Q2.5.3 Zadie Smith: The Embassy Of Cambodia Cambodian history 12th century worlds largest religious structure (temple complex) • Angkor 1912 French prolecurate An Morocco →→ improved infrastructure Wat" was built Kingdom of Cambodia 1944 1953 1955 Cambodia Sihanouk occupied by was the first Japanese monarch →> Cambodia get independend Vietnam War • Violence and pain in human history 1969 us bombed Cambodia 1970 Sihanouk is overthrown Civil War between Kampuchea and government forces of the Kingdom of Camboolia Khymer Rouge regime Vietnamese Cambodian War 1975 1978 1979 1902 Vietnamese occupation ↓ Kingdom of Cartbodia again General information • Setting: North London district of Willesden, August 2012 • Narrative structure o Fatou: First-person plural narrator (speaking on behalf of a whole community - natives representing the community) ■ Collective criticism o Omniscient narrator: old lady on the balcony (British women who tries to imagine what Fatou' life would be like) o Narrator = contrast to Fatou (she fails to integrate herself and is an outsider) • Fatou: young immigrant from Ivory Coast o Ivory Coast - Ghana (Accra) - Libya - Italy (Rome) - UK (London) • Issues dealt with: problems of belonging, inclusion vs. exclusion in multicultural societies One place can have many connections to the world o History of Cambodia as an example o No explanation to all the violence: the walls of the Embassy block the view from the truth Summary The embassy of Cambodia and its surroundings are introduced Fatou, a young African women, passes the embassy on her way to the swimming pool, remembering how she learnt to swim...
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in the rough Accra sea, where she worked as a chambermaid in a hotel. The origin and surprising appearance of the embassy - The embassy reminds most of the people from Willesden of the genocide that happened 1975 to 1979. On Mondays Fatou observes the embassy, watching the badminton that is played hidden behind the wall. She also realizes, that most of the people going there do not look Cambodian. She uses her employers card to go to the swimming pool. A basketball hoop is added to the garden but nobody plays there while Fatou is watching. It does not replace the steady game of badminton. The street of the embassy is known for a number of curious buildings which are introduced. Fatou describes the people's surprise due to the Embassy although they are used to having unique buildings on their streets. Fatou's background/ origin (her achievements with the help of her father) and how she lives with the Derawal family. She might seem like a slave but says she isn't one because of her ability to leave the house, meet people and go swimming. Andrew is introduced. Fatou observes a women exiting the embassy and is interested in her appearance. Meanwhile the badminton carries on. The people of Willesden draw a line in order to not let other country's histories affect theirs too much. Fatou talks about how you cannot keep up with everyone's history. She reflects on her attitude towards her own existence. Fatou starts a conversation with Andrew about faith and big events in history like the Holocaust which drifts back to the financial corruption of the Nige government and even further to Hiroshima and religion. She says the devil is responsible for all the suffering. She imagines how Andrew would be as her husband. Even though it is raining she leaves the café, says goodbye to Andrew and puts her swimming cap on as she does not have an umbrella. They part their ways with a kiss on the cheek. She arrives at the Derawals', does a little bit of work and helps Asma after she has swallowed a marble. Fatou saves her life. However, everything she receives is a thank you and a nod. "To keep you is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss." In Willesden there are almost all New People. The narrator reflects on people's attitudes. While Fatou is swimming she thinks of Carib Beach and her father. She also thinks about the women working at the hotel, about faith and about how the devil is evil. Fatou and Andrew got to know each other with theological conversations about for example why there is pain. She describes how they first met. Fatou is thinking about the last time she cried while swimming and about how she hardly ever cries but solely due to the thought of how hard her life and others are. This makes her think of more situations concerning water like her baptism and feelings after. Fatou arrives home and gets another list of things to do. She realizes that no one of the people she works for know how to treat her after saving Asma's life. Fatou and Andrew meet again and talk about Cambodia and Andrew's big man policy in the café. In the end she asks him whether he wants to go swimming with her. They go to the swimming pool together, holding hands and talking about the future and other things