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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This morning as he blearily scanned the headlines over his first cuppa, Ol’ Robbo’s eye was caught by an article from the Beeb about “the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean” and what a hell of a time it’s having environmentally after having been smacked by a cyclone the other day.

If you had asked me, “Robbo, what is the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean?'” just a few days ago, I confess I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea.  (Probably would have guessed Rodrigues just at random because there are turtles there.)

But by one of those serendipitous little coincidences, it just so happens that I had come across the answer earlier this week as I was poking about on the innertoobs: It’s the Island of Socotra off the coast of Yemen, of which I had never actually heard before.

And why on earth was Robbo looking up this particular piece of information?  Because I had just re-read Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief, which is set on the fictional island of Azania (also off the coast of Yemen), and I became interested in trying to figure out if Waugh’s creation had a real basis.

Alas, no, at least not physically.  The map Mr. Wu himself provided with his novel shows Socotra to the north of the much larger Azania, but a quick check of the real map shows that there is nothing directly south of it except a whoooole lot of water.

On the other hand, there apparently are some similarities between the two in terms of flora and fauna, as well as cultural and racial history.  (Waugh’s description of the mix of primitive tribal paganism, Nestorian Christianity, and decayed Islam, overlaid on a mixed population of African and Arab, with a few scourings from the Levant, seems to echo what is said of Socotra.)  Also the general lack of interest by the Western Powers once Aden was established as a British stronghold.

So perhaps the novel’s primitive, ungovernable territory to which poor, misguided, Oxford-educated Emperor Seth attempts to bring utopian Progressivism, aided and abetted by that arch ne’er-do-well, Basil Seal, is not such pure fiction after all.  But whatever Mr. Wu had in mind, as I say, it’s serendipitous that I should have been poking around in it just before this story came to my attention.

 

 

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