Year End 1953
The Death of Quanmiin
--I. 11 J]' ,
The Novel in the West Indies
.\ .1 SL i ,. 'l;.
T. S. Eliot's E" Family Reunion"'
.\ .\ 1. M ,1\J;J ."
A Note on Rabelais
--V. 11. k\1.11:.-'1i 1 ,.1,
The Wapishana Indians in
the Rupununi Savannah
Ei-'.M Mi 3 l i.
T1111 SPIRIT O!'
(ia h,,,iL poem I, .
- 1 1. '\ : i ; .I. 1
1 .... H on l
-- '. .I !., I I ,M'l l
ILLUSTRATIONS. KLI\\'l S..
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A. J. SEYMOUR.
Vol. 5 No. 17
. A. J. S...
A. J. Seymour
A. J. Seymour .. 207
The University of Hunger
The Death of Quamina
) The Novel in the West Indies
The Spirit of Place (Poem)
The Language Speak IV ..
T. S. Eliot's "Family Reunion"
A Note on Rabelais
The Wapishana Indians in the Rupunini
Reviews-Life and Death of Sylvia
The Hills were Joyful Together
.Edwina Melville .. 208
S Martin Carter .. 208
P. H. Daly 210
S A. J. Seymour 221
Wilson Harris .. 228
Richard Allsopp 235
A. A. D. Martin 244
F. H. Martin-Sperry 248
Edwina Melville .. 252
Edgar Mittelholzer 255
S Roger Mais .. 256
Contributions and all letters should be
sent to the Editor "Kyk-
Over-Al", 23, North Road, Bourda, Georgetown. British Guiana.
-This is a publication of the B.G. Writers' Association.
In this country we have seen brilliant lights go out in the
darkness and clocks have stopped on the wall. To my memory
spring the names of those urbane and cultivated members of the
now defunct Young Men's Guild, J. C. La T Potter and his brother
Evan Potter, whose powerful and subtle minds helped to mould
the perceptions and judgments of more than one generation of
young men; there is the smiling charm and quick musical thought
of Philip Pilgrim who desired so passionately to marry his gift for
music with his love of Guiana who made such a brilliant begin-
ning before the lute of his Orpheus quivered into its final silence.
And there are others ranked behind them, those less immediate
dead like Walter MacA. Lawrence whose ready sensibility caught
him in half-laughter, half-weeping, in sheer joy over a finely-
turned phrase and whose "O beautiful Guiana" has the quality of
a National Anthem; A. R. F. Webber, that protean figure with
the large yearnings after the "greatness (of a Guiana) which is a
sturdy growth of open minds and fierce competing"; the enigmatic
Egbert Martin, writing under the penname of Leo whose Col-
lected Poems won the approval of Alfred Lord Tennyson, and who
blazed a trail and lit the torch of Guianese poetry.
There are many others to swell the record, and it is under the
spell of their tradition and in the shadow of their names that
Kykoveral launches out every six months to express and to nourish
the tradition of the creative and the critical spirit in British
Guiana. It is our purpose to affirm the supremacy of spirit over
material things and although this is a slender issue (after the gen-
erous girth of the Coronation Number Mid-Year 1953), still here
are human experiences which we feel we must transmit to others.
P. H. Daly has given us a chapter from an unpublished novel
of his in which savagery of thought and action are commonplace
and violence vibrates from the pages, but the struggle in Quami-
na's mind over a Christian or a Coromantee end resolves itself
into the higher choice. And wherever the pages of this issue
turn there will be found evidence of the supremacy of the spirit
over the material, in the poetry, the criticism the philology; and
the notes on persons and peoples.
Probably there are not enough persons in British Guiana who
use their leisure to shape their impressions and create form or to
extract the maximum value from their experiences. We are pre-
occupied with other community values of a more political nature,
and rightly so, but there must be advance upon many fronts at
the same time if we are going to develop the national spirit.
So Kykoveral appears again in its persistent endeavour to
unite the creative minority and to ensure that there is an organ
in which the spirit of Guiana can develop the tradition that Leo
and Evan Potter and Philip Pilgrim and the others nourished in
their times. _____ .- A._ S
The people plough the land
but do not own it
Their children see the land
but do not inherit it.
Labour beneath the ruthless sun broiling and burning
through the skin bears no fruit
but yet it is better to die on rich brown soil than
in the street.
These noble peasants who know the pure and simple
suffer from this rare knowledge.
and forever kissing the hen of destitution
they live with green fields of rice and pasture
sown with the rich dung oi contented beasts.
Like a tree so arched by the wind that its crown
would kiss the grass
so seem the figures of reapers that gently rob the
Fortitude in a tattered shirt
when the sun retires and dusk draws her blanket over
They skirt the dams, these pillars-of dignity
to homes of peace and hipe
and after the rains a breath of wind brings a pungent
scent of steaming earth
anl trees give up their fruit
and the harvest is garnered.
A. J. SEYMOUR
O light, light, build your palaces.
Happiness blooms in the leaping morning,
(Lightning had leapt like a jewel in the purple cloud
Before the night's cool heraldry)
All music come home
In this loving, bubbling prisim of the heart,
Champagne welling frail from the unknown Gardens.
Out wonder the Great Serpent swallows the rain
In the clanmorous Brazilian sky
Surely Eden slants again through time
Eye bath not seen ......
Happiness frozen, the bubble held still
In the eye of the camera-of-the-moment.
Shall the Sleeping-Beauty sleep?
No, let her turn, the cham'oagne die;
Eden goes home within the prism
And the Keepers of the Gardens sleep.
Time narrows into an eye
The season of the rock begins to reach
Into the season of the crystal
That mind of matter where the warm ice
Is window to the light.
And the light speaks
With the direct pulsing arrows of tangents
In the geometry of the sun.
We live in the regions of the sun,
We know the immense splash of light at morning,
The untouchable broken crystals that mould and facie
The smoothly-woman's-body trunks of trees
Rising capillary to their Grail, the sun.
We suffer the Crystal on our patient flesh
And know the darkening badge of her worship.
We use the terrible knowing crystals of the eyes
To feed the insatiable hunger
Of the Spirit within.
A. J. SEYMOUR
Let the wind hurl huge summer
Tear daylight from the sky
Burn, sun, burn your intense glass
Stare with your burning eye.
When I stand rigid in my thought
And earthstare with head bent
I too speak that language
That accent violent.
For hurricane and tempest
Torment my restless soul
And wreckage strews my ocean
Before I force control
Burn, Sir, burn my waters
Focus your burning glass
Those frightened ciouds know not my sky
When bull-winds whip and pass.
For his mate
And woman sultry
With eyes of hate.
Lithe and lonely
Along a wall
Blown about her legs
And long black hair
Falling over shoulders
Bare, and touching
Breasts young and full
Of pulsing life.
Along the wall,
The man would follow.
University of Hunger
is the university of hunger the wide waste
is the pilgrimage of man the long march.
The print o' hunger wanders in the land
the green tree bends above tie long forgotten
the plains of life rise up and fall in spasms
the huts ofi ren are fused in misery.
They come treading in the hoofmarks of the mule
passing the ancient bridge
the grave of pride
the sudden flight
the terror and the time.
They come trom the distant village of the flood
passing from middle air to nlddle earth
in the common hours of nakedness.
Twin bars of hunger mark their metal brows
twin seasons mock them
parching drought and flood
is the dark ones
the half sunken in the land
is they who had no voice in the emptiness
in the unbelievable
in the shadowless.
They come treading on the mud floor of the year
mingling with dark heavy waters
and the sea sound of the e.yiless flitting bat.
O long is the march of. men and long is the life
and wide is the span.
is air dust and the long distance of memory
is the hour of rain when sleepless toads are silent
is broken chimneys smokeless in the wind
is brown trash huts and jagged mounds of iron.
They come in long lines
toward the broad city.
Is the golden moon like a big coin in the sky
is the Hood of bone beneath the floor of flesh
is the beak of sickness breaking on the stone.
O long is the march of men and long is the life
and wide is the span.
O cold is the cruel wind blowing
O cola is the hoe in the ground.
They come like sea birds
flapping in the wake of a boat
is the torture of sunset in purple bandages
is the powder of fire spread like dust in the twilight
is the water melodies of white foam on wrinkled sand.
The long streets of night move up and down
baring the thighs of a womrc,,
and the cavern of generation
The beating drurm returns and dies away
the bearded men fall down and go to sleep
the cocks of dawn stand up and crow like bugles.
is they who rose early in the morning
watching the moon die in the dawn
is they who heard the shell blow and the iron clang
is they who had no voice in the emptiness
in the unbelievable
in the shadowless
O lorg is the march of men and long is the life
and wide is the span.
EXTRACT FROM NEW NOVEL
The Death of Quamina
By P. H. DALY
"Spare him: he saved my life!" Alice pleaded.
It was the morning after the rebellion had been put dwnr and she,
Marie, Dereck, and Schy!enburg were standing in a group in the garrison
compound. Some distance away, Quamina lay on the ground, heavily
chained stupendous, stoical, pnilo.ophic, while they debated his fate.
The sun silvered the green, whispering forest, stretching in the
background; while, here and there, the slave tracks twisted and tunnelled
through the grim, green density, deep down into the cane and cotton
fields; twisting tracks, like circuitous isles, winding through the solid
masonry of sorYea medieval cathedral. And, thrusting their way, upward
.,nd skyward, through the clinging encumbrance of fantastic forestation,
the bearded trees towered, lofty, patriarchal of beard, dense of foliage, -
rugged, thorn-studded trunks. The bearded trees! eternally listening;
eternally silent, inscrutable.
Schylenburg contemplated the jungle before replying, as though
seeking to find an answer on its in'.rrutable frontage.
"Spare this nigger to start fresh fires!" he said at last. "Do you
know, Alice, ne is the ringleader of Ihe gang?"
"I know h>i saved me from worst than death", she rejoined. "Hadn't
it been for him, I'd not be here now; not not as I am". She flushed
;:s she said this. Then she told them, for the first time, of the quarrel
,se had overheard among Quamina and the Maroon chiefs when she
was a prisoner in the stocks. They listened, amazed, Schylenburg with
scowling face. Then Schylenburg said abruptly, with the air o1' a man
vwho had memally confirmed a previous decision:
"He's going into the fire this very day; this very day!"
"You're going to burn him!" interposed Simpson.
Schylenburg scowled. "Yes. He's the ringleader of' the gang! '
"But there's a law against burning negroes", Simpson urged.
"Oh, the iaw!" roared Schylenburg, breaking out into his ancestral
nastiness of tongue and temper. "Th, English law yes. The Dutch
don't give a damn for English laws, you know that, Dereck. This nigger
is Dutch property, body and soul not that I think nigger has a
soul, or that I believe in such rot as souls! You know the devil the
Dutch would raise if we tried to tell them how to deal with their goods."
Before answering, Simpson looked across the compound at Qua Tina,
as though assessing him in the light of Schylenburg's description --
goods. Quamina lay, left arm bent at the elbow, head pillowed in his
huge left palm. Stupendous, stoical, philosophic, dreaming the fallen
gladiator on the ground. 'Goods'. Simpson thought. 'Dutch goods!' Was
it possible that a human could merit the description of 'goods!' A flock
of crows flapped out of a bearded tree, flapped and circled, dived and
flattened out above Quamina, infallibly instinctive of their impending
supper; then they alighted, one by one, near the canal, where the rank,
pea-green, chlorophylled water swelled, sluggish and stink. A nerve
twitched in Simpson's face. From out of the impenetrable, pregnant
belly of the jungle, a mocking-bird flew, red-backed and gorgeous. The
bird alighted a few yards away from where the group was standing.
With it-'habit of imitating sounds, the bird called, in a croaking, mocking
voice, the last word that Schylenburg had spoken 'goods. A mockery
of his own powerlessness to stop what he knew was wrong, inhumanly
wrong, thought Simpson.
"You know", he told Schylenburg, with a wry smile, "I'm con-
stitutionally a humanitarian and an idealist".
Schylenburg rocked back on his heels, threw back his head, and
laughed long and mockingly before answering. When he spoke, his
voice was hard and hostile.
"An idealist! You're living with my sister, I was living with your
sister; you're making bastards, I'm making bastards; and on top of all
this you've got the face to call yourself an idealist! Constitutionally
an idealist! Bejesuchrist! You Engl.sh strike me as being constitution-
ally more hypocritical than anything else!"
"And you- Simpson stopped.
"What about me!"
"You're constitutionally a brute!"
"Agreed," ad.rnitted Schylenburg between his teeth. "But there's a
difference between you and me. between our attitudes to our vices
You disown yours; I own mine. You're the idealistic hypocrite; I'm the
honest brute. I've told you already, and I tell you again: We can't tell
the Dutch how to deal with their goods!"
A gust of wind, blowing towards them from the shanties, brought
the smell oi slaves. The smell of frumpy, stinking, unwashed human
bodies. The smell of a sin! The distant hyr.ning of slaves. Hymning!
Philosophy among filth. The scrounging and the grinding of the rack;
the slattering and the clattering of the tread-mill! The sound of a sin!
