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The Life and Times of a Very British Man

Narrated by: Kamal Ahmed
Length: 7 hrs and 46 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (10 ratings)
Regular price: £14.99
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Summary

A poignant, challenging and witty memoir by one of Britain’s most senior journalists about the history of - and resistance to - immigration in the UK

In April 1968, Conservative MP Enoch Powell delivered a speech that was to frame the debate about immigration in the UK for the next 50 years. ‘We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to allow the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependents,’ he said. ‘It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre.’ Kamal Ahmed was six months old at the time of Powell’s speech. Half English, half Sudanese, he was raised in 1970s London with a Raleigh racing bike, rainbow-coloured jumpers, Adidas Gazelle trainers and cords. 

Yet the anti-immigrant sentiment behind Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech reverberated throughout his childhood. He grew up in a society that not infrequently told him, a Londoner born and bred, British down to his Marks and Spencer underwear, to ‘go home’. 

Fifty years after it was first delivered, Powell’s speech is not only of historical significance but has disquieting resonance. Ahmed illustrates that Britain’s reaction to the influx of immigrants from the ‘new’ EU countries is an all too familiar story, marked by passion, fear and social cost. Part memoir, part disquisition on a piece of oratory that has clanged discord through the decades, The Life and Times of a Very British Man is Ahmed’s account of feeling like an outsider in the country he was born in.

©2018 Kamal Ahmed (P)2018 Audible, Ltd

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Social vs personal history of being an 'other'.

Social history combined with a personal history of living in Britain for someone often seen as an Outsider.

Born here, raised here, but with a skin colour that marked him out as 'different', the author/narrator tells us the story of his life alongside the story of the country he was born into, the social history of what was going on through his childhood, adolescence, adult years, and how it affected his aspirations and direction.

I listened to this via Audible, and found it rather fascinating. While I know a fair amount of the recent history of migration, racial tensions and political highlights of Britain in the late twentieth century, there were details I had no idea about.

My favourite section looked in great detail at Enoch Powell and the 'Rivers of Blood' speech. Maybe because he was MP for my hometown and area just before I was born, but I've always found this interesting, and I liked how Ahmed took the speech to pieces and put it in the context of the time, and looked into Powell's claims within the speech. Great stuff.

On the whole, the personal history meshed well with the wider history being discussed. It gave the viewpoint of someone who has never fit in without effort, and gave the historical reasons as to why migration and reactions have been as they were.

An engaging subject for those interested in British social history and how we have got to where we are today.

The narrator (author Ahmed) is a very clear speaker, and covers his work with enthusiasm and is easy to listen to.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 16-12-18

Required reading, thoughtful and insightful

This was not the book I was expecting. I thought it would be a more standard memoir, but while Ahmed does overview his life to date, this book is more an insightful dissection of modern Western society, in particular how it deals with race. As a fellow Brit of a similar age, I recognised the world Ahmed painted, but it is a clear my experience of it as a white person is radically different. Ahmed sets out in clear, well-argued and balanced way how being a visible minority has impacted on his life, giving plenty of food-for-thought. I thought I had a good handle on racism, but this has made me think more deeply about this ongoing blight on society and what I can do to be part of eradicating it. A really excellent read (or listen) that I would urge you to approach with an open mind and heart.