Three Island Journeys
by William Atkins
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Pub Date 5 May 2022 | Archive Date 24 May 2022
‘Breathtakingly good. I am deeply moved by what Atkins has achieved. Exiles is completely sui generis.’
EDMUND DE WAAL
French anarchist Louise Michel.
Zulu prince Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo.
Ukrainian revolutionary Lev Shternberg.
This is the story of three unheralded nineteenth-century dissidents, whose lives were profoundly shaped by the winds of empire, nationalism and autocracy that continue to blow today. Each was exiled to a remote island. Each sacrificed freedom and home to larger ideas of freedom and home.
In Exiles, William Atkins travels to their islands of banishment – Michel’s New Caledonia in the South Pacific, Dinuzulu’s St Helena in the South Atlantic and Shternberg’s Sakhalin off the Siberian coast – in a bid to understand how exile shaped them and the people among whom they were exiled. In doing so he illuminates the solidarities that emerged between the exiled and the colonised. Rendering these figures and the places they were forced to occupy in shimmering detail, Atkins reveals deeply human truths about displacement, colonialism and what it means to have and to lose a home.
Combining history, biography and travel writing, Exiles is a masterpiece of imaginative empathy.
‘An incredible, brilliant act of retrieval. Atkins takes up three relatively obscure nineteenth-century lives and he turns them into epic narratives of island exile . . . A gripping and visceral book.’
PHILIP HOARE, author of Albert & The Whale
‘Atkins spins a marvellous tapestry of colourful tales, beautifully weaving history and travel accounts together with his thoughts on one of the most important subjects of our time: exile.’
ANDREA WULF, author of The Invention of Nature
‘A fascinating study of displacement and empire. Atkins’s voice is distinctive: subtle, reflective and tough-minded.’ COLIN THUBRON, author of The Amur River
‘[Atkins] is humane, humble and empathetic, as he passes through his own circle of daily grief . . . In this beautiful and moving tapestry of days, the nineteenth century comes to life, and from different corners of the globe arrive lessons on the meaning of un/belonging.’
ILYA KAMINSKY, author of Deaf Republic
‘Thoughtful, meditative, beautifully sustained and transporting.’
GAVIN FRANCIS, author of Island Dreams
‘An intricate and intriguing exploration of three exiles and the island prisons that held them, told with a wonderful combination of erudition and humour.’
JULIA BLACKBURN, author of Time Song