In China it is dangerous to mourn the students who died in the Tiananmen Square 30 years ago today. Even more citizens of Beijing died trying to stop the tanks reaching the square. My novel ‘Brushstrokes in Time’ could not be published in China because of that censorship. Award winning poet Jenny Lewis messaged me today about ‘Brushstrokes in Time’.
‘Congratulations on capturing the life and times of characters from this era with such compelling authenticity in your book. A tremendous tour de force and one of my top ten books of historical fiction’
This morning I listened to the wonderful Jared Diamond on ‘Start the Week’. He praised Chancellor Willi Brandt for kneeling down at the Warsaw Ghetto and uttering genuine remorse and how that action changed the political mood and landscape. In China that would be considered weakness but oddly if the current leadership, who were not responsible for the massacre, showed remorse it could transform China.
If we in the UK think we don’t need to learn that lesson –sadly we do. Our relationship with India would be transformed if we sincerely apologised for the massacre at Amritsar in which babies and children as well as adults were mown down. There has been no censorship but neither has there been a Willi Brandt moment. Indeed we have never apologised for the way we left India- announcing partition and then running away failing to police it with disastrous consequences for India and Pakistan ever since.
My second novel Sculpting the Elephant set in Oxford and India has an unusual historical sub plot which involved a search for a lost and suppressed history. Just as the communist party of China wants to suppress memories of June 4 1989- the memory of Ashoka’s good governance was destroyed but not for ever – he was rediscovered. There is always hope!