SISS RARIESN 0008-6495
Volume 25 No 4
VOL. 25, No. 4 DECEMBER, 1979
Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.
1. Revolutionary Struggle and the Novel
Selwyn R. Cudjoe
31. "A Vision of the Land": V.S. Naipaul's Later Novels
48. The Nature and Function of Literature, History and Science
Sheila Yvonne Carter
60. A Retrospective Comment on The Pond and a review of Mervyn Morris's
72. Epitaph For A Brother
73. A Travelogue Continues
75. Masters of the Dew by Jacques Roumain
reviewed by Bridget Jones
77. The Schoolmaster by Earl Lovelace
reviewed by Harold Barratt
79. Critics on Caribbean Literature edited by Edward Baugh
reviewed by Robert D. Hamner
83. Notes on Contributors
84. Books Received
85. Publications of the Department
86. Information for Contributors
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
Hon. R.M. Nettleford, O.M., Professor of Extra-Mural Studies (Editor)
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Roy Augier, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Mona, Jamaica
G.A.O. Alleyne, Professor, Department of Medicine
Lloyd Coke, Department of Botany, Mona
Neville McMorris, Department of Physics, Mona
Janet Liu Terry, Associate Editor
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University Centre in any West Indian Territory served by this University.
Every serious expression of art yearns for a tradition of criticism. The best of the
literature of different segments of 'West civilisation' have been richly endowed with
the benefits of such a tradition. Caribbean creative writing especially that which
comes out of the Commonwealth Caribbean is still struggling to attract such an
endowment; and the contents of this issue of Caribbean Quarterly can be seen as a
further attempt following on earlier ones (see C.Q. Vol. 21, Nos 3 & 4 and Vol. 23, Nos
1, 2 & 4) to facilitate this quest. It becomes even more urgent when one realises that it
is the creative writers of the Caribbean who have led the way in exploring, in a most
profound sense, the meaning of Caribbean experience a fact which political activists
and contemporary ideologues of change ignore at their peril.
Many among us have understandably rued the fact that the Caribbean literature
critic has lagged far behind the creative writer. In trying to keep pace, the contributors
to this issue have sought to come to grips with some of the aspects of what creative
writers from the Caribbean region perceive to be the deeper experiences of Caribbean
life and living. Selwyn Cudjoe's Revolutionary Struggle and the Novel therefore
examines the nature of aesthetic interactions which take place before, during, and
after the struggle for national liberation and pays particular attention to the manner in
which these interactions manifest themselves in poetry and novels in this case the
works of Bertene Juminer, V.S. Naipaul, and Alejo Carpentier. Dr. Cudjoe ponders on
the universal challenge of balancing form and substance in the exercise of the creative
imagination. He, significantly enough, finds Juminer belabouring content at the
expense of foim and ending up with less 'art' than literature demands, while in
Naipaul's "Guerrillas" technique seems to him to represent "the major objective of
authentic aesthetic perception."
It is the Cuban Alejo Carpentier whom Dr. Cudjoe found to be the most successful
in his ability to "transcend the sociologist of Juminer and the banal formalism and
dehumanization of Naipaul." Carpentier, says Dr. Cudjoe, "is able to merge form and
content into an organic whole" revealing an "artistic imagination that is firmly rooted
in the landscape of the Caribbean at one level and the universal human condition at
another level." The point may well be that Carpentier, who has had actual experience
of serious revolutionary struggle, is seemingly able to solve the conflict that Caribbean
artists must all have in any engaged struggle for fundamental change. It is Jose Luis
Mendez in an earlier issue of Caribbean Quarterly (Vol. 21 Nos 1 & 2) who defined the
phenomenon well. "In the same way that specialists in particular fields of endeavour
must demonstrate high quality and efficiency", he wrote, "the writer who decides to
work for a revolutionary cause must realise that literature is a form of action with its
own laws, though not autonomous, employing specific techniques and particular tools
which must be known, explored and improved." He must realise too concludes
Mendez, "that the best way to make literature serve a revolutionary cause is to regard
it seriously as art ."
