Reconstructing History in Vassanji's 'The Magic of Saida'
Pivato, Joseph J.
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M.G. Vassanji's novel, The Magic of Saida (2012) deals with the return journey of Kamal Punja, a Canadian medical doctor searching for his past in Africa. The novel has two narrators: The first is Kamal who recalls the story of his early life in Tanzania and his search for the mysterious woman, Saida. The second narrator is Martin Kogoma, a publisher, who listens to Kamal's story and comments on past and present events in Africa. In trying to remember his life Kamal also reconstructs the lost history of the Indian communities in Tanzania. The paper tries to critically examine the relationship between Kamal's life story and the reconstructed history of communities in Tanzania. Using post-colonial theories we will consider the following topics: the phenomenon of the return journey among immigrants; identity and ethnic duality; memory and the loss of memory; and different perspectives in writing history. The narrative framing of dual narrators may remind the reader of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, however the relationship between Canada and African is different from that of European countries. There are many references in The Magic of Saida to the German colonization of the Tanganyika territory and the later occupation by the British. The literary links between Canada and African include Margaret Laurence's This Side Jordan (1960) and The Tomorrow-Tamer (1963) and Dave Godfrey's The New Ancestors (1970). Vassanji also reminds us of the South Asian migrations to East Africa.