A man escapes from his native Zanzibar to England. His furtive departure makes it unlikely that he will ever return, but he and his family agree a bright future lies ahead. He meets an English woman and they build a life together. She is writing a thesis on narrative theory; he becomes a teacher in a cramped London school. His release is to weave stories, often fictional, for her and her comfortably suburban parents. These are romantic and reassuring tales of postcolonial Africa, of the scented terrace where he would sit and listen to his mother’s lyrical voice. But for all these stories of warmth and hospitality, the man has not heard from his family since his departure, nor has he written to tell them of his new life. And then the barriers come down and he is able, finally, to return for a visit. He finds a different country, more ramshackle than he had ever imagined or remembered, a country that allows him to see his life with a new clarity. Out of this confrontation he comes to understand the transformations that have befallen him.
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