If Naipaul's "Guerrillas" failed in Dr. Cudjoe's estimation to satisfy the require-
ments of revolutionary literature the author of "The Middle Passage" has, as far as
John Cooke is concerned, certainly brought artistic texture to Caribbean literature
through his search for order in Caribbean society by way of his response to the
landscapes through which he travelled." Naipaul is said to become in his later novels
"the most accomplished interpreter of 'new world' landscapes", equalled only by Wilson
Harris according to Dr. Cooke. But with "A Bend in the River", his latest novel,
Naipaul's landscapes reveal only a 'bush' history which yields no foundation for a
society and no sense of place for the individual.
Yet not all Caribbean literature gets trapped into what George Lamming reputedly
once described as Naipaul's "castrated satire." Caribbean literature in mirroring
Caribbean life is after all able to celebrate the Caribbean man's tenacious hold on
individual faith and dignity and more pointedly the assertion of self in terms of the
certitude of his place and purpose.
Literary critics from the Commonwealth Caribbean will no doubt in time affirm
this to be a dominant feature of Caribbean literature, emerging as it has within memory
'from a process of conscious political change and social transformation. And specific to
the needs of the Caribbean and, by extension, of humankind the function of literature
will be determined in part by this phenomenon. Meanwhile, from the circum-Carib-
bean come ideas of the Mexican writer and literary critic Alfonso Reyes who reflec-
tions on the Nature and Function of Literature, History and Science serves as the
substance of an article by Sheila Yvonne Carter who assesses these ideas as expressed
in Reyes' "El Deslinde". Out of his theory and criticism of literature comes the view,
according to Dr. Carter, that "the essential difference in the nature of literature,
history and science lies in the universal character of literature, as opposed to the
restricted scope of science and history ... (and) cannot be specific in application as
are history and science." It is in this spirit of acknowledged universality as a
distinguishing feature of the world of literature, that Pamela Mordecai, herself a poet,
gives a Retrospective Comment on The Pond and Review of Mervyn Morris's
Shadowboxing a critical offering which is long overdue.
The following corrections should be made in the text of the Foreword:
Para 1 line 2 'West civilisation' should read 'Western civilisation.'
Para 2 line 1 'literature' should read 'literary.'
Para 6 line 6 'who' should read 'whose.'
REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE AND THE NOVEL
While poetry tends to take on more significance under the impetus of pre-revolu-
tionary struggle, the novel gains in importance and accessibility as the struggle is
brought to a successful conclusion and a new life is fashioned. Whereas poetry is
usually intended for use on native grounds during the struggle, the novel is usually
intended for consumption in metropolitan areas. Moreover; since the novel is the
product of the preoccupied intellectual certainly at the level of pre-revolutionary
struggle the novelist is more concerned with reaching foreign ears rather than native
ears. Hence, most of the novels written before and during the struggle were usually
produced and supported by the colonizer. After the struggle, however, the novel is
more designed for native consumption; it is produced at a time when the populace
must come to grips with the psychological legacy of colonialism and create a new
society. Indeed, the very complexity of the structure of relations in post-revolutionary
struggle which invariably coheres with the rising levels of literacy, the formation of a
new self, the demand for self-criticism and self-evaluation, all demand a new vehicle of
communication. The immediacy of poetry with the high emotive nature of its contents
gives way to the much more leisurely and introspective nature of the novel.
Another factor which mitigates against the prevalence and importance of the novel
in pre-revolutionary and revolutionary times is the prevalence of illiteracy that exists
in these oppressed countries. In Angola, for example, at the time of independence
ninety-eight percent of the population was unable to read or write. Little time could
have been devoted to reading because the chief preoccupation of the populace was the
However, at the level of post-revolutionary struggle, especially during the first phase
of the evolutionary consolidation of a society, problems of a qualitatively different
nature, both in complexity and difficulty arise;' problems to which the artist must
give his fullest attention and which can be best analysed by the novel. It is for this
reason that the novel becomes the dominant medium for exploring and analysing the
new challenges of post-revolutionary societies.