More hymning. Philosophy among blood and filth!
"I'm not trying to tell them how to deal with their goods" said
Simpson, "But, after all, Joost, this is a British colony, and we are
British officers of a British garrison. Let's have nothing to do with
this illegal act. Let the bloodthirsty Dutch do it themselves."
"You've forgotten my name, Dercck", Schylenburg mocked. "Schy-
lenburg" that's Dutch, and I'm constitutionally bloodthir-my like hell. '
I'll do the burning. If you can't stand it, go home and say your prayers!"
"Prayers!" croaked the mocking-bird.
Simpson gave an exculpatory shrug of the shoulders.
"Keep the garrison out of this, then!"
"Bejesuchrist!" A leer uglified Schylenburg's face. "What you mean
is that you don't care a damn if the bitch burns so long as he does'
burn in Enghsh fire!"
"You know', commented Sinpson, contemptuously dry, "I'm against
burning and flogging people".
"People!" screamed Schylenburg. "Who's people! You've got your
biology upside down, boy! You're not dealing with people! You're
dealing with niggers; and if you call a nigger 'people' your biology is
damned bad! Damned bad! Niggers walk upright through an evolu-
tionary accident! A biological mistake!" And, swinging away and
swaggering and scowling and smacking his breeches with his riding whip,
he tramped off.
"Mistake!" called the mocking-bird.
Alice looked at Dereck.
"Why allow this thing if you don't like it'" she asked. 4
,'I can't stood it, and that's the paradox of my position", he told her.
"I'm ccmnl-ander in name only. I've got to take it or leave it -
and I'm leaving it. I won't stay in this colony a minute longer than I
can help. I'm going back home as soon as this mess is over. Because
I've got to stomach all this. I'm against burning negroes, but this gar-
rison, which is under my command, has to agree. The Dutch planters
rule this place though the English flag flies. This is the limit; and,
if I don't go back home, I'll either kill myself or kill somebody!"
"Can Joost burn him if you don't want it?" Alice asked.
"Yes. He can and he will. Because this negro is Dutch property,
(.r Dutch goods, as he says. The Dutch wants the burning and the
garrison has no voice".
"Can't His Ex stop it?"
"The Governor! It would need a stronger and better man than he
to stop it. That's why I'm not staying on. I've sent home a report al-
ready about 'his John Smith affair. I've given them hell and Parlia-
ment must intervene. So, in any case, I'll have to go!"
"Keep your secrets to yourself", commented Marie reproachfully.
Simpson hadn't mentioned his going away to her. She drew away
from him, pretending to be hurt, but longing for him to relent. She shot
him a sidelong glance, appraising him. What she saw on his face told
her that he had made up his mind.
"I never mentioned my going to anyone", he explained, to nobody
in particular. "And you, Marie", this directly to her, "never told me
that you'll give evidence against Smith. We're getting mutually
"Who told you I'll give evidence?'
"Let's keep our secrets to ourselves. But what sort of evidence
you'll give? What do you know of the rebellion; cat you swear, be-
fore God, that John Smith conspired with the negroes to overthrow
"I don't believe in God!"
"I know that. Can you swear, on your honour, then, that Smith is
"Joost wants me to swear!".
"Wants you to swear on oath, Marie? Forcing you to lie away a
"Joost is pressing me!"
The smell of a sin again. The scrounging and the grinding. The
slattering and the clattering. The rack and the tread-mill. The brute
legislation of the slave law. Then Dymns Philosophy among blood and
This place is making me sick!" sniffed Simpson. "Joost is pressing
you to lie on oath, and he wants me to agree to burning this fellow".
"But surely Joost can flog him and let him go"! Alice exclaimed.
"Go!" mimicked the mocking-bird.
Just then Schylenburg, who had finished heckling the Rangers,
tramped up, smacking his breeches.
"Somebody's talking my name!" he shouted. "Who called my name
And what for!" His eyebrows went up and he surveyed Alice, the irony
on his lips more sinister.
"Flog him and let him go!" pleaded Alice.
"Flog him!' roared Schylenburg in exaggerated horror. "Behave
yourself, girl! Are you a constitutional idealist too!"
"Speak to him, Marie! Speak to Jcost! Speak to your brother! For
God's sake, speak to him!"
But hell has no terror like a woman scorned, and Marie had been -re-
buffed. "I'm not a constitutional idealist", she mocked. "Why all third
fuss over a nigger! He's not worth a dispute among ourselves!"
"Speak to Joost!" Alice begged, turning to her brother and holding
"You speak to him", Simpson urged. "He'll do it for you"
"Oh, Joost' Spare him! Spare him, for God's sake!"
The mocking-bird called 'sake!'
Alice looked at Joost and they stared searchingly at each other.
' he whole of Two Rivers knew how he loved her, with a fierce, lusty
longing which was his only concession to human feeling. But he knew
--and all Two Rivers knew-that she hated him. Hated him because he
had made her the mother of his child-against her will-and had boasted
That was when he had got to know her first. Legally, morally, and -
cestructively it was a rape, and he could have been charged before the
court. But what judge in all Two Rivers would try a Schylenburg for
tape? No couit would do it; no court dared do it. It had been she re-
called, the first and last time he had known her that way. She had got
her baby about five years ago, the same time Marie had got hers-a girl
whom she had named Trude-for Simpson. But she had despised him
even more after she had become the mother of his bastard. For the <
boy-he hi-nreif had named him Cornelis, after his grandfather-was
the image of him, Joost. But he still loved her, and had offered to atone
by making her his wife. She had refused, fearing his cruelty, and with
the mental anguish of that raping still bruising her mind. But he per-
sisted in wanting her. Appraising her, Joost remembered when she had
been trapped on the burning plantation among the rebel slaves; he had
searched the smoky horizon dav and night for some trace of her. Con-
templating her now, he recalled with what relief he had seen her frail
figure, clinging desperately to the back of the mule racing towards the '
garrison. He remembered how he had flung himself into his saddle, and
taced out to meet her. As he lifted her limp body in front of him, on
his own horse, he had kissed her, a long, hungry gripping kiss. But he
had been taught that the kisses of an unwanted man could act as a
restorative on a semi-conscious woman, by bringing her back to instant,
indignant life, just as the kisses of a wanted man could paralyse her
into a state of sensuous, delirious death. He remembered ho\v, .s his lips <
gripped hers, she had opened her eyes, and had protested, in a small,
vold voice: 'Joost! How dare you!' How dared he, indeed, he thought,
contemplating her. How dared he kiss the mother of his child! Sparing
Quamina would have been a cavalier concession to make to her-had she
but cared. Against his will, he was forced to compare her harshness
towards him with her tender feeling for a negro. That he lost in the
comparison nearly drove him crazy.
"You can be forgiving and tender hearted when you want to", he
grumbled. "But you wouldn't be begging for a nigger now if I'd mnet-
him out there. I'd have taken him straightway!"
Simpson was amazed at the vehemence in his voice.
"I know you'd have killed him". Alice said sobbing. "But he was
decent to me, more than you ever were! You brute!"
Schylenburg heard and nodded. The meaning of her remark was
clear to him. She hadn't forgiven. Hadn't forgotten. But he wa3 glad,
somehow, that she hadn't forgotten. Let her remember it, always.
"Don't quarrel", intervened Simpson. "Joost was mad when he
Knew you were out there alone. It was he who arranged everything. It
was he who suggested that we trick them, by putting barrels of rum in
their .way for them to drink, and get drunk. He was sure that they'd
drunken themselves and play into our hands, and so they did!" Turning
to Schylenburg, he added: "You did a good psychological job, Joost. Flog
him and let h.mr go"!
"He's going into hell fire, that's where his black behind's going"!
"You wouldn't spare him, not even for Alice's sake?"
"Bejesuchrist! A nigger must be the go-between me and her! A
nigger intercede for me! A nigger make peace between us! Oh,
SChrist. Dereck: I'll cut my throat first! Into the fire the bitch goes!"
"Straightway. And I'll watch him burn! I'll watch the windmill on
fire. And when he's burning, I'll know it is the end of everything be-
tween me and her! No nigger can make peace between my woman and
me! Let him burn!"
"Burn!" the mocking-bird croaked from the grass.
Schylenburg tramped towards the spot where Quamina lay, Simpson
following some distance behind.
"Whips!" roared Schylenburg.
"The whipmen cantered up, making noises with their tongues in their
" mouths, and grimacing.
"Give him fifty of the hottest to keep his ass cool!" Schylenburg
The whipmen chained Quamina to the whipping-post and beat him.
He bore it all unflinchingly, and without a groan. Then, just before they
Chained him to the stake, with his arms free-the Dutch custrom was to
burn slaves with their arms free, so that their whirling and flapping
limbs, called windmill on fire, might give onlookers greater 'un-Schylen-
-burg had an idea.
"Bring him to me", he commanded.
He walked some distance away from Simpson, sat on a rum puncheon,
and took out a note-book and pencil.
"Still at it? chided Simpson, coming up and still hoping for a last
minute change of heart.
"I'm taking his confession!" Schylenburg bawled irritably. "We'll
use it against that consumptive dog, Smith!"
"Go ahead', encouraged Simpson patiently, patting him on the
shoulder. "Take his confession and Ilog him, and let him go!"
The Rangers dragged Quamina before Schylenburg. He stood there,
stupendous, stoical, philosophic, the fallen gladiator keening an appoint-
ment with destiny.
"Hi!" Schylenburg bawled. "You're Quamina?"
"Know parson Smith?"
"That's a confession?" interposed Simpson.
"And whai the hell is it!" Schylenburg bawled. "What's biting you,
Dereck! You're hurt because I'm going to burn this nigger, or because
you can't stop it! Is it your love for this nigger, or your feeling for your
own pride and powerlessness! What's it?"
Simpson remained silent, refusing E to imperil the possibility of a
last-minute reprieve. Schylenburg continued:
"You deacon in Parson Smith's church '"
'9You talk with parson Smith plenty-plenty-plenty?"
"What parson tell you?"
"To lobe de Lawd Jesus, massa."
"Gawd made Quamina, massa".
Schylenburg's underlip sagged, then curled up.
"Wasn"t God drunk like hell when he made you so ugly, nigger?"
"Thought as much", snapped Schylenburg. "Parson taught you
bible? Big, tat, fairy-tale book ?"
"Good-good-good book, massa".
"Parson told you about King David- big, strong, fighting, nigger-
man like you?"
"Good-good-good man, massa."
"Alright. Parson told you about Sarmson big, strong, fighting,
hairy man like you?"
"Good-good-good man, massa."
"Allright. Parson told you to fight like those strongmen, David and
Samson ? Speak the truth ?"
"Parson told you about big, strong, niggerman like you named Tous-
saint L'Ouverture, who killed plenty-plenty-plenty Euckra people in
place called Haiti, just as you killed plenty-plenty-plenty Buckra people
"No-no-no!" Quamina shook his head vigorously.
Schylenburg flew off the rum puncheon and rammed a kick into
"Shaking on me, nigger! Bejuschrist! Keep quiet. "he snarled.
Grumbling: 'a nigger be the go-between me and her; a nigger make peace
for me; a nigger intercede for me', he retreated to his seat on the pun-
cheon and resumed:
"Parson told you to kill Buckra people here like big, strong, nigger-
> man, Toussaint, did in Haiti?"
"Speak the truth! "I'll spare you!"
Quamina remained silent.
"I'll spare you! Speak the truth!"
"Whips! Take off his chains. But first, speak the truth! Parson
told you to fight like big, strong, niggerman Toussaint?"
"Lying black dog," roared Schylenburg. "Let David and Samson
and Toussaint and all those bitches help you now. Whips! Dress him
down, and dress him up! Nicely, whips!"
i The whipmen cantered up, whipped him until the blood spewed,
then chained him to the stake. Then they cantered off to round up the
other slaves to see him burn. Roughed by the Rangers, chained to the
stake, he stood there, stupendous, stoical, philosophic -- the doomed
gladiator about to die. He watched the other slaves who had been
rounded up. Their death rattles warned him that he, Quamina, was
about to die. And he was tempted to rattle back, as he himself had
y often rattled to many others doomed to die. He was tempted to hunch
his body into the grotesque poses of the Death Dance, as the watching
slaves had hunched theirs.
Tempted, but he was a Christian. In Sunday school and chapel, he
had been taught, not to rattle, but to pray; not to hunch, but to kneel;
not to dance the Death Dance but to make the Sign of the Cross. Be-
tween two temptations, and the stake. He saw his two children among
the crowd of squatters: Jonathan, who worked in the house-gang, and
Jane, who worked in the field-gang. Both had been baptised by parson
Smith himself, and had been named after the parson and his wife, John
and Jane Smith. Then he heard the Coromantee death rattle, his own,
his favourite rattle. It warned him that it was time for him to rattle
back; time to tell his god the Great Accompong. that he was coming
Between two temptations and the Stake. What should he do? Rattle
or pray? Death Dance or the Sign of the Cross. Tempted. His mem-
ory fumbled back to the Sunday school and parson Smith. The Sunday
school; the little whitewashed building hemmed in by the jungle. The
frail figure of the parson and his wife. Two white faces in a sea ol
black. Kneeling together. Praying together. To one God. Words
"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fier nr
evil...." There he had been taught that a Man had been nailed to a
Cross and had died, not with a rattle, but a prayer; and that whosoever
believed in that Man, Black or White, would never die. The story of
the Man dying bravely on the Cross had found cavalier support in his own
savage courage. And he had grown to love the Man who had died,
though he could have escaped, like a brave Coromantee; had died with-
out a whimper. In those final, temptation-wracked minutes of his life.
