By Sera Tikotikovatu-Sefeti
The Fiji Times at 150 is a book that is really a kaleidoscope of stories with a vivid, witty, funny, and remarkable history of Fiji through the Fiji Times’ lens.
The author, historian and writer Anurag Subramani, described it as a ‘scrapbook of Fiji’s history’ at the book’s launch last week.
He admits his suggested approach caused a bit of confusion for the Fiji Times’ executives when he initially pitched his idea. “I detected a certain amount of anxiety when I unveiled the title of my book with the Fiji Times of management and board, they were wondering, what is the scrapbook of ages history?
“I’ve defined a scrapbook as a book with blank pages to which you attach photographs, letters, newspaper stories, etc. that helps you remember the person or time. So what the book is about are those narratives of Fiji’s history that have been discarded or thrown away, like scraps of food or marginalised by mainstream historians, but that are picked up and assembled into a history book,” he said.
The book is filled with quirky and punchy headlines, funny and peculiar stories, and witty responses that kept the audience at the launch in GPH laughing.
Speaking at the event, Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, quoted one such story from the book, reading: “In 1974, Mr. Ali said that all the male visitors with long hair were to be banned from Fiji; he complained that they didn’t contribute anything to the country.”
Acting Director of the Oceania Centre for Arts Culture and Pacific Studies at USP described the book as “a kaleidoscope of cinematic proportions. That might be viewed as hyperbole, but it isn’t, because it really is, that.
“Like a good movie, it is well-directed, and Anurag, has carefully and artfully selected the stories and the pieces and the important events of national and global significance into one major story, that of 150 years of The Fiji Times.
Subramani said the stories in the book are about the “little voices of history”, they are about those stories that mainstream historians either ignore or relegate to the footnotes, or stories that get tucked away in the inner pages of newspapers.
Subramani said, “Most people do not know that I wrote my novel and the Fiji Times book through a period of great personal suffering. In 2017, I was diagnosed with an illness that my doctor said at the time could prove fatal. I wrote my novel Dakuwaku in a hospital bed in New Zealand, Auckland, and Chennai, India.
“Similarly, I wrote the Fiji Times book through great pain and suffering; I have already been suffering from chronic tension, headaches, and migraines, very debilitating conditions for over a decade, and this new illness is compounded by a fragile situation,” he said.
Subramani endured, and used the pain he was enduring as motivation.
“The thought that life might soon end drove me to write and complete my novel and the Fiji Times book. Where others might have given up, I saw the creative process as my salvation.”
You can buy The Fiji Times at 150 at the Fiji Times office in Suva and various other stockists.