Jean Franco has argued that in the nineteenth-century Caribbean, more than
anywhere else, "literature and politics were linked and the novel, more than any other
genre, became the vehicle for nationalism. And ... consequently ... the novel also
became an anti-slavery document."2 It seems to me that the novel becomes more
important after independence because the novel is best suited to examine the complex
psychological and emotional problems that arise after independence. Moreover, with a
greater emphasis of the masses upon world culture and a consequent thirsting for new
ideas, the luxury of critical and leisurely thought help to stimulate the growth of the
The novel, however, by definition demands a more sustained and conscious effort
on the part of the artist, which suggests a much more deliberate and self-conscious
fashioning of his material than the spontaneous creation which appears to typify the
creative process of the poet. If, therefore, the poet creates spontaneously out of a
creative flux of revolutionary struggle, the novelist utilizes revolutionary struggle in a
conscious manner to fashion his artistic work. It does not follow however that the
novelist is less fashioned by the intensity of revolutionary struggle than the poet; it
simply means that the novel, as a more conscious artifact, is shaped in a more
deliberate manner than poetry and revolutionary struggle in the novel is utilized with a
well-defined intention. We will demonstrate these contentions by analysing the
following novels: Bertene Juminer's Bozambo's Revenge, V.S. Naipaul's Guerrillas, and
Alejo Carpentier's Explosion in a Cathedral.
The novels of Juminer are important because of his use of the ideology of revolu-
tionary struggle and the influence of Frantz Fanon that can be seen in his works.
Frantz Fanon's influence upon Juminer is best manifest in the latter's second novel,
Au sueil d'un nouveau cri, in which Juminer goes back into the history of the Carib-
bean and draws upon the revolutionary struggle of the maroons in "The Cry," (the
novel is divided into two parts) and the contemporary communist cell which is set in
Paris in the second part of the work, "The Echo." The work is also significant because
Juminer fuses Fanon's theory of the cathartic nature of revolutionary violence into the
portrayal of his characters in a technique which this author has called socio-psycholo-
gical realism. '3
On the other hand, Bozambo's Revenge is written from the perspective of revolu-
tionary struggle conducted at the level of guerrilla warfare as the central theme.
Jun)iner calls this work a novel, but it can best be described as an allegory, i.e., a
figurative treatment of colonialism by the transformation of symbols (white is black
and black becomes white; Europe becomes the colonial backwater and Africa the
metropole), a system of "cultural reversals" as one critic has called it.4 Bozambo's
Revenge, therefore, operates as a symbolic narrative which imparts to us some inform-
ation about the colonial situation without giving us a sense of the multidimensional
nature of the colonial experience, or the peculiar psychological conditions which this
experience creates and the implications of the colonial situation on the ever evolving
nature of the contemporary life. Indeed, in trying to turn "colonialism inside out" as
the subtitle suggests, he pares away all of the rich complexity of the colonial ex-
The central problem of Bozambo's Revenge, however, lies in the form which the
author has chosen to depict the colonial condition. We know, for example, that certain
artistic forms are more appropriate for the depiction of certain historical periods since
the artistic image "is not the outcome of some socio-aesthetic convention but is a
dynamic absorption of the results of an artistic cognition of the world." s These
artistic forms also change as the nature of social interaction changes and the level of
human consciousness becomes more complex. Thus the allegory was a more appro-
priate form for the mediaeval period. M. Khrapchenko suggests that,
In mediaeval literature and art, symbols and allegories were that inherent mode
of embodying ideas and emotions which gave the fullest expression of the
essence of the artistic thought of the period ...
For instance, Albrecht Durer, the outstanding German Renaissance artist made
frequent recourse to allegory as a form of personification to embody his creative
ideas. In his celebrated "Apocalypse" series of woodcuts, the artist allegorised
such things as war, plague, justice and the courts of law, and so on. His
well-known woodcuts "The Knight, Death, and the Devil," and "Melancholia"
were in the same vein.6
Moreover, we know that the allegory, in which language is so structured to produce
different levels of meaning (usually from two to seven), demands that all confusing
excesses be eliminated; insists that its didacticism be unambiguous even though it
operates at different levels of meaning; and that its "mythological symbolical images"
function as "powerful expressions of man's emotions and aspirations" in order to
reflect the titanic spiritual strivings of man's inner world.7 This is, of course, one
reason why Dante and Spenser were able to depict their world so brilliantly through
Needless to say such qualities are missing in Bozambo's Revenge, if only because
the tremendous importance and reverence which were attached to mythological images
in the mediaeval period can no longer be replicated in the contemporary world of
science and technology.