God and Mammon battled for his soul. The Rangers doused him with
kerosene oil, and as the liquid got into his lungs and made him cough and
splutter, his body involuntarily hunched into the poses of the Death Dance.
He heard the slaves rattled approvingly, as they thought he would dance
- at last- and give them the sign to dance, too. Between two tempta-
tions and the stake. But he didn't move or rattle, and was looking
straight ahead. Stupendous, stoical, philosophic- the doomed gladiator
reliving the temptation on the Mount.
His mind seemed to have gone off, fumbling again, groping in the
distance; groping around the little whitewashed building, hemmed in by
the jungle; groping under the wooden cross in the chapel; striving to re-
member something. Then his body became relaxed and composed. The
furrows left his forehead. His eyes had the satisfied glint of a man who
had thought hard, and had finally decided. Slowly, deliberately, his
puppy-like hand moved to his forehead, and the watching slaves, hunched
and ready to dance and rattle, heard, not the death rattle, but his rum-
bling voice rasping: "In de name of the Fader, and of de Son, and of de
Holy Ghost. Amen." The big hands interlocked on his chest in a ges-
ture of grandiloquent finality. His eyes had the philosophic serenity of
decision. The whipmen, who were ready for trouble, were disappointed
at his complete surrender to his fate. Stupendous, philosophic. decided,
the doomed gladiator had made his peace. And the mocking-bird echoed:
Quamina's eyes shone, and his mind seemed to have gone off, fum-
bling, straining to remember something. Now he appeared to have got
it, and was screaming out, in a fiercely exultant voice, and looking
straight at Alice, who had come up, and was standing at Simpson's side.
He was crying out: "Man born of a 'oman is of short days and full of
trouble..... In Quamina distress he call 'pon de Lawd and de Lawd
"Hear me!" mimicked the mocking-bird.
"Bejesuchrist! Whips! What the hell are you waiting for? Want
some of what he's getting? You don't, don't you? Then fire himn He's
got more tongue than Balaam's ass."
The whipmen put the torch to the kerosene-soaked bags at the base
of the stake. Blue-black, suffocating smoke, then flames. But the rum-
bling voice, rising above the rattling and noise of the slaves, seemed to
be directed again at Alice. He was saying:
"Buckra missie, Quamina wasn't made to burn. Quamlna was made
in de Image and de Likeness, and de Power and de Glory of de Lawd
Gawd Jesus........ Ah know de Redeemer live, and will stand at de
last day; and though worms kill dis body, Quamina will see de Lawi.
Amen and Glory!"
S "Glory!" croaked the mocking-bird.
"Bejesuchrist! You're preaching to me, nigger!" roared Schylenburg,
and, seizing a oucket of kerosene oil, he flung it over the burning man.
SShoulder-high the flames leaped, and the watchers saw him trying to
tear his body away from the stake, trying to tear the burning flesh away
from his body, his arrs flailing and whirling, like a windmill on fire,
his teeth, white and gleaming in agony; his breathing heavy and laboured,
while his chest expanded to its full capacity, rose and fell like the bellows
of an organ. Alice collapsed at Simpson's side. Marie grilned. "Wind-
mill on fire!" she muttered. Suddenly Simpson rushed forward and two
Fhots rang out. They entered the burning man's temple. The windmill
on fire ceased to gyrate, and the body slumped into the flames. As
Sirnpson hurried Alice away from the scene, he could hear Schylenburg
"Bejesuchrist, Dereck! You're always spoiling sport! Why didn't
you let the windmill go round!"
Simpron's arm was about Alice's waist, supporting her, and she was
"Don't cry', he told her. "We're leaving for England soon. We're
Leaving Two Rivers for ever".
"Joost is a brute!"
"I feel the same", Simpson said. "We'll go, and you can leave his
child with his people. That negro was a real man, Alice. I've never
seen a man die so bravely. He was a soldier and a Christian. When my
time comes to go, I want to make rnsv peace with death as he made his.
Poor fellow! You remember the words: 'kind hearts are more than
coronets and simple faith than Norman blood'. That fellow had faith.
May God rest his soul".
The air became heavy with the hideous smell of burning human
flesh, as smok.: bellowed from the dump where the body lay, twisted.
The whips cracked. The gangs lumbered back along the twisting tracks,
tunnelling their way through the grim green, density of the forest, and
into the fields. From somewhere in the distance came the scrounging
and the honking, and the slattering and the clattering of rack and tread-
mill. Moans. The sound of a sin! Then singing. Philosophy among
blood and filtn! And the crows, infallibly instinctive of their imminent
supper, stood patiently, waiting and watching; on the grass, under the
bearded trees, near the canal, where the pea-green, chlorophylled water
swelled, sluggish and stink.
(The "Death of Quamina" is an excerpt from the first of a trilogy of
novels by Mr. P. H. Daly, spanning cver a century of Guianese history,
from, the French occupation in 1782 lo recent and contemporary history
Each novel runs into about 100.000 words, and the completed trilogy,
totalling 300,00 words, has taken, Mr. Daly says, over four years to
write. The magnitude of the conception, so far as can be gleaned from
a work not yet published, is reflected in the trilogy an interpretation
ol the history, character, and society of Guiana and the Caribbean. The
"Death of Quamina" is clue to the dramatic trend of the trilogy as a
Draft for a Monograph
The Novel in the West Indies
By A. J. SEYMOUR
Some one asked me the other day "What is the best novel written in
the West Indies?"
I gave the answer which the questioner had half expected. "What
do you mean by best? How do you value a novel, how do you judge it
and say that it is good or better than another? "And I remember making
the impromptu remark that so far as the potentiality for the future of the
would probably do more than any other. This novel seemed to explore
and exploit the resources of the West Indian's use of language. The
writer has taken a rural dialect which gave expression to the spirit of
the people in the Morant Bay community, had cut away the excresences
which might have hindered ready communication, has added his own
gift of image-making and so had established a purified medium through
which the spirit of a part of Jamaica could talk.
It was very much the same process used by Andrew Pearse setting
down the autobiography of the pastor of the Shouters or Spiritual Baptists
Frank Mayhew, which appeared in Caribbean Quarterly Vol 3 No.1)
In addition, New Day tells an exciting story of Jamaica's history for
two-thirds of its course, beginning with the events that led to the up-
rising of Morant Bay, the bloody reprisals, and the reduction of Jamaica's
, constitution. In the last section, the writing is not happy, especially
where it turns on the description of present-day political personalities.
Parallel with that runs the development of a family which had its roots
in the land.
Looking back on what I said then, I am not inclined to vary much.
If the literature of the West Indies is to develop into a rich and organic
growth, it must marry Shakespeare to the Annancy story, and form a
creative union between the two sources of this region's literary heritage
which lie behind the eye of our thinking-the flower of English literature
which we have consciously acquired over the past hundred years, and
the African, Amerindian and Indian folk tales and oral traditions which
have unconscously nourished our folk imagination for centuries.
For centuries. One way of holding the mirror up to life in a West
Indian community is to depict in moving scenes the type of conditions
Which obtained between master and slave in the years before 1838, and
between the emancipate and his employer in the years that followed after.
This is one of the ways in which the West Indian may become conscious
of the distance he has travelled since the days of slavery.
Of these pictures of the West Indies in the past century, there are
at least four which deserve close attention. The first two we shall men-
tion depict a Jamaica that has gone for ever, but some of the roots of today
are laid bare in these pages. In The White Witch of Rose Hall. I. D. de
Lisser has set down a tale of supernatural events on a Jamaican plantation
just before Emancipation, and beauty, passion and mystery are mixed
with fact by a cunning hand. Vie Reid's New Day takes Jamaican his-
tory from the fateful Morant Bay insurrection of 1865 to the triumphant
recovery of Jamaican constitutional rights in 1944.
On a larger scale, a Scale which threatens to run into three volumes,
Edgar Mittelholzer is treating the history of Guiana as an incidental
ground pattern to the varying fortunes of a determined Dutch family
which believed that "the family is what mattered". The first volume on
this Van Groenwegel family is Children of Kaywana which takes Gui-
anese history from 1595 to 1763. The second book The Harrowing of Hil-
bertus to be published in London next year will take the story of the
family down to 1803.
Another Guianese novelist (incidentally he is a historian and critic
with several publications to his credit) is P. H. Daly who has written
Children of the Bearded Trees (as yet unpublished) a fictional account
of an abortive uprising in Guiana.
The history of the Revolution in Cuba is celebrated in The Single
Star by the eminent man-of-letters, W. Adolphe Roberts who snakes
a glancing reference to Jamaica in the 1890s, and the urge which drove
young Jamaicans who had the hot blood of adventure in their veins to
Cuba to assist the Revolution.
These novels fill in the background to the present West Indian scene. <
The West Indies basically is a rural community which has to be re-
minded of its essential agricultural functions, or it will turn its back
upon them. It is in our own day that we have heard cry of the over-
crowd'ng in cities and towns, as the peasant class trek off the land, and
abandon their cultivations or leave their work upon the greot estates and -
plantations often to create a landless work-hungry murmuring substra-
tum in the cities. What pictures are there of the rural community in the
growing index-drawer of West Indian literature?
1917 was the last year of immigration from India into British Guiana,
and also the year in which A. R. F. Webber published Those that be in
Bondage a strong but shapeless serial novel that criticised the immi-
gration system, the abuse of the overseers, the policy of managers and
their influence on morals. Here is the rural West Indies with a ven-
In Corentyne Thunder Edgar Mittelholzer follows the rural East
Indian family from the estate to the long wind-swept Corentyne savannah.
Ramgolall and his daughters are the emerging type of East Indian whr
will leave the estate and the village and eventually pass into the pro-
fessional classes. We shall see Ramgolall's nephew in his Trinidad set-
ting in Selvon's novel A Brighter Sun.
But these apart, what do we find of rural communities with people
of African descent! We know what we found in Jamaica in Vic Reid's
New Day; well, in his fine autobiography study of life in the Barbadian
village which belonged to Mr. Creighton, George Lamming has shown
the poetic truth of the events that have happened in villages in the West
Indies over the period just before and just after the last war. Much of
his poetry is hidden in the artistry of expressing a boy's mind and caental
world. As Plato says, poetry is deeper in its truth than history, is more
philosophic and of graver import, because it deals with universals where-
as history deals with particulars, and singulars. So Lamming's novel
In the Castle of my Skin rounds off the rural portraits in a shapely
Let us follow the West Indian family unit so often it is only a
group of individuals with the same blood running through their veins,
but with no ties of love and sympathy, in reality a disunited group-
from the village into the dehumanising town with its squalor and misery,
and with unemployment bringing out the worst instincts in man. The
insecurity of the family, the respect for the varying shades of colour which
have sounded the knell over the middle class in the West Indies these
all show their Hydra heads in the pages of Roger Mais, Ralph de Bois-
siere, Samuel Selvon, Alfred Mendes, and Edgar Mittelholzer. The
Vision of life is the same at bottom in these novels dealing with urban
low-class life; books published more recently agree in depicting the
strikes and labour unrest which accompany the rise of the working class
people from sullen acquiescence in their despairing lot, to a knowledge ot
their solidarity as a group and their menacing emergence upon the West
SIndian political scene. Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica. British Guiana, -
everywhere the picture is the same.
Alfred Mendes' book Black Fauns belongs to the 1930s but its word-
painting of life in the Trinidad barrack-yard is authentic and still valid.
The strange loyalties, the unpredictable clashes of personality, the tradi-
tional improvidence of the men and the gossiping philosophy of the
women all are in character with communities of African descent in
Coming 20 years later Roger Mais' novel The Hills were Joyful
Together corroborates and reinforces this pattern, but adds to it an
extension of the inconsequence of life, its horror and savagery. Mais'
book is much more powerful, (parts are reminiscent of George Orwell's
S1984) and it has more tenderness in it than Mendes has contrived to mix
in his story. Since Mais is also a poet, and a painter, he guides the
moods of the reader from one character's story to another by means of
some very fine intercalations of chapter openings; just as moods are
changed or set by the songs of Shakespeare or by incidental music in the
cinema. In his 1943 collection of short stories, And Most of All Man, and
in the earlier Face and Other Stories (1942) Mais had used poems and
other means to command the same switch in mood. In And Most of All
Man Mais stated that he was writing the story of "Man, the eternal pro-
tagonist amid eternal process" whom he met on the top of a hill in St.
