fascist world upside down and inside out and education.
I do not know if my 1998 book has a message to anyone perplexed by race and religion today.
I hope it does.
In February 1998 the book was ranked as one of London’s best sellers by the Evening Standard. Extracts were sserialised in the Daily Mail.
THE TIMES (review by Philip Howard): This is a biography written in blood, love and tears in the tradition of Gosse’s Father and Son.
FINANCIAL TIMES ( Maurice Gran): Have you ever wondered how even the most dedicated anti-Semite could stay an unashamed Jew-baiter once the 1946 newsreel footage of the concentration camps, with their corpses piled up like firewood, had been seen. Trevor Grundy’s touchingly honest memoir goes some way towards answering that question.
SUNDAY TELEGRAPH: (Ian Burma): A psychiatrist once told me that a disproportionate number of young schizophrenics in her care were brought up in esoteric sects. If this is a pattern, Trevor Grundy appears to have got off lightly.
INDEPENDENT : Grundy’s memoir serves as a fascinating social commentary on post-war Britain, as well as providing a keen insight into what makes a card-carrying Fascist tick. Here lies the book’s real strength. Grundy takes us deep into the psyche of an obsessive racial bigot, laying bare the processes that create such a person and examining the delusion and confusion that cause them to remain thus. It is one of thre most candid accounts of blinkered intolerance you’re evcer likely to come across . . . An eminnently accessible work, not to mention an extremely important one.
THE GUARDIAN (Murray Armstrong): In Trevor Grundy’s household Oswald Mosley was a god and anti-Semitism a religion. Fifty years on, he tells how he escaped his hateful upbringing and how he discovered his mother’s terrible secret.
THE INDEPENDENT (Julia Pascal): Trevor Grundy’s childhood autobiography is a chilling confession which is bound to cause ripples. It reminds us how the corrosive influence of Fascism dripped through British society from the House of Wi8ndsor to the proletariat.
THE SCOTSMAN (Michael Pye): Young Trevor puzzled over what would happen when the vicar married a teacher of Hebrew. Would she be obliged to drink the blood of her own Christian children? He was a tortured virgin who gave up the chance of his first sex when he saw a Star of David between his generous would-be lover’s breasts.
TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT (Anne Chisholm): With both parents now dead, Trevor Grundy has at last been able to let in the light. He has written a remarkable book, an understated very English example of how evil and corruption in a family and a political movement were finally defeated by decency and truth.
THE GUARDIAN (Ben Pimlott): Memoir of a Fascist Childhood is a salutary reminder that ordinary people – star-struck women, spellbound children – were affected by what, for Mosley’s languid friends, often seemed like an upper-class game.
EVENING STANDARD (David Pryce-Jones): Trevor Grundy was once a bright young hope of British Fascism. At the age of 17, he spoke at a meeting in Trafalgar Square on behalf of the Fascist movement and its leader Sir Oswald Mosley. How he got into this predicament, and then how he escaped, is an extraordinary story, revealing and pitiful at the same time.
THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY (Robert Hanks): The very fact of his being able to write so dispassionately and so well about such strange beginnings is a kind of victory for the human spirit.
HAMPSTEAD AND HIGH GAZETTE (Ken Ellis): The book is history from the view of the small man. Let the big men take lessons from him in frankness and verve when they write their memoirs.
NEW STATESMAN (Francis Beckett): This book is compelling and moving. You can get books that tell you more facts about fascism. But nothing else offers the colour and texture of the times and the people.
MEDIA WATCH (Paul Martin): Prior to the 1990s, much of the ink spilt on analyzing Mosley concentrated on the leadership and organizational structure of the BUF (British Union of Fascists). We now have a rare populist account, albeit centered on the post-war Union Movement, of the experience of being a British fascist. Trevor Grundy’s Memoir of a Fascist Childhood has attracted attention for this very reason. Such testimonies convey more about racism and reactionary tendencies as a socio-psychological condition than any number of documents from the Public Record Office ever could.
