Our post on this subject is in three parts but, as we work on it, immediate access to the relevant twitter thread of Yasmin Begum can be found by googling ‘Jaan Exotic Jim Perrin’ which outlines her response to Jim Perrin’s review of Eric Ngalle’s biography. And by googling ‘Nation. Cymru Jim Perrin’, Jasmine Donahaye’s review — of Jim Perrin’s own review — can be read.
None of the contents of his review will be surprising to those who have encountered him but it is interesting to see how his attitudes have spread to others. And it is significant that he has chosen to write in this way when, and particularly at this time, the BLM movement — Black Lives Matter— has risen to prominence. Meanwhile, as we said, we will endeavour to cover the story more fully, in three parts.
Part 1. Five excerpts of a review by Jim Perrin of ‘I, Eric Ngalle: One Man’s Journey Crossing Continents From Africa to Europe.’ which was published in Wales Arts Review in 2019. The full review stayed on their website for at least three weeks when they were obliged to remove it. It had evoked a quite furious response and, as well, allegations of racism. These excerpts appear in the twitter thread ‘Jaan Exotic’ — Part 2.
Part 2. The twitter thread in response to the review of July 8th, 2019, including the review excerpts.
Part 3. A response by Jasmine Donahaye in Nation Cymru, July 11th, 2019, to the twitter thread covering Welsh Arts Review’s decision to publish the review, and the review itself.
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Part 1. Five excerpts from the review by Jim Perrin of Eric Ngalle’s book:
1) JP: ‘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.
2) JP: ‘…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 the 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?’
3) JP: ‘… from childhood of finding a horned viper in a rat mole burrow is alien and terrifying. It’s integrated back into the world of the Cardiff housing estate in which he and his daughter eventually find themselves by the introduction of commentary from a David Attenborough documentary he watched on television at the latter place. Does that somehow shadow the veracity — if it is such — of the original account? It’s a question that could only arise when your belief in the author has been undermined.’
4) JP: ‘These disjunctions abound. They add to our understanding of the terrible deracinations implicit in the migrant experience. Yes it’s to the credit of Wales that this little country took Ngalle in, providing him with a Creative Wales Award to allow him to write his memoir, found him a publisher in the excellent little west Wales house of Parthian and, through the good offices of kulturtragers like Sally Baker of PEN Cymru and Peter Florence at Hay Festival, showcased him at our nation’s leading English-language literary events. But have they perhaps been a little credulous, a little tokenist, here?’ (This paragraph is a shining example of Jim Perrin’s flattering ways — of casting his bread upon the water— as he seems, innocently, to mention people of note, and with whom he wishes to be ‘in’.)
5) JP: ‘Ngalle may have more to offer in the way of explorations of the cultural disjunctions that so teasingly underpin this Sergio Leone eastern. Unfortunately, the boastfully sexually exploitative, palpably dishonest authorial persona that emerges from this egotistical narrative [Jim Perrin at his libellous best in this paragraph…] plays straight into the prejudiced hands of those seditious racists, the ardent brexiteers. They’ll find too much in it to confirm their terrible , wicked, dehumanising prejudices. [Jim Perrin’s own ‘ardent’ prejudice tellingly on show here; his Facebook pages are extraordinary in their vituperation.] [And finally, these extraordinary words:] It’s certainly not a text for which many outside our literary establishment, which has been so swift to raise its dubious author to a position of influence, could feel much fondness or admiration.’
This was not so much a ‘review’ as a character assassination.
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To be continued…