Andrew outside Kingston, dirty, hungry and in rags. Mais has returned
to Man in this first novel of his; in one of the intercalations, he writes
"This is the story of man's life upon earth that formed hi'm....it shud-
ders throughout from cover to cover with pity and terror.... the demons
of light and darkness inform all his days and night.... it has been at-
tested that he is of threefold dimensions.... all his being is encompassed
about from birth with dying.... his separate death matters nothing....
it matters all that he has turned his back upon life."
This philosophy however will not build the West Indian nation.
Ralph de Boissiere, a Trinidadian by birth, has had his novel Crown
Jewel published by the Australasian Book Co. Crown Jewel is a parallel
story to Samuel Selvon's A Brighter Sun so far as the period of Trinidad's
history is concerned. but against the idyllic picture of Tiger's growth to
maturity in the Barataria settlement, which Selvon has drawn in such
delicate line, de Boissiere's trade unionists and the helpless seamstress
carry along a more satisfying narrative. The insight into the social
cliques that keep their orbits, accurately missing one another in their
whirling paths, contrasts strongly with the hard clear lines of the pioneers
of the Trinidadian working class movement which de Boissicre has photo-
graphed in action in these pages.
And yet the differences are inessential cc~pared with the resem-
blances. Even in Mittelholzer's latest book The Life and Death of Sylvia
where the story is wrapped up about the powerlessness of the young girl
left alone in the city to master the cunning animal forces which human
beings display in the world around her, and where there is no hint of the
labour unrest so characteristic of the present British Caribbean scene,
even there the story-teller's art reveals the same weakness of West Inuian
family life which is apparent in other novels, and which is one of the
grounds of the instability of West Indian character.
Life is a pyramid in which there is always a layer of intellectual
activity somewhere near the apex. In one territory after another in the
West Indies persons are emerging who raise their periscopes and their
mirrors to depict the life they see around them. What is noteworthy
about then as a group is the fact that they all have to overcome static or
limiting friction, and to create a literary tradition out of nothing. They
are men who are making themselves overcome the inertia and disabilities
of their environment so their work has to be partially autobiographical,
and their personal vigour must come through. Generally it is a lone
struggle with the problems of form and self-criticism, and the writer is
lucky when he happens to live in a populous area and to have near to -
him some kindred spirits. In Jamaica where half the copulation of the
West Indies live. the position is easier. Men like Clare McFarlane and
women like Edna Manley form literary groups in the same way that
magnets create fields of force within which iron filings rearrange their
directions Vaughan and Collymore in Barbados, the St. Vincent group
Sof Keane. Williams and Owen Campbell, the Kyk associations,-in lesser
ways the intellectually inclined people. make their focus wherever they
find themselves as they come to maturity.
It may be too early yet for any record of their existence but it is a
fact that the frustrations that these people experience or overcome in the
West Indies are hardly mentioned in the West Indian novel. In Mittel-
holzer's first book Corentyne Thunder there is a cultivated but pretentious
young man Geoffry Weldon who thinks about the arts and discusses them
with his friend Stymphy. In The Life and Death of Sylvia there is a
character Milton Copps who is obviously a self-portrait ol the author.
Like Mittelholzer he is an admirer of Wagner and Beethoven in music
and he talks about the philosophy of the strong in the vein of Nietzsche.
But apart from these there is nothing tc denote these real growing points
,of West Indian society, which are little nurseries of art and culture.
Of course the inability to have their work published, and the lack of
any sizeable West Indian audience conspire to throw a tremendous shadow
of discouragement over our writers, and half of them pack up their manu-
scripts and go like Dick Whittington to the fabled city London. or to
New York to seek their fortunes. The list is distinguished Mittelholzer
who was a pioneer, Lamming, Mais, Keane, Selvon and in the eneourag-
-ing atmosDhere of the cultivated world they recollect their emotion into
tranquillity and produce work that finds a publisher.
In the West Indies there is the usual pattern of colonial
communities trying to becctre separate cultural entities, but trying to
perform the functions of a mature community with the ton of the pyramid
missing. It is only now that we have a University College in our midst
that we can begin to put the apex of the pyramid into place and create in
its own environment the leadership necessary for the cc munity.
We can if we desire cross check the picture of life in the region that
we see in the novel with that apparent in the work of the social investi-
gators like Andrew Pearse, Dr. Waites, George Cumper, Raymond Stmith,
and others. The outlines are the same basically, but for the difference in
the motion picture as against the still photograph, and for the fact that
the investigators, although conscious that they are examining a culture
different from their own, still bring some of their culture's values into
Discussing the norms of domestic grouping in an experimental paper
on Family Organisation in a Coastal Negro Community in British Guiana,
Raymond Smith stresses "the conflicting loyalty of a man to his mother
on the one hand and his wife on the other......it is the mother-child re-
lationship that is the most important single relationship". Madeline Kerr
concludes in "Personality and Conflict in Jamaica" that when the Jamai-
-can "moves from the peasant class to the middle class lie steps from one
culture pattern to another. In the middle class he has to adopt another
family system with a different ideology."
Finally let us look at the novel in the colonial society, where there is
no natural hierarchy, few families with a tradition of wealth and leisure
few universities to cap the educational system, and where there is the
ceaseless struggle to attain economic competence. Some months ago the (
Times Literary Supplement produced an issue dealing with the develop-
ing literatures of the British speaking countries and we can tell the tale
around the Commonwealth, beginning with New Zealand.
In New Zealand the novelist has turned more and more to the city
and the township, and stimulated by the 1930 depression and the Second
World War, has explored these themes with greater vigour than before.
Mr. Frank Sargeson is accounted the most distinguished of New Zealand
novelists and the two books of his that have impressed the critics are
That Summer and I saw in My Dream. In these novels Mr. Sargeson has
depicted the world of the underprivileged, choosing a vernacular type of
expression and attempting to convey the subtlest inflections and idioms of
New Zealand speech; his characters are however distrustful of the life of
The novelist in Australia writes under the shadow of the physical
environment of wild bush and sprawling distance. The themes are mate-
ship, encouraged by the danger and loneliness of the bush life, and a
stress upon social equality and independence. Australia has legislated to
exclude any but white people from the continent, but a novelist Eldershaw
has written a powerful book Tomorrow and Tomorrow in which the story
depicts the Australia of 400 years on when the white Australians are con-
quered by an Asiatic race and become merged with their conquerors.
Also Xavier Herbert in Capricornia has written an angry book on the
half-caste problem in the Northern Territory.
South Africa poses the problem of the colour question starkly be-
tween black and white, caught in an industrial revolution. "No audience,
no criticism, no society actively aware of what is being written and
thought in the world" so runs the Times Literary Supplement opinion.
The novelist in South Africa everybody knows is Alan Paton whose book
Cry the Beloved Country is a sincere attempt to show that the way to
solve the problems lies through reconciliation of the black and white ele-
ments in the society. Paton also like so many other Commonwealth
writers has woven his tale (at times it is naively set down) in the simple
peasant idiom of the Zulu priest Kumalo.
The novel in Canada comes under the shadow of the vast American
neighbour on her borders. The outstanding Canadian novelist is Hugh
MacLennan who in a recent book Each Man's Son, probes the life-story
of a doctor in a mining village on Cape Breton Island where the people
live under a curse brought from the Scotland of John Knox. The theme
is dour like the people and MacLennan examines the inner conflicts of
the mixture that is the Canadian nation. In a previous novel Two Soli
tudes the same author had written about the meeting of the English-speak-
ing and the French-speaking cultures in Montreal.
What then shall we say about the West Indian novel. That it i.
an infant industry developing 'n a manner parallel to those of Common
wealth countries, that it explores the possibilities of the vernacular, thEi
it exposes the weakness of the West Indian faln'ily structure, that like tbe,
Poetry of the region it is laying down the foundations and erecting the
spiritual scaffolding about which the fabric of a nation shall be moulded.
Few poets in these days can hope to throw an immediate bridge of
7 communication and influence over the gap of interest and taste separating
the creative minority from the mass of people, whether in a colonial out-
field or at a metropolitan centre. But a novelist may, although the bridge
Smay be a temporary one
As a poet myself, I say this wistfully. The poem is the cream of liter-
ature and can contain a concentrated distillation of experience; perscn-
Sality may be expressed in the brief powerful statement of a lyric or the
sustained music of ideas and incident to be found in the long poem, rather
.more fully than in the episodic or closely-knit novel. Among a young
people, like the people of the British Caribbean, the creative imagination
shows itself fit-t in the direct passionate stab of musical thought, which
poetry can be, and everywhere, in the islands and on the mainland, will
be found the star soloist or a nest of singing birds. On the other hand,
Sthe novelist has to train his gift and his spirit to the long sustained flight
necessary for his literary form.
"- But people read the novel who have little patience with the poem
They are attracted by the story perhaps, and the verisimilitude of social)
conditions which it will be possible to imitate and convey; and they may
Sbe repelled by the faggot-bundles of poetry upon the page which may
, puzzle the thought to a possibly unrewvarding end.
It is true to say that the novel does not reach the mass of the people
who are preoccupied with their individual and Dressing problems of eco-
nomics and politics.
I remember once declaring that West Indian writers 'were themselves
the centre and most important part of the West Indian audience",
Sand that the West Indian wrote largely to share his experience with his
fellow artists, an experience which Miss Lilian Dewar, with disdain,
described as "stultifying", a reaction "which can develop into nothing but
Sa circle within whose ring magicians murmur dark incantations."
The circles are widening as Miss Dewar may rest assured but the
,West Indian novelist still continues to express himself for the small cer-
tain audience of fellow artists and their camp followers in the region.
Sas well as the much larger but uncertain penumbra of readers in the
SEnglish-speakirg world, whose attention and interest will be quickened
by favourable reviews, if something new or striking comes out of Nazareth.
There can De no ,rnistake about the quickened interest which the aver-
age West Indian feels about the past and present conditions of the British
Caribbean. As a region we are becoming culturally literate: This has
hias not passed unheeded in London and New York. There is at present
only one publishing house in the region the Pioneer Press of the
T G:eaner organised by Una Marson which is doing its best to stimulate the
-tender plant of this growing readership. 'But travel and other books bear-
Sng the imprint of well-known houses on both sides of the Atlantic keep
arriving in the West Indies to whet the appetite and to encourage the
desire for books from our own West Indian pens.
The Muse on the Trail
Plateau that borders the river stands
above the mighty fall: the streams come from the mountains,
each lonely trail is carven on rock, on pebble, on sand.
Falls like lace in slow motion to conceal
the perpendicular surface of earth that is hard and unrelenting
Turns each indifferent pebble cound and round
smooth as smooth, each grain of sand carven as carven
suggestions in millions of shuffling feet on every plane of thought.
The tiniest flake is a cliff, the merest trickle of water
a deluge. The massive changes strip the mountains
that are obliterated like shadows though they seemed unchanging. The,
cook the mountainsides. The trail lasts down the falls
and vanishes in smoke, a sea of mist, the ocean
of time. And so the timeless feet follow from the mountains
to seek what was once substance and is now apparition
a tunnel through the caverns of the earth like swallow that enters
a black cave bright with moisture and drops of quicksilver,
the pursued and the pursuer, the aerial and the profound, Orpheus
in an underworld kingdom.
Old Man of the Falls! Immemorial Feet from the mountains! and Bright
Arms of Love,
Young Man of heavenly Music! the trail is identical.
It leads to a deeper valley and a deeper land. How deep is that valley!
how precipitous that skin of the earth!
The giant flakes stand edge to edge to perfect the early traces of doom 4
and remembrance, the original catastrophes of moving organisms
fish or eel dashed against the valleys of rocks. The great Fall
thunders, its voice inarticulate, its body smooth like the scales
on every overhanging hill. The organic stream of life swells
or diminishes, cloaks its secret trail or opens its charm. Deep intoxicating
is the valley of its awareness. Beneath the vast .ip of the old World 4
it hangs like smoke over the earth, greer as promising, sparkling as living,
spangled with undecipherable moss. The bottomless stream seems to'
and look back to the vanished mountains.
Spirit of the Labyrinth
The blue shell of the sky
glitters at noon
and grows into its opposite
so cold and so pure at sunset welcoming darkness!
To be born is to be ushered into noon's brightness.
Or to find still the womb o0 the night. Stranger
who comes into the eerie solitariness of light or the groping
imperfection of gloom
is marked or marred like animate flesh or inanimate wood. -All substance
seems equally susceptible to glow or extinction. Does flesh
or is victim to an earlier confusion? It grows forward and backward,
up and down, unravels the thread of blood. Unravels the thread
that reaches forward and backward into the darkest minotaur
and the most glorious hero. How fickle is fortune
Time is still waiting in the heart of the oldest lands
Y in spite of a glorious victory
of man over slavery that seems more legendary than true.
And in the desert of culture
the wind or earthquake comes and tumbles
Sthe, patience of history, the tribe or woman who is forgotten
but who remembers her own bitter love like a far distant sail
Sin the west,
Spirit of the Fall
Clouds experience youth and age when they glance so quickly
across the earth, and fall to the deep world around
in tiny raindrops and mist. Skies clear and vision
finds the torrent sparkling in the sun!