CONSERVATIVE HISTORY JOURNAL (Ronald Porter): Grundy’s book has the absolute ring of truth about it. In it, the Mosleys come over as selfish even towards their most ardent and steadfastly loyal little band of sad admirers,
THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY (Paul Sussman): How did your mother see you off to school when you were a kid? In my case, it was with a loving wave followed five seconds later by a scream that I’d forgotten my sandwiches. Trevor Grundy’s recollections are somewhat less mundane. Each morning as he set off with his cap and satchel, his mother would stand on the doorstep giving him a full-on-Nazi salute and mouthing the letters PJ, short for Perish Judah, or May the Jews perish. When he returned home in the evening, having spent the day tormenting his Jewish classmates, his father would warmly congratulate him for being ‘a right little Jew- baiter.’ A conventional upbringing it certainly wasn’t.
DAILY TELEGRAPH (Nicholas Mosley): Trevor Grundy’s survival is remarkable. And his book is salutary, because it is often funny and tells effectively of Fascism as farce. Accounts solely of gruesomeness have been told often enough and can encourage what they aim to defeat.
THE HERALD /SCOTLAND (Rosemary Long): A quarter of a century, almost, of scary bigotry and force-fed fanaticism ought to have created a monster. But it didn’t.
THE INDEPENDENT (Julia Pascal): This startling book begins with Trevor Grundy burying his father. At the Mosleyite memorial Grundy – married, living in Africa and long discarded from this anti-Semite world – involuntarily raises his hand in the Fascist salute. It is a brave revelation suggesting that the virus of Fascism is impossible to eradicate.
SUNDAY INDEPENDENT/DUBLIN (Stephen Dodd): Trevor Grundy’s story is ultimately as sad as it is salutary. As disenchantment set in – soon for Trevor, intermittently for his parents – events took a tragic twist. His mother told him: ‘I think I made a terrible mistake . . . I think that I muddled up Mosley with Jesus.’ Suddenly adrift without the anchor of real faith in either the secular or the divine, she committed suicide. In one of her final letters, she told Trevor she thought everyone had let her down, even Mosley.
JEWISH CHRONICLE: (David Nathan): It is as if someone brought up in the asylum eventually got over the wall to bring the world tales of lifelong derangements, dangerous obsessions, malevolent stupidities and the crippled soul of permanently damaged inmates. Grundy’s account of this is simply written but is clearly propelled by anger at a life so distorted. His journalistic skills are employed to great effect to produce a crisp, no-frills memoir of shocking intensity.
EVENING NEWS/EDINBURGH (Gethin Chamberlain): It is difficult not to be appalled by Trevor’s story. Although no longer a fascist, even now he will not accept Mosley, the man he worshipped as a child, was a demon.
THE TABLET (Emma Klein): Trevor Grundy first saw Oswald Mosley on a snowy night in February 1948 at the rally in Bethnal Green where Mosley’s new Union Movement was founded. He was seven and three-quarters – ‘an interesting age to meet Oswald Mosley ‘as he puts it ironically today. He recalls that his beautiful mother Edna, an ardent Mosleyite, touched her hero as he passed a gesture that seemed to imbue her with renewed strength. At the meeting, which was attended by over one thousand followers, Trevor heard the words ‘Jewish bitch.’ Next day in the playground of his primary school in North London he walked up to a pretty dark-haired girl never joined the other children for morning prayers. ‘Jewish bitch,’ he said. His life changed when he learnt about his mother’s Jewish origins. ‘It was a hand grenade that turned into a key.’
THE JEWISH QUARTERLY (Wendy Brandmark): Trevor was urged to lead the movement’s youth league but with an honesty that makes this book so compelling, he remembers his big moment in Trafalgar Square speaking to a group which seems mostly composed of hecklers. ‘The sequence was filmed in black and white without any sound and when I saw it later, it reminded me of a Charlie Chaplin film.’
