In this part we will quote at length a twitter thread which responds to the review by Jim Perrin, published in Welsh Arts Review in 2019, of: I, Eric Ngalle: One Man’s Journey Crossing Continents from Africa to Europe. Jim Perrin’s review caused considerable outrage leading to many incensed complaints to the editor of WAR; so much so that some three weeks later it was deemed necessary to remove it. (We imagine Jim Perrin was mortified, as usually he has ruled the roost in these matters and would not have expected to be challenged…) In this post we will also quote several excerpts from his ill-advised review.
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Jaan Exotic, now posting as Taffistan Am Byth, @punkistani93, #BlackLivesMatter, joined in January 2018, and has 4,119 following and 4111 followers, including Robert Macfarlane and The Lonely Crowd.)
- I’ve read a review of @yomadene’s debut: I Eric Ngalle… This review was posted on @WalesArtsReview, a magazine based in Wales. I feel so, so, so uncomfortable with this review, that I’ve decided to write about it publicly. 3.21 PM, July 8th, 2019.
- Many have raised eyebrows at this review. I’m going to do my best to articulate everything I think is wrong with it. Even if Eric identifies with Ely in Cardiff, and I identify with Fairwater.
- First up, the author of this review with @WalesArtsReview is well known to frequent far right-wing spaces online. It’s so well known it’s been written about here by: jacssisters.org. It’s the same Jim Perrin. That’s him. The one WAR asked to write this; safe, safe.
- There’s a direct insinuation that Eric is unreliable owing to his experience of being trafficked as a vulnerable adult from Cameroon to the UK via Russia. The fact Jim doesn’t mention colonialism but US led wars, speaks a lot to his knowledge.
- It’s been a while since I heard the term ‘ illegal immigrant’. Nobody is illegal. The border crossed us, we didn’t cross the borders. My mate’s granddad went from Eritrea to across Africa with bags of goods to swap along the way. These borders are new concepts, so is the ‘illegal’. From Jim Perrin’s review: The lesson to be drawn from that passage, as well as a mirroring effect from The Grass Arena, might perhaps be brought to the consideration of I, Eric Ngalle — a very different text from either Johnson’s or Healy’s. Ngalle was born in the sub-Saharan state of Cameroon, bordering Nigeria to the south. He intended to study economics at a university in Brussels, but fell foul of a sequence of scams and mishaps, and found himself in Malta, a student entry visa for Russia in his possession as he boarded a plane for Moscow. Once in Russia, homeless and moneyless among illegal immigrant communities in a country where casual racism appears to have been the norm, his troubles really began.
- Let’s unpick this description of Cameroon as a ‘sub-Saharan state of Cameroon bordering Nigeria to the south.’ This is such a contentious way to describe Cameroon. There was a civil war with deep penetrating influence to this day in Cameroon around areas like i.e. language.
- The civil war was caused because Cameroon wanted to secede from Nigeria. Imagine this. Imagine someone describing Bangladesh less than forty years after independence by articulating its position to Pakistan.
- Here’s another example: a tweet went around about how we describe Wales as a principality when it’s not, but all Jim can tell us about Cameroon (having read an autobiography partially set in Cameroon) is that it’s below Nigeria and the Sahara. This isn’t colonial is it?
- If Jim Perrin had kept in touch with @yomadene’s work, he’d see that linguistic rights are a running theme throughout all of his work as a bilingual (if not trilingual) speaker of languages, including English and French. He’s done so much work with @lucapaci and @PENWalesCymru.
- This is when it properly starts to kick off, and not just in a proper sly subtle, next level colonial manner way. The author, Jim Perrin, insinuates @yomadene is an unreliable narrator because of his experience of being an asylum seeker and refugee. Outrageous. From Jim Perrin’s review: That lesson thrummed away in my brain as I endured reading of the couplings, the beatings, the naked bodyings-forth of authorial persona, the money-making scams that Ngalle describes. Descriptions of the scams in particular and the rehearsed and plausible nature of his enticement-pitches, have a double edged effect. If he managed to persuade time and again in a perilous environment vicious gangsters to part with large amounts of money (and afterwards generally managed to avoid their understandable desire for revenge), do we not need to take from that necessity to be put on our guard, to be wary of his testimony and its designs upon us? Can we trust him as a reliable narrator? To be continued.