Over the edge of space all meaning seems to rage
like a baffling spirit of change
from one basis to other ground, one ledge
to a lower shelf of rock, streaming against the sun,
with barest hesitation.
It is this pause
that foretells reflection or realisation:
the stage of history and the open treachery of space
The great Fall is a torrent of evolution, the' world stands suspended
tormented by a blinding light
ravished in every cavity by insurrection.
Spray often wets each lip
the vestigial release of emotion!
Each stinging teardrop vanishes in space
and all things once more hang in the Spirit of the Fall
which opens every age and ground. Broken visions float
and sound issues from flying bubbles. Time is thrown ir or out,
is present or absent, is discontinuous and disjointed, is the measure
of something past waiting to be condensed or clarified in action.
So Man in his unreconciled drama stands
where the future can never be ground
however sensible the spray that brood:, like Spirit over the Fall.
Once the essence is broken the interconnection remains unpiumbed.
At the end of the trail the first deception happens, the hero
comes to the precipice, goes over and goes down. The huge
mist that rises and offers a sea solid and compacted
is only a captivating mirage. Over and down, the ineffectual shriek.
the slippery caves an. bubbles, the startling and startled ground.
Jump from above to below! heaven to earth, life
to death, innocence to guilt is the" fine grain
very fine and ground to streamers of cloud and deposit of mists:
like a warning that something is still not present or substantial
to consolidate every little ground. Margins of separation
are always ebbing
and flowing, the stage to return or go forward
is equally uncertain. Man's necessity
is an unobtrusive building from the lowest construction of time
to where the solid lands come up and climb.
The Golden Age
At the end of the jetty between suburban Kitty and port Georgetown
Where the mountains are a cloud
and the flats are sometimes drowned
stands history like a sluice of plantations
a ghost of rain over the wide waters and the sun. The Atlantic
hazy and imperfect, reaches the coast,
,each little wave peeps at the town. Fishing boats
lie on their side, empty shells high and discarded. This debris
" of the coast is eloquent witness that wherever someone comes
value orders and reflects a procession of built-up acts
of self-surrender to every alien tide. Grounds
what is in turn invaluable and trivial Something passes,
something must remain.
Like a sieve the sands release fluid and grain. Space is
an immaculate mirror
massed with mountainous clouds
or cloudless and blue.
SPain of body or mind is immaterial,
only a trail or reflection, neither good nor evil, neither subject nor object.
Justice and injustice have the same reaction. They splinter
into bodiless extension:
Into so many raindrops sweeping from ocean. They seem
to linger or are withdrawn alien and unpredictable as glass.
Moisture glistens after rain. Value transforms sand
into golden reflections like sunrise and sunset. The cold impurity
of the beach
strands glory into its imperfection. It both loses and gains the light.
It is no longer flat, untroubled, chaste, so innocent of its reality!
It yields and rises to a precipice of beauty,
and learns how singular is its grain on every height,
how impure and involved its level delight. In the strange nausea
of a sense of the unforgivable, Oedipus forgives all save on--
himself. Eyeless and homeless, his glory is won,
he is the downfallen and the creature of shadow. Whose hands
gave him his miserable eyes?
The mountains of life are that inconstant understanding which veil
and unveil the perfect and imperfect relationship in every living sunrise.
alter the ascet
Sis the residue and self-surrender, the trail and the reflection,
the glory and the reaction.
That is the golden age that follows a promiscuous and chastening event.
The dry earth near this salt sea
is baked and parched
under the sun.
Ridges of shadow
mark the distant bush
at the far end of the fields.
The land is bounded
by ineffectual palings that stand with shadow dwarfed everywhere.
Solid pillars wait in readiness for a new house
make darker or blacker impressions on the white ground.
The sounding sea hammers a half-mile off on the coast.
The vantage point of God
(it is human to surmise)
comes near however far. Far to find a scale that contains
what is very great and never loses what is secret and small.
The humped back of buildings is no plainer than nails
like crevices that scar the dumb walls that house
each beating heart. The sea is no louder
than arteries and red tidal blood. The wind
is no fainter than speeding and mighty clouds.
Creation is the spirit and the courage and the wisdom
men seek to employ:
a presence that buoys
limbs and body like clouds
a bridge for sheep, goats and men to pass
a dam to hold the sea
inanimate matter that conceals a swimming and cunning
strategy. Creation in the simple sense
is a surmise to save humanity
and counter every soulless deceit.
A strange banditry makes or mars the world forever.
Sun turns to shadow, the dry to a flood,
the good to the bad, the bad to the good,
the same entity, the same spirituality, the same
as close as a blossom reflected in a roadside drain to itself.
A transfix or treasure
a weatherbeaten house
is drawn and reflected as a faceless brow, a stick Without a blossom
whose lack of colour confuses the eye
as if no flower can startle or come alive
or the spirit's habitation open or divide!
Until the bandit comes
like a god
and wisdom inspires him within the weatherbeaten earchen house:
he is the uninvited
yet the summoned flood
tile drought who is within and withAut. warrior or prophet,
bandit or bard
in each flower as a thorn, each branch as a sword,
reflected like monstrous snakes of fire
in all original desire. Death is never treason
it is always rout. It is the unrealized associations
of the world the gods hide to bring out in the heart
of time's dying priest and eternity's valiant soldier,
creation's cunning hidden marriage and increase
of peril and of love.
Broods on the down-heap, the spirit that is mild and yet severe
painful and yet pleasurable. It is the spirit of creation. It is
the unity of extremes that reach from one end of the world
to the other, the extremes of being, the luxury in squalor,
the knowledge in ignorance, the strength in weakness. It is
lofty and blue like this living sky. It is frail
like a green leaf against heaven. It is still again the nondescript
trunk of a tree, so rugged and gnarled, weathered and shrunken:
waiting to be reduced to dry white limbs whenever the sea comes in
it is palace and hovel,
the crumbling road and the retrnotest village, the absolute minimum
of survival, the matted hair of man and beast. It is
the world that exists on different yet answering planes,
the solitary whispering abandoned strip of land where the sea
has come in and the soft spongy ground is penetrated and holed.
What then exists! what plant or beast lives! what seed
or what soul endures, what crab scuttles,
clothes its soft and yielding flesh with a shell.
The vast and thudding sea that sweeps unknowing and mud-coloured
sullen and indifferent
is imbued with the casual immensity of greatest power,
scorns beauty and awareness
save the beauty of its marginal desolation. Here on this
edge of coastland, no road exists to withstand the deeps.
These swallow and yet preserve the iron inevitability of form,
the disintegration of matter that is never truly lost
but is in perpetual suspension, changing, melting,
tangible, intangible, on the verge of a real stability,
a magical undergrowth of dead leaves and surviving
roots and pillars like trees shaken by the mysterious drowned
storm of creation, the concept of their eternity and season.
The concept jl their extreme freedom that exists everywhere
in the world and is here too on this distant strip of coast
in fashion and in ghost. Here as everywhere
the celebration of spirit, the discriminate fashion and wake of survival,
the surrender of an indefinable strand or experience into or out of the sea,
into body and into mind, into feature and into memory,
into life and into the strangest realisation of death.
This is creation that cancels out and yet preserves all that is best and
The Language We Speak-iv.
By RICHARD ALSOPP
(Being answers to questions forwarded by Dr. R. B. LePAGE of the I
versity College of the West Indies).
1. Percentage of children speaking an approximation to standa
English as their natural tongue.
2. What do the others speak?
A statistical answer to your questions is impossible but the following
explains the position: British Guiana is not like St. Lucia, Dorninica,
British Honduras and perhaps one oi two other West Indian territories
where there are dialects spoken and understood as distinct from "English".
There is nowhere in the coastal area oa' British Guiana and over 95% of
our population is in the coastal area where spoken standard English
%will not be understood. The degree and ;aie of comprehension will o0
course vary in some areas but there is never any question of its being
Entirely absent This statement+ ma,, be modified in respect of-
(a) about 6,8C0 Amerindians who live in the far interior ;vho on
the whole do not understand English, these being however not
the total Amerindian population
(b) a ver., few very old East Inaians, mostly male some of the still
surviving number of indentr; ed labourers from India, scattered
in rural districts, the exteni. of whose understanding of spoken
English may be very small. The number of these is negligible.
But there are no children in British Guiana (apart from some of
the Amerindian children mentioned above, forming possibly
1% of our child population) who do not understand standard
All the above refers to "understanding", because I think it necessary
to preface the whole of my answer.; with such an explanation. The
difference between this and speaking standard English is a matter ot
S-arying degree but only of degree, in British Guiana. The degrees are
indicated by the following categories:-
I All children of school age in urban areas (Georgetown, New
Amsterdam, Bartica) can if required, speak standard English
and same of them normally do. The others normally express
themselves, in spoken language in Creolese.
II All children in rural areas can also, if required express them-
selves in standard English, though many of them will not keep
it up without some strain. The great majority normally express
themselves in Creolese and--
III The remainder, a small minority, will not be capable of any
appreciably sustained effort in spoken standard English. These
are most comfortable with Creolese, there being the standing
proviio that their understanding of standard English is un-
IV A very small percentage of children in rural areas will express
themselves exclusively in creolese, and if required to speak
standard English will, if they respond, speak a language so un-
grammatical as to be barely acceptable as English. These are
mostly children who have had little or no schooling.
V Amerindian children. Two acts apply to the whole Amerindian
(a) they form 4.3% of the whole country's population (1940i
(b) the bulk of them have only slender contact with the rest
of the population.
Hence as a group they hardly affect the general linguistic picture.
and these facts condition anything said about Amerindian children.
t The great bulk (86%) of Amerindians are in the county of Essequibo and
1. children in the coastal districts are all literate in English, use
very little creoLese (for which reason I have not put them in
category I above) and their spoken English is said to be of a
higher level than the genera' run of coastal children: this con-
dition is accounted for by intensive school and mission work.
2. Children in the central (Mazaruni-Potaro) area speak a variety
of tribal dialects; their understanding of English is extremely
slender, though there are one or two schools and mission churches
which are conducted in English.
3. Children in the far interior (Rupununi) speak tribal dialects as
well a, dialectal Brazilian Portuguese; their understanding of
English is very slender, but is increasing; there are 13 schools
and much missionary work in this area, conducted in English.
S Separate informationn regarding tihe Amerindians in the counties of
Demerara and Berbice does not seem to be available possibly because
tiey are so few and because they are more spread out among the popu-
lations of the counties, but the 1951 statistical returns of the Education
Department, which cover all Amerindian children in British Guiana,
> show 2,837 of them listed as attending schools. This is a high number fcor
Amerindians and indicates an acquirement of English which will increase
I have taken such pains with category V as it is only there that it
is fair to say there are children (i.e. in the central and southern districts
of Essequibo) who do not speak English of any kind. I think the facts
justify the conjecture that such children are less than 1% of child popu-
lation of British Guiana.
With respect to categories II. III, IV the obvious question is how far
creolese is an "approximation to standard English". I will deal with this
3 What sort of problems does this situation set in the schools? (A)
Is much time spent in teaching standard English? (B) Does this
retard progress in other directions? (C) Is there any demand for
instruction in any other language than standard English?
(A) 8 or 9 out of 25 hours per week are given to the teaching of
English as a subject: reading, dictation, grammar, composition. This time
varies, within small limits, with schools rather than with areas. Liter-
ature is mainly done as preparation for Education Department examina-
tions, but an Ircreasing number of schools are building libraries as en-
couragement to voluntary reading.
(B) Progress is not retarded in other directions. A normal primary
school time-taie is carried out everywhere. Only in few schools for
Amerindian children is there some exception to this, where instead ol:
"progress being retarded" it is rather that there are more hours of in-
struction in English, the time-table being less varied than in the general
run of schools. English and Arithmetic taking up most of the time.
(C) There is not one of the 283 government-aided primary schools-
in British Guiana in which instruction is given in any medium but stan-
card English. This includes schools for Amerindians mentioned above.
S here is no other medium or demand for any other medium of instruc-
tion throughout British Guiana.
There has always been however, a certain amount of conscious effort
by some East Indian bodies to retain, and in recent years to regain, the
language of their fathers. These are-
The Arya Samaj (Hindi).
The B.G. Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabak (Hindi).
The Muslim Board of Education (Urdu).
They undertake the teaching of Hindi and Urdu to East Indians,
mainly adult and have always received Government grants for the pur-
pose. Instruction in these schools is cone almost wholly in English and
it should be stressed in any case that the child attendance, if any,
is very small, hence the almost complete disappearance today among
children of these languages.
As from 1952 the League of Coloured Peoples has also started classes
in (West African) Ibo. another conscious effort, mainly responded to by
Adults, but no one has yet acquired this language in British Guiana. The
medium of instruction is English.
(4) Has the picture changed much in the last few years e.g. increasing
Americanisation, immigration of any sort?
