Peter Godwin in conversation

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An hour of tragedy and comedy

Peter Godwin sold every single one of his books on display here, following the event I chaired with him this afternoon, which moved audience members to tears of both sorrow and laughter.
It is little wonder since many of the themes he discussed chimed with issues at the heart of life in the Maldives. As well as exploring the concept of “transitional justice”, he detailed his sense of being an outsider, living between two worlds, and the concept of home, as also movingly explored in his award-winning memoirs, “When the Crocodile Eats the Sun” and “Mukiwa: a White Boy in Africa”, which won the George Orwell Prize and the Apple/Esquire/Waterstones Award.

He also gave insight into his creative processes of storytelling, from the intimacies of the first-person and the “cinematic metaphor” he feels best describes memoir-writing, to how his childhood has influenced not only the content but the very cadences of his language. He spoke of the importance of using detail to find the universal, how to write for two audiences, and the “thrill of recognition” that writing can spark, at the realization that you are not alone.

His new book, “The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe” has recently been published, and is described by Paul Theroux as “a chronicle of the mess that is Zimbabwe…an important book detailing the violent realities, the grotesque injustices, the hunger, the sadness, and a portrait of Mugabe, the tyrant who is the cause of it all”.

What has happened in Zimbabwe, he said, is a “tragedy in the true dramatic Greek sense of the word”.

Godwin described how dictators “live in a bubble”, in a “state of altered reality”. The session was filled with sparkling anecdotes, and he injected humour into grave themes, having the whole audience in laughter at his tips for coping if you ever find yourself next to a dictator, and how one particular dictator has been spotted looking for lipstick in Manhattan.

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