THE (CATHOLIC) UNIVERSE: Trevor Grundy looks back to his childhood with anger and sadness. He understands exactly the kinds of people to whom extremists like Mosley appeal.
EVENING STANDARD (Nicola Tyrer): Grundy came back from Africa to write his book. Married for the second time, to a fellow journalist who helped him with the task of confronting his past, he now lives in Edinburgh. He could never have written the book in his father’s lifetime. ‘I was too frightened of him.’
THE CHRONICLE-HERALD /Calgary, Canada (Heather Mallick): Trevor Grundy’s tale of growing up in London after World War 11 in the care of British fascist parents takes the cake. It beggars belief that any child should have suffered this and grown up to be sane, much less the author of this utterly magnificent autobiography.
FROM INDIVIDUAL BRITISH WRITERS
Dr Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury):” . . . an extraordinary chronicle. I wish all those who are inclined to underrate the corrupting potential of fascism could read and digest this.”
Andrew Marr: I have had several unsolicited readers’ letters saying how much they enjoyed it and how moving they found your writing to be.
David Aaronovitch: Who can argue with a change of heart? But first you have to acknowledge the thing you were. Like Trevor Grundy, who was born two months before Max Mosley, into a family of Mosley foot-soldiers. In his wonderfully candid book Memoir of a Fascist Childhood, Grundy recalls how his parents took him, at the age of eight, to a rally where Sir Oswald Mosley launched the Union Movement (UM). It was 1948. After a while, the audience began chanting the old BUF slogan ‘The Yids, the Yids, we’ve got to get rid of the Yids.’ Then someone started up with the movement’s song. Those of you who know the tune of the Horst Wessel Song can sing along.
David Cesarani: There is clearly a lot more to your life than that the chapters chronicles in Memoir of a Fascist Childhood. I look forward to the next book.
Rabbi Jonathan Romain: I have read it and can recommend it.
Fred Bridgland: Your book is one of the bravest and most memorable books I’ve ever read.
John Goldsmith: I would give it five star status for the lean and simple beauty of its prose, its unflinching honesty, and its poignant – at times almost unbearable – depiction of your mother in all her wonderousness and monstrousness and the weird secret she guarded from you for so long; for the limpid humour and evocation of character. But above all for shedding light on a world that has been a sort of appalling taboo in this country and which I think I now begin to understand a little. It’s a riveting read. It would make an amazing film. If one had the courage.
Uberto Pasolini: I think this is an understated, intelligent and insightful book which is successful above all in highlighting the banality of evil with a drab, working class context. The depiction of 1950s fascism is extremely convincing and at times fascinating, showing the all too recent support this could garner.
Libby Purvis: In his fascinating autobiography, Trevor Grundy has told the rarely told story of what it was really like for a working class boy inside Oswald Mosley’s movement.
Denis Norman, Zimbabwe’s first minister of agriculture after Independence in 1980, has died (December 21) in Oxfordshire, England, after a long battle against cancer of the oesophagus.
His appointment to Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s cabinet (at the suggestion of the late Lord Soames) after a long and bitter racial war that cost in the region of 35,000 lives came as a huge surprise.
At the time, it was seen as a strong and meaningful appointment that underscored Mugabe’s determination to cement racial and political reconciliation in a war-torn country.
Sadly, that policy did not last long and after serving Zimbabwe in various portfolios, Denis Norman and his wife, June, returned to England.
He told part of his, some would say amazing, story in a book called Odd Man In which was published last year by Weaver Press in Harare.
His death will be mourned by all those who knew him, worked with him and admired his honesty, integrity and ability to heal old racial wounds by doing so much to bring about the prosperity of thousands of small-scale black farmers while underlining the importance of experienced white commercial farmers and growers, once the backbone of a thriving agricultural sector of the economy.
One of the great men of the post-Independence era is no longer with us. It is hard to believe we will ever see the likes of him again in Zimbabwe.
