I was born and spent the first few years of my life in the Seychelles. It’s easy to say those words, but the reality behind them is far more than I can hope to capture in syllables and sentences. All I can do is share a few images, and hope they convey something of the land of my birth.
Lush, abundant vegetation—fruit trees laden with fruit. The world of my childhood was full of growing things. I remember forests so green that many years later, the words of the Spanish poet Frederico Garcia—“Green, oh how I love you, Green!”—immediately reminded me of what I felt seeing those forests.
Many of the trees were fruit-bearing: mangoes, bananas, coconuts, jack fruit, breadfruit. And their boughs were never bare. They continued to bear month in and month out—there is no harvest season on the equator—and if you didn’t pick the fruit, it just fell off and rotted on the ground.
Clear, pure oceans teeming with countless fish. I went swimming in the ocean almost every day, for hours at a time. I remember once spending the entire day in the water, even when it rained. I never got cold, but water was almost blood-warm and the rain was too.
Inside the reef, the water was shallow, the bottom flat and white sand as far as the eye, with the occasional dark patch of seaweed. When I went out along a headland to look down into the ocean beyond the reef, I could see all the way to the bottom through a thick, shifting curtain of fish—tuna, Red Snapper, mackerel, angelfish, parrotfish.
Granite mountain peaks wreathed in clouds. The island where I grew up—Mahé—is one of three granitic islands in the Seychelles. The mountains that run down its length like a spine rise almost a thousand feet into the air. The three highest peaks are named, “Three Sisters,” and I remember looking up their flat, grey, weather-beaten faces and thinking that they looked as if they were mourning for something.
Clouds and sky. Over my childhood days unfolded a drama of light, wind and water. The great cumulonimbus clouds rushed overhead, and a brief but torrential downpour followed—I played happily in the warm rain. When the clouds broke or cleared, the sky was almost navy blue, so solid you felt you could touch it. Dawns and sunsets were an extravagant display of gold and red, like God showing off.
When I conceived Mysterion as a place where we would see the world clearly, the Seychelles offered themselves to me as inspiration. Above all, clarity and beauty sum up my memories of the place, and that was what I wanted Mysterion to be. The Seychelles represent for me a vision of the world seen clearly. That vision was imperfect now—in The Hidden Island, Jonah sees clearly his father’s failings, and they are ugly to behold—but in the end, it will be a vision of beauty, wiped clean all the filth of lies, division, and hatred that would ruin the childlike joy for which we were made.