St helena

Following Napoleon: my exile in St Helena

St Helena In an attempt to escape from the world, I have come with friends to St Helena. It is quite a good place for the exercise. Until a few years ago the only way to get to the island was a five-day boat voyage from Cape Town. Shortly before Covid, an airport for this British overseas territory was finally completed at UK taxpayer expense. To protect some local insects the runway was put at a slightly wrong angle, making it difficult – sometimes impossible – to land. The weekly flight from Johannesburg therefore refuels in Namibia in case landing is impossible and the plane has to about-turn. A lifesize statue

A meditation on exile and the meaning of home

What does home mean? Where your dead are buried, as Zulus believe? Or where you left your heart, as a migrant’s saying goes? In these pages William Atkins melds history, biography and travel into a meditation on exile and the meaning of home. It is a volume for our times, as the author seeks to reveal ‘something about the nature of displacement itself’. Part One introduces the three 19th-century political exiles who form the spine of the book. Louise Michel (1830-1905), the illegitimate daughter of a maid in Haute-Marne, became an anarchist and Communard, who murdered policemen with her Remington carbine. Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo (1868-1913), the young king of the Zulu

Straight lines and grandiose schemes — Napoleon the gardener

On 1 January 1806, a little over one year after his coronation, the Emperor Napoleon ordered the abolition of France’s new republican calendar and a return to the old Gregorian model. Over the past seven years republicans had grown used to ‘empire creep’, but even for those who had been forced to watch the principles of the revolution dismantled one by one and a republican general metamorphose into Emperor of the French, this last insult carried a peculiarly symbolic charge. For all its engaging dottiness — each new year, coinciding with the autumnal equinox, would begin on a different date — the short-lived republican calendar had embodied some of the