The Iowa Review

They Have Forgotten Many Things, Pt. 3

On Guy Fawkes Night, I dine alone at the Malvina House Hotel (named after a nineteenth-century woman named Malvina, not a nod to the Argentine name, Malvinas) on blackened toothfish with Asian slaw and Chilean sauvignon blanc. Facing the bay and the government house, three flags snap in the wind, the Malvina House flag, the Union Jack, and the flag of the Falklands, a Union Jack in its corner, a massive sheep standing on a patch of green on top of an old sailing ship, a logo beneath proclaiming, "Desire the Right."

A young woman at an adjoining table stands and throws down her napkin. "If there's one thing I have no patience for, it's racism," she tells the two young men dining with her, and she dashes from the restaurant for a furious smoke, pacing away her outrage. In this way, at least, the Falklands have changed with the times, much like the former British Empire itself.

Among the fewer than three thousand Falkland Islanders, you can find now living among them 259 St. Helenians (another legacy of the British Empire, the last home of Napoleon Bonaparte, off the coast of Africa, its citizens making their way to the Falklands for employment), 140 Chileans, and 89 Others. I've seen some evidence of these Others during my stay.

Kay, who lives in the house in which she was born, one of the original settlement houses in Stanley, has a couple of third-culture grandchildren, her son having married a Thai woman. And one day, looking for a little variety in my meals, I hike up a hill in the wind and rain to a place called Shorty's that has been recommended, only to discover that it's run by a family of Filipinos, and I react as though I've run into my own countrymen, chatting with the clerk in Tagalog, telling her of my travels to her country, of my Filipino wife and my own third-culture kids.

Ezequiel enters the restaurant just as I'm leaving, and we agree to see if there's anything going on in town tonight. Back at Kay's, I enlist Adam, the only other boarder at Kay's, in the hunt for Guy Fawkes. Adam is a medical student from London, on an internship here as part of his studies. Bedecked in lip and tongue piercings and something approaching a Mohawk, his father Indian, his mother Polish, he describes himself as a "royalist," and says that those who are not are a distinct minority. A proud Londoner, he even danced in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

That evening after dark, Ezequiel, Adam, and I walk along the darkened streets of Stanley, looking for anything resembling a bonfire, but finally wind up in the Victory Bar, and in lieu of a celebration, we clink our pints of Longdon Pride, two of us as foreign as Guy (originally, Guido) Fawkes himself. "I don't feel at all foreign here," Adam tells us. "I just feel like it's somewhere I don't know."  The Falkland Islands accent he finds unusual, difficult to pin down, but that's it. Perhaps a little like an Australian accent or New Zealand accent, or maybe just something from the West Country.

On the way back to Kay's, Adam tells us what it's like to sit on Primrose Hill on Guy Fawkes Night and watch the fireworks all over London. And then he looks up at the sky and points out the Southern Cross. "Can you see it?" he asks. I try, but I'm not sure I can. I just see stars, more or less indistinguishable from one another.


The Iowa Review

Founded in 1970 and edited by faculty, students, and staff from the renowned writing and literature programs at the University of Iowa, The Iowa Review takes advantage of this rich environment for literary collaboration to create a worldwide conversation among those who read and write contemporary literature.
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Robin Hemley is the author of eleven books of nonfiction and fiction and has received many awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, three Pushcart Prizes in fiction and nonfiction, and the Independent Press Book Award. He is currently Director of Writing at Yale-NUS College in Singapore and Distinguished Visiting Writer at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.

"They Have Forgotten Many Things" originally appeared in the Winter 2016/17 issue of The Iowa Review. This is excerpt 3 of 3. The full essay can be read at

The Iowa Review, "They Have Forgotten Many Things"

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on September 06, 2017

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