FORNA, Aminatta. British-Sierra Leone author on lying by omission, "A version of the truth that puts them in a good light...The silent lie”

Aminatta Forna was born in Glasgow, raised in Sierra Leone and Britain and also spent periods of her childhood in Iran, Thailand and Zambia. She is the award-winning author of two novels: “The Memory of Love” and “Ancestor Stones”, and a memoir about her Sierra Leone father, “The Devil that Danced on the Water” (see: ). .


In Aminatta Forna’s novel set in war-devastated Sierra Leone, “The Memory of Love”, there is a discussion about how people hide or re-invent their past after Dr Adrian: Lockheart comments on the courage of the survivors of the civil war and his lover Mamakay passionately replies in the negative: “Courage is not what it took to survive. Quite the opposite! You had to be a coward to survive. To make sure you never raised your head above the parapet, never questioned, never said anything that might get you into trouble … Who was it who said “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it?” [Winston Churchill] … He’s [Elias] using you to write his own version of history, don’t you see? And it’s happening all over the country. People are blotting out what happened, fiddling with the truth, creating their own version of events to fill in the blanks... A version of the truth that puts them in a good light, that wipes out whatever they did or failed to do and makes certain none of them will be blamed … And they’re all doing it. Whatever you say, you will go away from here, and you will publish your papers and give talks, and every time you do you will make their version of events the more real, until it becomes indelible”… And in Mamakay’s words Adrian hears the echo of his own thoughts of earlier in the day, only differently stated. The silent lie.”  [1]


[1]. Aminatta Forna, “The Memory of Love” (Bloomsbury, London, 2010), p351.