Foreword to A Place of Gardens and Lilies

Back in 2006, a year after its publication, someone asked me why I wrote A Place of Gardens and Lilies. I thought about it for a while and, a few months later, ended up writing a 12,000-word discourse on the matter. By some accounts, at the very least two crimes had been committed in writing the novel: the story's protagonist decidedly failed the requisite ‘identifiable hero’ test, and its main theme was most determinedly un-commercially polemical.

In the event, neither offence was an accident. I knew my business, precisely what bone I had picked and with whom, but like many charged with failure to provide good service I felt it necessary to go on the defensive and account for the work's inspiration and ambition, in the process revisiting both my and my father's wanderings while at all times aware that few things can be more futile for a writer than to resort to explaining their creation; all worthy works of the mind must stand in their own right, independent of whims, fashion, sentiment, context, background or mitigation.

So now, all these years later, this edition shall remain free from said discourse. But I still fully stand by the book. The object of its concern is even more relevant today that it was when written.

Even more now than then, people near and far demonize and slaughter others in the name of causes, grievances and for the good and the Gods, and even more now than then do so under the aegis of overeducated smooth talkers from the privileged ex-colonial elites who conjure catchy jingles about “giving a voice to the voiceless” or “siding against the powerful”; in doing so not merely appearing to suggest that they “care”, but that the voiceless and powerless - as long as they happen not to be their next door neighbours, at any rate - can inherently do no wrong.

Powerful newspaper editors masquerading as advocates for the voiceless, and influential artists posing as protectors of the powerless, don't just make for paradoxical realities but are indicative of a ruthless lack of character and universal absence of integrity. The unrefined unschooled undisciplined “unrelatable” - and voiceless and powerless - protagonist of this story may not have a clue how to prevent fear and winsome hopes from leading him to ruin, but, for all the while he sings in a Kingdom of wily creatures' jingles, his voice makes for music.

 Leclere, 2016

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