Gardens of Mars

11 May

Gardens Of Mars sounds like an incredible book so full of Madagascar life and culture, and in 45 minutes, we get to look into the life behind the book and the author as Matt Holland from the Swindon Festival of Literature interviews John Gimlette, the author, online.

John used to be a family lawyer in Swindon but changed jobs to travel the world and write books. John talks about Madagascar’s neglected culture. Before this interview I didn’t even realise how often Madagascar is forgotten but I came out of the video knowing so much more, and so many more interesting facts about the lively incredible and unique culture of the country.

watch Gardens of Mars talk

John really knows his stuff as after all he did visit Madagascar for an entire 3 months. Now as I am sure we can all agree throughout life and lockdown especially we have come across many, many powerpoints and I am sure everyone is fed up with them – my personal experience with powerpoints so far has been terrible as some of my lessons are sometimes heavily focused on them – but John Gimlette gives us all a refreshing individual way to describe his time in Madagascar through the use of 10 different objects all listed in chronological order. Each artifact represents a different period in time and each is interesting and has its own story behind it, in fact each object is so full of stories I bet that these objects could have their own separate books behind them. 

The most interesting in my opinion was the penultimate object, a tear gas grenade. The story behind this object is a lengthy one so I shall summarise. When John visited Madagascar there was a protest going on and huge crowds were growing in the centre of large towns. I thought the protest was going to be like the ones I have experienced, mostly Greta Thunbergs school strike for climate change, but it turned out much differently.

John was invited to one of the protests and not wanting to miss out on history he went and watched from a high up point. The military was there to keep the crowd under control but they were attacked by the crowd. Under a lot of pressure the military opened fire on the crowd. 80 were injured and four were killed. This absolutely blew me away. I was so shocked to hear it and nearly leapt out of my seat. The thought of innocent people torn down like that is unimaginable and it really makes me appreciate how privileged I am to live in a country which lets me speak my mind without being too worried about the consequences. When I strike the worst thing that can happen to me is just my classmates winding me up, but for them its death…. Anyway John ventured down and picked up a tear gas grenade off the floor. Of course the story is much more thrilling than how I summarised it here which is why you should definitely watch the interview for yourself.

I found this interview very interesting and it makes me really want to give the book a read so I get to learn more about the rich and incredible culture of Madagascar. I would certainly recommend anyone to go and give the interview a watch, it is 45 minutes well spent.

Words by Milo Davison

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