Translated by Margaret Jull Costa
East Timor hit the world’s newspaper headlines in August 1999 after its bloody, brave vote for independence from Indonesia – one of the great expressions of a people’s democratic spirit and its oppression. Before that – as a Portuguese colony and for twenty-four years of murderous Indonesian rule – it had been ignored. Between the silence and the headlines is the story of a people struggling to form an identity under different forms of colonialism. This memoir describes Luis Cardoso’s journey from childhood on the island of Atauro, surrounded by folk stories and the scent of the ‘ai–dik–funam’, to adolescence in the seminary and eventually joining other Timorese students in Lisbon. He soon realizes that this pilgrimage to the distant colonial fatherland is in fact an exile. In his absence, the Indonesian invasion forces a second wave of the Timorese diaspora – including Cardoso’s ailing father – from whom he learns the first details of the fate of his fellow Timorese.