Politics of Betrayal in Camilla Gibb's "Sweetness in the Belly"
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Camilla Gibb’s Sweetness in the Belly is a novel with many layers that can be read from different perspectives. Issues of race, language, culture, tradition, religion, and politics are intermingled in the pages of the novel and are vividly discussed within the context of conflict and war in Ethiopia as well as in the austere England of Thatcher’s time. Yet, the tone of the white Western author, her knowledge of Islam, her extensive familiarity with the Arabic language and the various dialects spoken in Ethiopia, as well as characterization in the novel make it impossible not to read the story from a purely postcolonial angel. Both the writer and the protagonist in the story are placed above Western readers who, on average, have limited knowledge of Islam and the widely different customs of Muslims. This superiority raises the question of the credibility of the author and the sincerity of her tone that bring to mind Chinua Achebe’s observation that the “insiders” almost always question the “outsider’s” expression of sympathy and concern for the insiders. By drawing upon several postcolonial theories including those of Aijaz Ahmad, Chinua Achebe, and Margery Lee, and the close examination of events and characters in the novel, this paper will argue that despite the dedication the protagonist shows to her cause, Islam, and the impoverished people of Ethiopia, she, and by extension, the author who had spent a period of her life in Ethiopia conducting research as an anthropologist view Ethiopians as their “Civilizational Other.”