they could do the next time. As she swims her laps Fatou realizes that Andrew cannot swim so he just sits on the verge. The same evening Fatou is fired and needs to leave right away. She asks for her passport and packs her things. Then she asks Andrew if she can stay with him for a while and work at his office and he approves. While she is waiting for him she watches the badminton in the embassy again and all the people and the traffic passing by. Fatou Refugee and works as a nanny for a Pakistani family • Exploited, treated with disrespect, does not get paid, but is allowed to live with them, go swimming,... Raped by a Russian tourist in Africa, does not despair or rebel ● • Puts up with humiliation, discrimination, disrespect and loneliness • Victim who is dependent on the kindness of strangers Definition of modern slavery • forced and abused recruitment/ harbouring of people, early marriage • crime since Modern Slavery Act of 2015 • severe exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain (e.g. forced labour, human trafficking) • people are being controlled - they can face violence or threats • forced into inescapable debt, or have had their passport taken away, threatened with deportation Fatou as a modern slave? In favour of her being a modern slave -does not have her passport -is being controlled by the Derawals (has to sow receipts of the money she spent) -> they always know where she is and what she does -exploited regarding household,... -verbally/ mentally abused (treated disrespectfully) -no real profession Against her being a modern slave -is allowed to leave the house -cannot do anything just because she does not have any money left --> She cannot be described as a typical modern slave because still has her own freedom regarding going to church, meeting friends or swimming. Still she is enslaved to a certain extent because although the Derawals give her a home, they do not respect but exploit her instead. --> She herself accepts her situation --> Derawals are integrated and assimilated -> treat her from a British point of view The role of the Embassy • Opposite of the bus stop and between the swimming pool and the Derawals (in the centre) • Suburbs, surrounded by wealthy residences o does not fit in, just like Fatou + has do deal with her situation on her own (alone) • National flag as connection to Cambodia o Fatou is also still deeply connected with her home country and the experiences she made there • Strangely compelling aura o Fatou may see herself in the strange and not fitting appearance • Genocide represents struggle and suffering of all people (violence and pain) of Cambodia and Fatou • Wall: pain and feelings trapped inside the wall or hidden from the outside o details or origin of pain and violence in human history such as the Cambodian history and colonialism are hidden behind the wall Cambodia controlled and protected by France, later occupied by Japan and Vietnam o Fatou will never be fully independent, because she needs others o she does not have an occupation, probably not even a qualification • Basketball hoop that is moved inside the wall o Fatou also has the ability to move and go outside but is still sort of trapped as she does not have her passport Game of badminton o ups and downs or endurance/resilience of Fatou (get knocked down, get back up) o a match/battle that lasts forever o Play in silence and in secret ( no show off and hidden secrets) Andrew Okonkwo • born in Nigeria and close friend of Fatou's (3 years older than her) • works as a night guard in the city • Friendly and openminded -> sits down with Fatou without knowing her and talks to her • very religious, believes in God and that he loves all people as they are • nevertheless, he still often relies and leans on logic • often talks about or discusses religious and political topics • not a fan of the "Big Man Policy" o wants equality and not that some people are "more important" than others (no social classes) • very educated • Conscientious -> if he does not know something or is not sure, he looks it up • patient, friendly, sympathetic, understanding, caring, funny, sophisticated, helpful, respectful loyal and a good friend -> wants to impress Fatou with his knowledge and skills -> important role in Fatou's life as her only real closest friend whom she can trust and who respects her -> With his help and (moral) support she can manage her difficult and sometimes challenging life well -> he encourages her to see the important things in life, to do better than she did yesterday and to await the future with hope Comparison Fatou, Andrew and Parvez Fatou Aspect Motives for immigration -sent by her dad -better life Problems they face and how they cope with them Expectations of the future Who copes best with the challenge of migration disrespect and exploitation --> swimming, meeting Andrew,... Conclusion Best example of a typical -not a good example, immigrant