Recently in the Indian Ocean, 1600 miles off the African continent, the Seychelles is justly famous for providing one the truly idyllic destinations of our globe. Less well known perhaps, is its significance in providing the backdrop to one of the most inspiring political narratives of our times: the story of its current elected president, James Michel.
In a wide-ranging and admirably candid account, Michel brings this story brilliantly back to life with the release of his autobiography “Distant Horizons: My Reflections”. Intimately detailing his extraordinary life in parallel with the land that nurtured it, we are taken from the extreme poverty of Mahe to the presidential palace. The vividness with which Michel imbues this story is striking; one can feel his breath emanating from every turned page.
It would perhaps not be correct to describe this as a classic “rags-to-riches” story, if only because it is clear that it was not riches that drove Michel out of the lowly social circumstances of his birth, but the wish to make life better for those whose lives he knows so well; to help fashion a young country emerging out of the furnace of independence.
The indelible markings formed by the common challenges that such nations face, as they find their place in the world, are instantly recognisable to those who share that same notion of heritage. As a child of colonialism myself, I have long held a special interest for the land and the people of Seychelles. With this book James Michel has succeeded wonderfully in feeding the interest, and I have no doubt whatsoever that he can – and will – provide many others with similar sustenance.
Virendra Sharma MP, Ealing Southall
The degree of candour in this book is refreshing as so many autobiographies are a bland chronology of events with no personal openness. By the end of the book you get to know James Michel, the child and the sensitive teenager. You will feel his disappointment at the lack of access to education as a young adult, you will be engaged by his courage as the organizer of workers demonstrations for rights in a racist colonial Seychelles and you will appreciate his zeal for fairness as the editor of a revolutionary newsletter. He reveals how a man with such inauspicious family and social circumstances could and did rise to the Presidency? He lets you enter his personal and family life and allows the reader to view his mind, his actions, his successes but also his failures and why he feels his political task is still unfinished. The man, his politics and the fate of his nation are all interlinked. This is an inspirational read and wonderfully illustrated.
Parmjit Dhanda, Member of Parliament for Gloucester 2001 – 2010, Former Education Minister, UK
This personal memoir of James Michel, born out of wedlock to the servant of a landowner, brought up in extreme poverty, in a nation controlled by colonial masters This is a story of personal triumph and fortitude. It imbues the reader with a sense of optimism that success can come to everyone no matter where they start in life. This is an uplifting account of an individual’s struggle that mirrors the struggle of his nation for self-determination and which he ultimately was elected to lead. Politicians should read this book.
John Robertson MP. Member of Parliament for Glasgow North West and former Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Foreign Office, UK