The only changes are in the direction of the total acquirement of
English by the whole country and the disappearance of any other
language. The numerous Amerindian dialects are the only ones that will
persist for long for the reasons gi.-en in answer to question 1 and 2. The
SAfrican dialects have long ago completely disappeared leaving only a
few score of actual words s and much colouring surviving ;n creolese,
though occasionally the discovery of some still surviving child of a slave
:;ble to speak an African language, as well as English, startles one. The
Indian languages are steadily disappearing, barring the conscious effort
t already described and that, faced with a large westernised, albeit inter-
ested Indian population, is virtually ineffectual.
There has been no immigration for some 30 or 40 years. by any ling-
uistic group, on any scale to make any sensible difference to the picture.
Those who do come in, many of them Chinese and Assyrians, rapidly
acquire creolese idiom if no better English.
The answer is quite different in respect of Americanisation. The
English being acquired here has, in common with other West Indian
- territories, a distinctness which has also marked the language of other
British overseas territories. This is largely due to its background, on
which there is a comment lower down, but present day contribution comes,
in very great part, from America. American vocabulary and intonation
have always had an open gateway through films. British films are a
rare exception. Films are the corrrr-onest form of entertainment of all
classes, there being practically no other form of regular pui-he entertain-
- ment. The lack of roads and beaches and the inaccessibility of inland
scenery keep people to the cinemas even on long holidays. Therefore
the impact of films in British Guiana is of a strength that must be well
nigh peculiar to this land. It is probably true that there are cinemas
within reach of 80% of our population. In Georgetown, perhaps 2 square
miles in area, with a population of about 90,000, there are 8 cinemas
operating daily and at least two more threaten. Prices of admission range
from 14 cents upwards. Volumes of coloured American "comics" also
flood this country and most children feast on them. Literature of every
Kind, even the "penny dreadful" has given way to then:. Some shops
hire out "comics" to those who cannot aftord to buy, at a "penny a read".
They appear in the hands of children, and of many adults too everywhere
Sand on all occasions. American magazines and periodicals are also ex-
tremely popular here, very few British cnes, if any, being in general cir-
Sculation among all classes. The establishment of a large American air-
base 25 miles by road from Georgetown for many years (from 1941) and
Sa smaller naval base in Essequibo for a shorter time absorbed large quan-
tities of labour, popularised the camera-bearing American G.I. among
most classes, and released a new wave of Americanised vocabulary which
has left a prominent mark although the Americans have n-w gone.
The general result is an American colouring noticeable in the intona-
tion and vocabulary of speech and writing in British Guiana. I have
picked out the words -
all-out, cointry-wide, know-how, set-up, underscore, way-back -
from editorials and serious newspaper articles. The vocabulary of people
in the middle and upper social strata is freely marked with Americanisms
Sand the intonation and articulation of words in the American manner is
manifested in varying degrees in all but the small stratum of English
people. It strikes me, though I advance this opinion with somf- hesitation,
that among men, this intonation and articulation are most noticeable
among the younger labouring class, and among women, the "marriageable
employee" class, especially Portuguese girls. Possibly, ii I am right,
both groups feeling the need to enhance or advance their personality,
resort, as one means, to this practice, often unconsciously. Th;i may well
be the big reason behind the whole question of Americanismrs, as the
filmstar complex, as I indicated above, is very strong here: but these
are things rather for the sociologist to investigate.
An interesting commentary on the spread of Americanism is the
fact that the appearance in the Police Court of persons using the "Yankea
drawl" and chewing gum has been sufficiently noticeable to receive com-
ment in one newspaper.
5 A general description of the adult language strata-is there a link
between these and social or colour distinctions?
I will take the racial aspect of the question as separate and answer
The only clear links between race and language among adults in
British Guiana come at three points in the social scale.
(1) At the too, Britons speak different dialects of Engl;sh according
to the region of Britain from which they come: but to the local
ear, only the strongest Scottish or Irish accent is distinguish.
able The rest, including Iccal imitations, is bunched together
and described as "white talk". They form less than 1% of
(2) 'Only older adult East Indians, belonging exclusively to the
labouring class in and around sugar estates, or engaged in mar-
ket-trading, the survivals of indentured labour and their first
generation, can speak Hindi or Urdu among themselves. They
are equally fluent however in creolese and can also express
themselves in limited English.
A fuller note on Indian languages in British Guiana is perhaps
worthwhile at this point:--The Senior Immigration Agent. Mr.,
Dwarka Nath, who has written a History of the Indians in British
Guiana, is of opinion that in 10 years or so this Indian language
group will entirely disappear. At present it comprises about four
or five thousand Indians, and there are very few of these, surely
less than one hundred, who cannot understand English. The Courts
of Law throughout this country employ a total of 6 interpreters in
Hindi and Urdu to cater for emergencies, but their use is excep- .
tional so that they are substantively employed in other capacities,
having the duty of Interpreter as an additional one. Examinations
are held annually for those wishing to qualify as interpreters but
out of an average of 40-50 candidates only some 15-20 pass, although
the pass standard is, I am told, at an encouragement level. Of the
successful candidates some hold classes of their owvn and/or serve
in Temples and Mosques, or are employed by the three bodies
named in the answer to question 3).
The 1931 census provides the following figures:-
Total East Indian population of B.G. .. 130,540
Number of East Indians born in India (i.e. came -
as indentured labour) .. .. .. .. 23,236
Literate in Hindi, Urdu, Tamil or Telagu (figures
for the latter two totalling about 200) .. .. 11,743
Whereas the figure for the spoken language (as opposed to literacy)
would be higher, it is still noteworthy that in 1931 only one-eleventh
at best of the East Indian population commanded an Indian
language: and the fact that the 1946 census gives no separate figures
for literacy in any of the Indian languages restricting itself only to
literacy in English is an outstanding indication of the steady and
rapid disappearance of the Indian languages. Nevertheless it is
noteworthy that at the 1953 General Elections, instructions for
voting were put up in English, Hindi ar. UJrdu.
(3) At the bottom of the social scale are the "isolated" Amerindians
(totalling 4.3% of population) who evidently have scores of
dialects extant. Here again some detail of population would help:
Of the 16,322 kmerindians accounted for in the 1946 census. 7% are
in Berbice, 7% in Demerara and remaining bulk in Essequibo, there
being 45% in the coastal region, 16% in the central, and 25% in the
far interior. I can say little of the Berbice and Demerara Amer-
indians though I believe that their small numbers are mostly
absorbed in the population masses of these counties. socially and
linguistically, few of them being unequipped with at least Creolese.
The major group, in the coastal region of Essequibo can, in the main
speak English, most of them well. Most of these can also speak
some Venezuelan Spanish, in addition to their own Arawak dialect.
But the Amerindian adults of central and southern Essequibo do
not speak English or creolese.
Description of the adult language strata:
Setting aside the "white talk" of Britons who are less than 1 % of
population and those Amerindians who speak no admissiole English
> (another 2% of population at most) it will be seen that thl remaining
97% of population express themselves in English of varying levels. The
first four categories outlined for children in answering question 1 would
apply broadly to adults with the important proviso that children of cate-
gories III and IV approach-and many reach-category I as adults.
This is due to the general advancement of English among the whole
population, and further to the especial conditions that -
(a) the concentration of the majority of the population into the
coastal region of B.G. and
(b) the lack of alternative routes between places in this region -
keep the population rubbing together so constantly as to enforce the use
of English of a gradually improving level.
The importance of these two conditions cannot be overestimated in
assessing the character of local speech. Along sea coast and river in
each county there is always a single traffic-road connecting town and
villages, with never an alternative inland or return route. This road
has scores of dead-end tributary tracks leading a mile or two, sometimes
five or six miles inland to farm or estate. But everybody uwes the same
few miles of road and whoever goes up a road in or on any vehicle must
always return by the same. The railways make no difference. Where
they exist, they are parallel to the loads. This means that trading,
marketing, administrative rounds, business, visiting, holiaay-making and
any other activity that sets people in motion take them, all on the same
road so that even the most secluded rustic is brought into fairly frequent
contact with folk whose language is nearer standard English.
The following language strata, between which there are no sharp
dividing lines, may be, generally speaking, distinguished.
(a) Administrative class (in
Government and coinmerce).
(b) Clerical and teaching class.
(c) Non-clerical employees
Working & labouring clesses.
(d) Coastal Amerindian labour.
(e) Rural dwellers.
(f) Older East Indians
(g) Non-coastal Amerindians
Standard English including "white
talk", and imitations.
Creolese non-existent or suppressed.
Standard English. Often voluntary
Creolese. Standard English as an
English with limitations.
Tribal dialects. Very little
creolese. A little Spanish.
Creolese. Approximate Standard
English on demand.
Cleolese. Hindi (Urdu)
as alternative. Limited English.
Tribal Dialects plus (in southern
Essequibo) some Portuguese.
The above is of course in order of quality of English and bears no
relation to size of group. In the latter respect (c), (e), (b), (f) in this order
are far the largest groups comprising together some four-fifths oi the
population. A fairly exact idea of how the great majority of these speak
or can speak is had from reading Frank Mayhew's account "My Life" in
the last Caribbean Quarterly (Vol 3. No. 1.). The language there might
well be that of any Guianese in one of the groups (c), (e) or (f).
Finally, here is a brief Description of Creolese which figures so pro-
minently, as it must in any account of language in B.G,
Background of Creolese:
1. On a variety of West African dialects was grafted first Dutch, the
Dutch being slave masters here for some 200 years until 1796. (Dutch
still remained prominently enough in 1838 to be complain I of in a report
(i: Negro Education in B.G.).
2. Short periods of French and English interrupted Dutch domina-
, tion, and jostled each other, until the final arrival of the British in 1803
from which time English began overgrowing other languages or dialects.
3. After the abolition of slavery, East Indian indentured labour
added Hindi and Urdu words. "English" grafted on to their tongues pro-
duced new patterns which in turn affected the generality of the Creolese
4. Chinese (from 1853) and Portuguese (much later) immigrant la-
Sbour played the same role in a small way as the East Indians. Portuguese
are still not considered "white" in B.G.
5. Gold and diamond seekers of African descent venturing into the
interior bring back Amerindian words, mostly nouns, into the language
and some are in general circulation.
The population as per 1946 census is divided as follows:
Amerindians .. 4.3% Europeans other than
Portuguese .. 0.6%
African descent .. 38.2% Portuguese .. 2.3%
Mixed .. .. 10 % Chinese .. .. 0.9%
East Indian .. 43.5% Other Asiatics & not
stated .. .. 0.2%
All these contribute to Creolese and all except Europeans and Amer-
indians as a whole, use it.
Characteristics of Creolese
1. Creolese is a medium of oral expression only and is never used
v for written communication. (Jocular newspaper articles in the idiom,
and expressions or proverbs in the body of written English sometimes ap-
2. Standard English is the framework and container of v'reoiese,
but its sources and speech patterns are provided as well from African
dialects, Dutch, French, Hindi, Portuguese, Chinese, Biblical English, U.S.
English and Amerindian dialects.
3. Gesture of hand and face especially, as well as of other parts of
the body are inseparable qualities of creolese. Vivid and crisp imagery
are a corollary to this.
4. A great abundance of descriptive sound-words.
5. The repetition of adjectives for superlative effect big big big!-
6. The past tense of verbs is almost never used.
7. The verb in a sentence is more often the word containing the
important idea in the sentence-dem unfair de boy (= have been unfair
8. Prepositions are unimportant. They are often omitted or used .
9. Many aphetic forms, clipped forms, and words with final conson-
ants or syllables dropped.
10. Vowels are pure and broad as a rule, there being very few diph-
thongs. All "th"s become "d"s.
A fuller description of B.G. creoiese with examples is contained in
my'articles in "Kyk-over-Al" Decembei 1949 and October 1950.
A Producer's Note
T. S. Eliot's "Family" Reunion
by A. A. D. Martin *
The modern appurtenances of the theatre can be very attrac-
tive in themselves, and one can be captivated by the symbolism of
colour, or stirred by the pleasing effects produced by the mechan-
ics of lighting. But language, character and human conflict are,
still the essentials of the play. and with these the dramatist has
always been solely concerned. In the great Greek and Shakes- '
perian periods,when plays were presented before a formal and
well known background, it was the actors' presentation of these
that remained of supreme importance.
It is, perhaps, not easy to be enthusiastic on a mere reading
of Mr. T. S. Eliot's The Family Reunion since it is difficult to tune
in on the rhythm to which its lines are set. When, however, this -
is brought out by a competent-speaking actor, the language, the
characters, and the conflict cnme to full flood in a remarkably
fascinating and distinctive piece. Its consequential effect is not
unlike that which an eloquent speaker achieves upon an audience
who may not, on the following day, remember his arguments. The
moving quality lies in the manner in which modern expression is
intensified, in meaning and clarity, by a rhythm attuned to its
day-to-day life and feeling.
What does Mr. Eliot say in The Family Reunion? This ques-
tion always comes up with those who have seen the play. Differ-
ent people answer it differently, although, I suspect that they very
> often agree in their conclusions without being aware of agreement.
AMY, the head of the family, is expecting to a dinner reunion
her three absent sons, more particularly her eldest son, HARRY.
The place is the family seat, Wishwood, in the north of England.