Scope of integration -being accepted by the people -happiness -first generation immigrant because still feels like an outsider and somehow cannot integrate/ assimilate herself -does not cope with it at all -does not fit in -neither integrated nor assimilated Andrew -education -chance of a better and wealthier life -pretty satisfied -hard seeing other people like him struggle with their lives -> tries to help them -happiness -good job (education and part time Business degree,...) -first generation immigrant -good example, because wants to fit in and goes to college in order to start a better life -copes with it best -friends, activities,... Parvez -Commonwealth -economic reasons -better, wealthier life -problems with his son -divide between Britain and Pakistan (religion) Slavery and exploitation • Economic and sexual exploitation of people (refugees, immigrants,...) • "To keep you is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss" o Unfair, merciless treatment, disrespect towards an individual o Motto of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge --> help from others, talking, trying to change his behaviour -happiness -good relationship with his son -first generation immigrant -best example, because he tries to fit in and start a new life -copes with it well regarding himself, but also fails to include Ali -integrated and assimilated -assimilated but not integrated Themes and interpretation Pain, evil and lack of solidarity Conversations about pain, suffering, solidarity and evil in the world • Fatou's personal experiences: discrimination, rape, flight, hard menial work, exploitation, maltreatment Vulnerability of the powerless poor and unprivileged people • Helpless in the face of evil, happiness is hard to hold on to • Everybody only seems to care about themselves Racism • Willesden as a multicultural community, large immigrant population. Mainly from the former colonies of the British Empire o UK as a country of unparalleled diversity, but also tensions Fatou and the Derawals: relationship between Pakistanis and Africans o They feel superior to her -> Racism and discrimination continue to be part of daily life for powerless people in Britain The significance of swimming for Fatou • Swimming is her sanctuary -> it is the one thing she can always do and does not have to give up when leaving • It is her way of coping with the situation and helps her get her thoughts aligned • Always keep swimming o Fatou keeps going and does not give up despite all the ups and downs in her life Possibility to escape reality and process her trauma o Can let her thoughts wander free without worries o Pretend that she is a normal girl that likes to swim (not feel excluded for once) o Comfort action and relaxing for her o Coping mechanism (can let out her anger/ worries) • Symbol for her strength o Taught herself how to swim o Manages to overcome difficult situations on her own o Determination and survival in post-colonial England Getting "washed clean" o Having been raped is a sin that she needs to be cleaned from o Water -> hopes her sins get washed away Constant habit that keeps her grounded o Swimming as the only thing that remains the same Multiculturalism in the contemporary British society • England's view (former Prime Minister David Cameron) o immigrants failure, they did not want to integrate o Wants monoculturalism (+ increase in nationalistic views) Negates social state (desolate neighbourhoods and poor working conditions) • Goal of multicultural policies: create democratic society without ethnic and racial hierarchy o Zadie Smith describes a London contrary to this goal • Fatou as female immigrant who is not integrated and does not want to assimilate herself • Her situation as a reminder of the failure of Britain's multicultural policies • Fatou and the Embassy -> strange, exotic objects provoking paradoxical feelings of rejection and curiosity • Forced into being a passive member of society Implied inequality of ethnicities -> exclusion Fatou sees herself in the Embassy • Natives and the Derawals o 2 narratives symbolize huge gap between Fatou and the natives o Aggression and racism towards her (mistreated by Derawals) o Not recognized as an equal member of society o Shows an immigrant's misrecognition in a multicultural society Badminton - Symbolic meaning Badminton score as a heading o Right side: score points are added (Society) o Left side: score stays at 0 points (Fatou) • Continuous up and down: still does not give up, although nothing changes for the better o Endurance and strength o Persistent pattern of achievement and defeat Ball represents her mental state The game always goes on: reinforces movement in her life o Does not have time to stop and always has to move forward no matter what happens • Player 1: Fatou o Hopeful return Player 2: white and superior society (e.g. Derawals) o Exploiting Fatou o Violent conclusion