(Above) John Laurie, President of the CFU with June and Denis Norman after he received the prestigious Farming Oscar for his services to agriculture – Picture with kind permission of Alexander Joe)
This isn't the India they taught us about in school
The Goan Everyday on 19/12/2019,
The morning of the protest at Azad Maidan, I woke up completely disoriented. I could not place where I was, and as I opened my eyes, I was conscious of waking up with a fear, which I couldn't place. In a minute I had registered what was happening : I was in my country, in India, and I was afraid because the fascist government has put the burden of "proving" my identity as an Indian on me.
I went through the day, gathering my thoughts for the protest to be : would people show up? Having attended "protests" as a journalist before, I have experienced that people don't spontaneously show up for anything that is not given a push for by opposition political parties.
While approaching the Azad Maidan at 4:30, I was taken aback by the large police force deployed all around the garden, fully armed, and ready. Just doing their job I suppose. But for once, I was not at the Maidan to fulfill my duty as a reporter but in my capacity as an Indian, who is fiercely against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register for Citizens (NRC).
When I found a comfortable spot amidst the multitude, it hit me that for once, a protest at Azad Maidan did not bear the political hue of a particular party, but I could see people from all walks of life assembling, fully prepared with placards and their dissenting vocal chords.
I almost cried at the beginning as I watched a young Muslim girl, younger than me, trying to find a place to sit, with a baby in her arms. I thought to myself, if she can't "prove that she is Indian" with documents, will she be sent to a detention camp with her baby? Or worse, without?
This isn't the India they taught us about in school. This isn't the India my teachers kept on harping about for years on end. I remember them literally shoving secularism down our throats at Fatima Convent High School.
"Unity in Diversity" was drummed into our minds and hearts and just to make sure we had truly understood the concept, the teachers made us do posters, and drawings and skits and everything you could think of so that we "learned" the concept well and truly.
Over the past few weeks, a lot of people have compared India to Nazi-occupied Germany in the early 20th century. So I won't do that. But I'll remind you instead of America, and how the Europeans stole the land from the natives.
The very often poor and uneducated native Americans are now relegated to "reservations" across a country that was once theirs. The burden to "prove that they were American" once the Europeans "discovered America", now lay on the illiterate native Americans, for the Europeans had "documents" to show that they owned the land, while the natives had none. And so the land they loved and tended to was snatched away from them and now owned by the "we have the documents" whites.
What will happen to the poor and illiterate in India's rural who don't have "documents to prove that they are Indian" now? Will they be relegated to detention camps? And then what?
The fascist Indian government is not counting on the pro-Hindu rashtra people in India to make their atrocities against humanity a success. Like Hitler's government, it is counting on the silence and the fence-sitting of the lakhs of educated people who are not standing up to oppose them. The many, many educated young people from the Hindu community, and other minority communities, who are choosing to either feign ignorance of the situation, or prefer to live in denial of the fascist government and policies and the extent to which it will go. (Because clearly the Godhra riots are not proof enough.)
I went for the protest and raised my voice as a citizen, and not a journalist, because the time for neutrality, or fence-sitting has passed. In journalism, as in life, most people do not express their hearts because they fear judgement for their political views. They fear people will look at them as belonging to "this" or "that" political ideology.
As I danced like a zombie at Zumba class today, my mind was numb. I simply cannot understand how the world and life is going on as it is when we're in the middle of a very frightening humanitarian crisis. Why aren't people storming the Secretariat and the streets, or at the very least, dissenting on social media?
This is no longer about politics. This is about humanity. This is about letting those who are living in fear right now know that they are not alone. Secular India stands with them, and for them.
In a world where the right-wing is so organised, it becomes hard to know who's secular, and which people are for you. It is easy to be afraid of how many youth are right-wing because of how organised and well thought-out even their social media posts are.
So this is to let you know that you are not alone. This is to let you know, the next time you wonder who's on your side, that this girl, writing from India's tiniest state, stands with you, stands for you, and stands for the secular India she knows, she loves, and is fighting for.