SWith her are three sisters, her niece, and the two brothers of her
deceased husband. Amy is and has been for most of her life a
lonely woman. Her life with her husband has been unhappy and
has only found emotional outlet in possessing and dominating
Wishwood. To this single purpose even the life of Harry has
been, from its tender beginnings, ordered and influenced She
has, as she says, wanted everything for Harry even without
- any volition of his. But, nevertheless, she has also wanted Harry
for Wishwood. A strong woman, ridden by an ambition that en-
gulfs the whole family, she looks upon them with a dispassionate
eye and, in her downright fashion. she tells them:
I do not want the clock to stop in the dark.
If you went to know why I never leave Wishwood
That is the reason. I keep Wishwood alive
To keep the family alive, to keep them together,
To keep me alive, and I live to keep them......
They know this. In that always vaguely groping and uneasy
fashion, they know it. But how can Harry, at childhood, have
understood it? A child whose schooldays were oppressed and
conditioned by the things which only after many years his aunt,
Agatha, was to tell him in these poignant lines:
You see your mother as identified with this house--
SIt was not always so. There were many years
Before she succeeded in making terms with Wishwood.
................ and reached the point where
Wishwood supported her, and she supported Wishwood.
At first-it was a vacancy. A man and a woman,
SMarried, alone in a lonely country house together,
For three years childless, learning the meaning of
SHarry could not as a child discern the misery. He remembered
only a childhood where-
.................. it all seemed imposed upon us
Even the nice things were laid out ready
There was never time to invent our own enjoyments.
And on his return, in manhood, he finds only-
A misery long forgotten ................
The shadow of something behind (his) meagre
Some origin of wretchedness.
Life has suggested to him that some dark chasm existed in the
past, and that before he can chart his future he needs to know his
past. He has never understood his mother, and of his father he
has little recollection. There is a suspicion in his mind that some
knowledge of his father might help him to understand more; that
missing pieces or pieces seemingly unrelated might fall into place
and a pattern emerge that could account for and explain what
seems unexplainable. From the old family friend, Dr. Warburton,
he obtains only the irritating evasions that increases his certainty
of the existence of the things he needs to know, without satisfying
his lack. When Warburton tells Harry-
Harry, there's no good probing for misery.
There was enough once: but what festered
Then, has only left a cautery.
Leave it alone. You know that your mother
And your father were never very happy together:
he does nothing to assuage Harry's spiritual predicament or explain
the "origin of wretchedness". This "origin of wretchedness" 4
which he feels, we the audience see something of in Amy's out-
burst, in bitter revelation of her life with Harry s lather, to
Agatha whom she dislikes:
....................... Seven years I kept him,
For the sake of the future, a discontented ghost,
In his own house. What of the humiliation,
Of the chilly pretences in the silent bedroom
Forcing sons upon an unwilling father.
Dare you think what that does to one? Try to think
This is the tragedy of a soul. and the seed of that wretchedness
of which Harry was a creature. Harry's aunt, Agatha, has more
than anyone else understood something of the cumulative effect
these unfortunate circumstances might well have had upon
Harry. A quiet, intelligent and sensitive character, whose per-
ception of the domestic situation was only slightly affected by the
bond of sympathy between Harry's father and herself, she saw
them and herself clearer than they saw themselves. When she
I know one thing, Amy:
That you have never changed. And perhaps I have not.
I thought that I had, until this evening.
But at least I wanted to. Now I must begin.
There is nothing more difficult. But you are just the
Just as voracious for what you cannot have
Because you repel it.
and again, when Amy accuses her of interfering in her life to steal
what was not her own, she says, self-revealingly, that she took
Nothing that Amy really ever had-
What did I take? nothing that you ever had.
What did I get? thirty years of solitude,
Alone, among women, in a women's college,
Trying not to dislike women. Thirty years in which to
The inescapable truth of these things stings Amy. Agatha has
had to stand aside. Having no right to pursue what she desired
most, she has been forced into clearer, objective observation of
the turning wheel of events and their significance. This is why
she perceives with Harry the rightness of his decision to separate
his spirit from Wishwood, if he would find himself. Like him, she
does not quite know how she knows it. She can only tell Harry
what the feeling is, not why it is:
Perhaps, you are the consciousness of your unhappy
Its bird sent flying through the purgatorial flame
In the end, Harry himself apprehends that in his life he has
been "wounded in a war of phantoms". In the end he learns that--
.... ................. ........ happiness
Did not consist in getting rid of what can't
Be got rid of, but in a different vision.
And here, I think, is Eliot's meaning. He is saying that for
almost all of us, what we are, is in the past. What we must be in
the future is what we were made in the past. If escape is possi-
ble, it is in "a different vision." But by and large, the man is,
inevitably, the child he was, growing and forming in i matrix of
those people, and events, that have surrounded and pressed heavily
upon him, excluding all other vision.
The language which Eliot has devised for his characters re-
quires in performance the finest powers of the actor; for the
appreciation of it is in direct relation to the ability to impart the
subtle shades of meaning with clarity, and the well-drawn character
strengths and weaknesses with the feeling that all good poetic
drama demands. Given this, the way to enjoy the play is to sur-
render oneself to its current and flow.
FROM AN ALLIANCE FRANCHISE LECTURE
A Note on Rabelais
by F. H. Martin Sperry
Of Rabelais, I think less is widely known in England than of most
celebrated French authors, whether poets, dramatists, essayists, novelists,
or of other literary eminence.
Frangois Rabelais, French humorist, and France's greatest satirical
writer, was born at Chinon in Touraine, the year of his birth being vari-
ously given as 1483, 1490 and 1495.
At La Baumette near Angers in the Convent School there, he laid the
foundation of his friendship with his future protectors, the brothers Du
Bellay, and also made the acquaintance and enjoyed the hospitality of
Geoffrey d'Estissac, Bishop of Maillezais. He assumed the habit of a monk
and in 1519 held some position in the Franciscan Monastery of Fontenay-
le-Comte in Poitu. Later on (about 1530) he abjured the monastic life
and entered the faculty of medicine at Montpellier and eventually lec-
tured on Galen and Hippocrates, the celebrated Doctors of classical his-
Some of his pursuits were variegated with acting in a morale comedie,
often indulged in as a University amusement.
Those of you who, as I do myself, like good cuisine, may be interested
to hear that Rabelais also composed a Fish Sauce in imitation of the
He showed preference and aptitude for the study of languages, and
acquired in particular a profound knowledge of Greek. But his scholar-
ship and his sarcasm made him intensely disliked by his fellows in the
monastery. His Greek books were taken away from him, and he was
then thrown into prison on account of unseemly behaviour; only through
the intervention of influential friends could he obtain his liberty and later
(1524) permission to change the Franciscan order for that of the Bene-
dictines. Subsequently after entering the Abbey of Maillezais he did not
continue in this vocation, but later obtained his Doctor's degree, as already
mentioned. While he received the degree only in 1537, we find him acting
as Doctor in the hospital in Lyons in 1532. At the same time he was
pursuing his literary studies, particularly in Italian and Old French litera-
ture, and he was a very active collaborator with his friend Etienne Dolet,
the learned and free-thinking publisher, who was burnt at the stake as a
heretic in 1546. Rabelais prepared editions of the medical writers on
whom he had lectured at Montpellier. He also began the publication of
his "Pantagrueline Prognostications" under the pseudonvry of Alcofribas
Nasier, a series of almanacs which have not come ,down to posterity.
This pseudonym is simply an anagram of Francois Rabelais, which was
to mislead the attacks made by the sharply criticised monks and priests.
Beneath his exterior of burlesque and buffoonery, Rabelais possesses
Ihe profoundest learning and the boldest philosophy, and belongs to the
category of intellects of the first order.
What the precise significance of his grotesque manner may be, com-
mentators still dispute, but his essential and enduring greatness is beyond
Question. Embracing the learning of his period he stood for intellectual
freedom, and in respect of his whole world philosophy, was far ahead of
his time. Never has a satirical writer swung the lash of derision in
bolder and more fearless fashion than Rabelais. The hypocrisy, the stupid
cunning of the priesthood, the quibbling and sophistry of the jurists, the
quackery and charlatanism of the Doctors, the excesses of the temporal
powers, the arrogance and the ignorance of the great Lords had in him
an opponent, irreconcilable and equipped with destructive weapons.
War against such enemies he waged in his novel tale with the superior
serenity of an inexhaustible intellectual wealth.
But in really profound thought in true wisdom, this wonderful book
abounds, even though these elements are overloaded with tremendously
grotesque fantasies of wanton merriment and cynicism of humorous moods,
and especially of allegories which render their interpretation particularly
As one believes to recognize in "Grangousier", "Gargantua" and ''Pan-
tagruel", Louis XII, Francis I and Henry II, so does one soon see in "Pa.-
nurg" the Cardinal of Amboise, and soon Rabelais himself, and then the
representative of sound common sense
Rabelais has been further of the greatest significance in developing
the French language, which he transformed in order to make possible the
presentation of his thoughts, and wh-ch he has enriched with a mass
of expressions and phrases which have become lasting common property.
down to 1803.
The bewildering abundance of digressive and burlesque amplifica-
tions, covert satire on things political, social and religious, as well as the
miscellaneous erudition of literary and scientific kind, resolves itself
finally, in plaini English, as humour.
It shows a wide sympathy in human affairs with an understanding
of their vanity Rabelais is by no means devoid of reverence and shows
an appreciation of passion and poetry. Rabelais is by many considered
as a sober reformer, an apostle of eaiinest work, of sound education, of
rational if not dogmatic religion, who wraps up his morals in a farcical
envelope, so as to go down with the vulgar and also to shield himself
from the consequences of his reforming zeal. By Sir Walter Besant
Rabelais is deemed more or less ant'i-eligious, and his book a protest
:against trying to explain supernaturally the riddle of the Earth. A
third judgment is that he is the incarnation of the "esprit Gaulois" -
the French wit a jovial careless soul not destitute of common sense
nor acute intellectual power, but pric.arily a good fellow, preferring a
broad jest to a fine-pointed one and rollicking through life like a good-
natured undergraduate. All these 1.iews have certain objections.
Rabelais was possessed of vast learning and penetrated with the ideas
and hopes of the Renaissance hua:.nistic and full of aspirations for
,social and political improvement- and for a joyous, varied and non-
He has a lively satirical wit which is often allied to a love of books
He touches the laughable side of things with kindly laughter, now and
then dropping the risible for the rational. He is a humourist. Com-
paring him with Lucian and Swift( he is less of a mere mocker like
Lucian, but is entirely destitute, even when writing of monks and ped-
ants, of the terocity of Swift. He neither sneers nor rages and the
immense laugh which distinguishes himn is entirely good-natured
The blemish in "Gargantua" and "Pantagruel" is the coarseness of
language and imagery. He was by his ultra-orthodox enemies
accused of obscenity and impiety. Judged relatively, there are, if not
excuses, an explanation. The indecent-, has been grossly exaggerated
by those unfamiliar with Early French literature. The form of his book
was popular, a:nd popular French Middle Age literature, as distinguished
irom the courtly and literary literature, can hardly be exceeded in point
of coarseness. Rabelais coarseness ha3 none of the corruption of refined
voluptuousness nor the sniggering indecency which you find in Pope,
Voltaire and Sterne. Rabelais wrote in the language most acceptable
at that tune to the common run of man Nowadays, taste having been
much refined, Rabelais has in parts become nearly unreadable. In
religion, Rabelais was claimed as a .ree-thinker, ranging from undog-
matic theism to atheism, and also as a concealed Protestant. Those
accusing him of free-thinking, if not of directly anti-Christian thinking.
never give chapter and verse for this, and frankly chapter and verse
cannot be given. There is absolutely nothing in Rabelais' works in-
compatible with an orthodoxy which v would be recognized as sufficient
by Christendom at large, leaving out of the question those points of
doctrine and practice on which Christians differ. Beyond this, no wise
Ipan will, venture, and short of it hardly an unprejudiced man will stop.
A LITTLE ABOUT ...
The Wapishana Indians in the
'by Edwina Melville
They love to laugh. They see the bright side of life long before they
glimpse the gloomy. In the midst of pain they can smile, tell them a
joke and they'll laugh heartily.
When meeting them for the first time if you can say something
amusing and smile and shake hands they will like you a hundred times
more than if you look glum and severe. The only time the Wapishana
cries is in time of death or when he is intoxicated.
Their language is easy to learn. It cannot be described as liquid or
musical, it is a jumble of all sounds. The babbling of water over stony
ways, the cries and caws of birds, the strange "L" sound of "R" as in
the word "ilieb" meaning "plenty". The call of animals, sometimes
almost guttural with lots of "Ths"-any creak, squeak, hoot, murmur,
that's their language. The language of Nature.
They are wonderful mimics, and can reproduce any sound they've
heard. It is a common occurrence when hunting acouri (agouti) and
mimicing the acouri's sharp cry, for a jaguar to be fooled and think it is
a real acouri. Of course this causes some embarrassment to both parties!