The question must be asked, however: "What is the most appropriate artistic form
for describing the colonial experience?" The earlier novels of V.S. Naipaul suggest
irony and satire whereas the later works of Alejo Carpentier suggest critical realism as
the more appropriate form of depicting the colonial experience. In discussing
Bozambo's Revenge, Henry Charles, a friend and colleague, has suggested that:
colonialism, with its inbuilt tendency to produce divided personalities, obviously
creates possibilities for irony and satire. As Rohlehr suggests, satire intends a
standard in the mind of the person who has become aware of the implications
that being colonial is not what he has been educated, conditioned or brain-
washed into seeing, but what there is to see in the colonial reality. He is an
outsider from the point of view of colonial reality but an insider in his own.
Juminer's method is quite straightforward. It is confident though obvious, at
times pedestrian. The ironic (perhaps satirical is a better description) method
here proceeds by simply reversing the colonial situation. Africa becomes the
colonial and imperial metropolis; Europe the colonial backwater. This allows for
all kinds of transpositions of the self-perpetuating myths of "inferior" and
superior", and the whole gamut of the other cultural stereotypes. It allows
Juminer to reveal the historicity of the phenomena of colonialism and its genesis
in culture. Colonialism and its myths are a human construction, they are not a
part of the nature of things.8
At best, Bozambo's Revenge can be seen as a contemporary allegory in which the
author uses bitter irony in order to disclose the nature of colonialism. Both the plot
and its development are thin and the symbols of the novel lack both the complexity
and depth that are necessary to describe the colonial situation, even if one chooses to
do so at the level of the allegory.
There is a historical precedence for the use of the allegory in trying to come to grips
with the problem of dispossession and alienation in the literature of revolutionary
struggle. In 1863, Eugenio Mario de Hostos, the Puerto Rican patriot and fighter for
Caribbean independence, published The Pilgrimage of Bayoan in which the hero, like
his counterpart in Bozambo's Revenge, emphasizes the need to struggle against
European colonization (in this case Spain) and the need to work towards Caribbean
unity and independence. Like Bozambo's Revenge, the framework of the novel is
allegorical and centres in the journey of the hero.
The central theme in Bozambo's Revenge is the struggle for national liberation
against European colonialism. The burden of the narrative depends on the banned
pamphlet of Escartefigues, "What is Baoulian colonialism." Anatole Dupont, one of
the characters of the allegory, believes in the use of revolutionary violence (shades of
Fanon) and sees it as the only real way to deal with racism and racial discrimination:
As for the American Whites [here meaning Afro-Americans], they still cling to
nonviolence, they still volunteer to be loaded onto trucks, hymns on their lips to
be taken off to prison. It appears to be a mania with this race to sing while it is
being martyred. To Anatole, this attitude is insane. Any struggle for equality
with another is absurd. One does not use reason in fighting to share the future of
the privileged, one overthrows them. Since inequality is at the very foundation
of their society, there can be no possibility of an equitable distribution. One
might as well suggest a full tube of Congonal for each of them, to be taken at
Here in Europe [that is, Africa], the essential struggle is not for integration, but
rather for liberation; that is, the departure of the Occupier. As the Corsican
fellagha proclaim: We must choose between the supply-wagon and the hearse.
The deep roots of the racism perpetrated by Negro power around the world
must be sought in the basic structure of African society. The African has never
ceased to try to free himself from the matriarchal yoke and all his expansionist
tendencies betray the mark of this obsession. Thus, the two advanced bastions of
African civilizations overseas, Baoulian Western Europe and Quolove America,
are at the whim of black emigrants trying to escape the matriarchal eye and
practising a rigorous compensatory exploitation of the subjugated white tribes.