Usually the jaguar manages to slink off before the hunter can get a shot
In fact so good are the Wapishanas at imitating various sounds that
most of their Piai men (witch-doctors) are expert ventriloquists. There
was once a young Amerindian man who whilst walking to his field saw
a sudden shadow flit before him and disappear into the forest. The man
was badly frightened and by night-fall had not returned home. His
people found him sitting in the path as though he were in : trance. He
babbled an incoherent story or the Moon Man. After two days had passed
and the man neither ate nor drank the family called in the Piai who began
to question the boy. He told the Piai that whilst he had been walking
along he had seen the Moon Man lying with his wife by the pathside and
because he had looked upon them he was sure the Moon Man was much
angered and he believed that for his prying he would not be able to eat
or drink and so he would die.
That night the Piai had a meeting. In his little rnmud-floored, leaf-
thatched hut the young man's family gathered about the Piai in horse-
shoe fashion. The sick man was brought in and lay on some skins near
the Piai. All fires were extinguished and the house was in total dark-
Just when everyone was beginning to get tired of per-ing into the
darkness they heard a strange "shek-ek-shek-ek, shk" noise coming from
outside, nearer and nearer. The noise seemed to climb to the top of the
roof, then it began to fall, down down, THROUGH the roof, landing with
a soft "b-lap" on the hard earth floor before the Piai. With lowered
mutterings the Piai and the strange visitor began to talk. Soon the
rustling began again and the visitor began to gallop round the room,
uttering gentle snorts and little kicking noises, "bif-dap, bif-dap." All
heads turned, following the noise as it rose and seemed to thrust through
the roof and slither down outside. As the galloping hoots died away,
- the Piai gave a sort chuckle and explained that their visitor had been
the Deer Man. The Deer Man had told him that the Moon Man was
on his way but that first the Bird Mar would come to see them.
Hardly had the Piai said this than yet another sound was heard..
Giant wings beating overhead! Fluttering, hovering, alighting on the
roof, then falling, tearing through the roof. Great feathered wings
Slapped in greeting and when the Bird Man spoke it was with the cooing
of the dove, the hoot of the owl, the shriek of the hawk, the squawking of
the parrot, the plaintive whistle of the Maam. Abruptly he too flew
around the room and all who sat there swore they felt the wind of the
flapping wings. Again the roof seemed to open and the beating wings
were heard soaring away.
Close after the Bird Man came the measured tread of the Moon Man
Shut he disdained the roof and marched through the door. it swung back
"br-up" against the wall and the Moon Man came striding into the room.
The sick man cowered where he lay and the Piai hailed the Moon Man
but in the Wapishana tongue this time ro that everyone understood what
was being said.
Yes, the Moon Man said, he had seen the boy but he was net annoyed
with him. Oh, no! He was sorry to see him so ill. He was sorry if
he had given him a fright. Tell him to get up, eat some food and drink
some water then wash his face and he would feel much better. With
that the Moon Man said he was very busy and he could not stay longer.
The Piai thanked him for his visit and bid him goodniglt. Everyone
heard the Moon Man walk out and the door slam behind him.
Lights were brought and a fire lit and the boy's family brought food
and water so that he might eat and drink. The boy seemed ravenous
and ate all the food after which he got up and said he would go and bathe,
that he was feeling much better.
Now there we have the intelligence of these old Piai men and their
knowledge of the use of the power of suggestion. In the white man's
world they call this science Psychiatry.
The Wapishanas have very few songs. A well known one is the
one about the bird with the big knee. The Trumpet Bird. Other than
this they are very musical and quickly learn to play the guitar, mandclin
and ukulele, that is, when these instruments are available. Of course
all playing is done by ear, they cannot read music. They ive to dance
and drink their native wine "parakari". It is made from fermented
Wapishanas are strictly a land tribe and know very little about boats
but they are excellent swimmers and fish is an important part of their
diet. Besides using the bow and arrow to shoot fish, they have several
poisons, the most used one being the "kumani" poison. They take the
leaves of the tree and pound it up fine, mixing it with a little -bitter
cassava and rolling it into small pellets. These pellets are then thrown
into the creek or pond and as fast as the fishes gobble it down, they come
leaping and flopping about on the surface, gasping for breath. The
Amerindians dive or wade in and catch the fish as fast as they pop up.
Some fishes, especially the Couti, are able to spit out this poison and get
Perhaps because of the terrific lack of greens, Wapishanas go crazy
after fruit. They will chop down a huge old plum or balata tree to get
at the fruit thereby often killing the goose that lays the golden eggs!
They are splendid horseback riders. From birth they learn, never
seeming to doubt their own ability or to fear the animal. Their sense of
direction is almost uncanny. You never hear of a Wapishana Amer-
indian getting lost and staying lost.
The Wapishana is a most willing worker. They do not walk to do
their errands, they run. They have amazing memories, probably because
the creep of civilization has not begun to clutter their minds with much <
to think of, as yet. So let us say their brains ar2 clear as unexposed
film in a camera and upon seeing or hearing anything out of the ordinary,
Ihey can retain its image clearly and the knowledge of what are its uses.
Show them once how to make bread or prepare a certain dish and they
can do it again almost as perfectly as their teachers.
Most Amerindian tribes are promiscuous and the Wapishanas no more
or less. The word virginity does not exist for them and thev just do not
understand the white man's fuss over taking a wife. It is not often you
hear of homosexuals among Amerindians, but it is well known in these
savannahs that some of the men at one time or another experiment with
their animals. Their dogs, cattle, sheeo, horses. When accused or caught
they are very ashamed and the girls shun them and will ha ,e nothing to
do with them.
Wapishanas do not have a word for "devil" although they have a
God. They call God "Tumankar", which translated means The Maker.
It is only since priests came to the savannahs that the Aimerindians have
learnt there is supposed to be a devil. They believe in "Kanaima". They
say Kanaima is a bad spirit just waiting an opportunity to kill them.
Nobody has ever lived to tell the tale of who was the Kanaima, although
by the manner of death it is presumed that they were killed by Kanaima.
Victims of the Kanaima are usually found black and blue, their tongue
swollen so that they cannot speak and the lower intestine pulled down
through the rectum and tied in a knot They die in a few days in awful
In the Wapishana family the man is the hunter. The women prepare
the food, wash clothes, drough the heavy loads and look after the babies.
Yet occasionally a woman has been known to bring home the meat for
the family. There is the case of Rose, daughter of Peter of Achiemera-
wau. She is a short, squat, dusky, husky girl. She has her own field,
chopped down the trees herself, burnt and cleared it and planted it all by
herself. She has her own bow and arrows and it's nothing for her to
Spring home two big tiger lish or three small bush hogs, during a week.
The Life and Death of Sylvia
By Edgar Mittelnolzer
Once again Edgar Mittelholzer shocks his readers to attention with
the dark and tortuous maze of the human mind and his abrupt and un-
glossed descriptions of life.
His latest novel "The Life and Death of Sylvia", rises like a trumpet
call against the brittle society in British Guiana. Sylvia's life from "the
suggestion of a sigh" mounts in feeling to a heart-rending cry.
Sylvia is a girl of mixed blood whose English father with his uncon-
Sventional ideas and unrestricted way of life was the main influence in
Ir.oulding her character Charlotte, her mother of African and Amerindian
parentage, weak, maudlin and with Etreaks of cruelty in her character,
can do nothing to help her children retain their social position when their
father is murdered. With no education she is not astute enough to save
her husband's estate from the promissory-note-eating Mr. Knight. a man
without the redeeming features of Scrooge. He turns the financial screw
not only because he has obtained their patrimony through Charlotte's
ignorance, but with the hope that Sylvia in unaccustomed poverty would
agree to be his mistress.
A brighter touch is Sylvia's friendship with the love'v Naomi and
Milton Copps who befriends her and tries to put the necessary steel into a
romantic adolescent mind not strong enough to fight injustice.
Sylvia's job-hunting and the insults, she receives ier hopeless en-
meshment in poverty, her fight to keep her ideals alive are realistically
dealt with. Like Milton Copps' description of the mus;c he likes, the
tragic theme is alive with dissonant chords.
The vivid descriptions of people and scenes, the particular flavour,
mark the author not only as a brilliant writer but an observant Guianese.
He knows his people and country. His description of the different levels
of society with its "tangled mass of cliques and clans and sub-cliques and
sub-clans" is bitter but true. People who because of their cliques know
nothing of each other, distrust and despise those of other complexions
and hair-quality who show their admiration for wealth regardless of cul-
ture, fail to remove the barriers that hammer understanding and unity.
His colourful word-paintings of city, coastlands, rivers and sea are
touched with poetry. Georgetown takes new glamour with descriptions
that tell of "the looming dignity of cabbage palms, the languid fragility
of coconut palms, the mysterious foliage of mango trees, Breadfruit trees
stamping the silhouette of their grotesque leaves, like devil hands against
a patch of mauve sky"........ "Evening settled in violet around you
and turned the air soft and leafy-smelling. How could anything seem
sordid when such pinks and yellows were blending together over the
river the insects were cheeping in the grass. And look at the Saman
trees in Main Street patterned in spidery sepia against the skyline of house-
tops. Sniff the invisible fragrance of flowers"......... "The air smelt
fresh and filled with night dew, leafy and full of earth and flower scents"
More the introvert type of novelist, Mittelholzer is absorbed with the
workings of the mind and once again brings in the strains of the Oedipus-
complex and masochism which were high notes in the "Children of Kay-
wana" and "Shadows Move Among Them." But although the minds of
his characters may be touched with dark shadows, and more probably
because of it, they seem to be very realistic.
New in this novel is Sylvia's Dali-like dreams which are used with
Freudian effect. The author's interest in the supernatural seems to have
found a natural outlet in her dreams of "old men turning somersaults......
a car rushed pass. A ship sailed after it. It sailed on the hard surface of
the street.......the sun made +he water sparkle with a thousand eyes
........a jostling crowd of round breasts thousands of pages closing in
against her"........ These dreams stand out like a sub-conscious motif
to Sylvia's untimely end.
The Hills were Joyful Together
by Roger Mais
This first novel by Jamaican Roger Mais is certainly striking-both
in content and in style. The language, sure and swift, very descriptive
and with choice use of adjective, reflects the fact that Mais is an artist
-one can see that his paintings would be striking, colourful, thrifty and
The author's sense of humour creeps into the fabric of his writing-
take the following passage in which, describing a row of ,n-ops. he com-
ments ...."one of them flew a dirty little triangular red flag which
indicated nothing more sinister than the fact that ice was .sold here."
That he is mature-48, and knows his countrymen is brought home in the
well defined characters around whose lives the book centres-the slippery
and appropriately named Hitlers, kindly Ras, generous Zaphyr, timid
Tansy, 'forceripe' adolescent Manny, spineless Bedosa and many others.
A panoramic picture of West Indian lower class life is given-the tricks
of the Chinese showmen, the cowheel food, the school age criildren work-
ing at home, the religious tracts the cheap patent medicines, the humour-
ously descriptive term "ole fowl"-now riding popularity in a current
calypso- is used in its original setting.
This book is full of people and the liberality with which the author
fills his pages with these people is perhaps indicative-stretching it a
bit-of their quantity and consequent low value in their society. For
this is a story of the Jamaican lower class, the hand-to-mouth common
people living in a yard, their everyday life and eventual fortunes. It is
a cruel, hard story, and the non-Jamaican must needs wonder whether
Life in Jamaica is as hopeless as depicted here. The twentv-five charac-
ters living in this yard-a typical housing range of the Caribbean-filled
with poverty and drudgery, are colourful and amusing- their emotions,
well known to us-usually centre around sex, religion and politics-
strangely enough for a Jamaican scene politics is completely left out of
the book. Their characteristics are the negro's high spirits, sense of
humour, love of singing, dancing or religion, and highly emotional.
A Mais cleverly contrives to tell a story about almost each of his charac-
ters. It is a story of everyday life, but the climaxes are, I would like
to think, hardly everyday, for six of the twenty-five die-.ill violently.
It is a tribute to his technique that the whole story, save for the prison
sequences, centres around the yard-the reader gets no impression of
life in Kingston or Jamaica generally, the whole story is about the yard
and remains there. The tragedy developed slowly, almost stealthily, for
over half of the book you drift along charmed by the day to day happen-
ings in the lives of the yard, then suddenly, swiftly, it all explodes and
in swift succession, tragedy follows upon tragedy reaching up to a heart-
less climax. The passages on prison life are among the 'best in the book
-Jamaican prisons are hard ...."they make animals of the men who
pass through here"... the police cruel, and incidentally, Jamaican police
are armed, the prisoners hard. The dialogues here are good, and
through them some penetrating insights into human character are given
and the author leaves off his straight story telling to phi'osophise a bit
Sand to evince social protest-an inevitable characteristic of modern
West Indian writings.
All in all the book is fine reading. The story grips and interest
never slackens. The author's trick of diverting from one trend to another
just as the interest in the former is at a high point, helps to keep the
reader lively. However, the reader finds that on finishing the book
he is left with little but a memory of a good story well told-the book
:; not particularly thought-provoking although conceivably a sensitive,
community conscious Jamaican may be inspired to contribute to the social
welfare of the forgotten people who make up this story.
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