In Europe this takes the form of colonialism, in America, racial segregation. The
white woman exerts an erotic fascination over all these racist Negroes, lynchers
and White-baiters. Clearly there would be no racial problem in the United Pro-
vinces of America if the white minority were made up of women.9
This, I suggest, is the fault of the allegory. It moves from the sublime to the ridiculous;
from the notion that freedom can only come through the liberation struggle to the
ridiculous notion that there would "be no racial problem if the white minority were
only made up of women." A questionable, if not improbable notion, since he correctly
understands that racism, dispossession and inequality are created because of the
existence of imperialism. Yet the entire work moves from this level of seriousness -
that is the conviction that only revolutionary violence can correct the injustices of
colonialism to placing the entire fate of the allegory on the correct identity of an
intercepted panty. Surely, this is not the trait of a serious work of art that is con-
cered with focussing upon revolutionary struggle.
The pamphlet, "What is Baoulian Colonialism" is a disquisition on colonialism
which deals with all the well-accepted criticisms of that system. Juminer, nonetheless,
adds some unique dimensions to it. For example, he speaks of the harm done to
colonial peoples in the "area of received ideas." Like George Lamming, (particularly in
his work Pleasures of Exile) he perceives the inherent danger and the potential for
continued ideological dependency that is bequeathed to colonial people by the
plethora of foreign ideas that engulf them.
Secondly, Juminer points out one of the tendencies of the proletariat in advanced
capitalist societies to "cling to the same values as the middle-class to help crush the
entirety of the colonized peoples." 1 While there were some elements of truth in this
perception, it is necessary to point out that this tendency to de-emphasize the revolu-
tionary role of the proletariat was a characteristic of the New Left movement of the
sixties a movement that definitely influenced the ideas of both Juminer and Fanon.
Thirdly, as a theorist, Juminer was very sophisticated. He was aware of the
dichotomy between what he calls, two kinds of nationalism that exist at the level of
All the colonized peoples find themselves willy-nilly in the same bag: those who
dream of a more breatheable air have no choice but to struggle for liberation. At
the heart of the colonialized world there emerges two kinds of nationalists:
those who seek to justify themselves, and all the others. The former guard the
realm of the spirit and, obstinately scrutinizing the past wear themselves out
seeking positive qualities to oppose those of the occupier. Obsessed with cultural
rehabilitation, these archivists charge forward, pen in hand; set off here and
there a few tempests in an inkwell and die in their beds of old age. The others,
too pure for these hypocritical games, take their reality to heart and engage in a
struggle which tempers the newly awakened consciousness of their brethren,
and, when these nationalists come to write history, they write it with their
blood. There is only one tangible meeting point between these two types: exile
or prison (which is but a kind of internal exile.)1
Such references are aimed specifically at the Negritude writers. The sentiments are in
the best tradition of the existentialism of the New Left movement. The disparaging
remarks about "cultural rehabilitators" can be understood best within the context of
my remarks on Renaissances, Cultural Expressions and the Writer in which I examined
the role that the intellectual-writer (i.e. Juminer's cultural rehabilitators) plays during
cultural renaissances.12 Indeed as distinct from viewing these cultural rehabilitators as
playing hypocritical games one must understand that they are necessary forerunners of
those who ("engage in a struggle ... and write history ... with their blood.") Here,
the sense of the historical movement is important because the one arises necessarily
out of the other.
Yet, at quite another level, one must be aware of the tendency to represent
colonialism and the demise of colonialism as the dialectics of violence, a position that
Fanon has emphasized in The Wretched of the Earth; a position that tends to glorify
revolutionary violence for its own sake. Admittedly, as E. Batalov has pointed out,
Marxists recognize that:
At certain stages of the march of history, when the development of contradic-
tion is artificially held back, negation itself (or to use the political terminology -
violence) as reaction to unresolved contradiction (and in this sense as an attempt
to evolve an alternative) can emerge as a stimulus for the resolution of contra-
diction; however, in this case, (in so far as the resolution of the contradiction
was not objectively prepared for) negation is not yet capable of bringing about
sublation as the positive result of negation, or, to take its socio-political aspect,
the realization of the alternative.13
Yet, it is clear that, to project revolutionary violence as an absolute end-in-itself is a
position that one must resist as forcefully as possible. Counterposed to revolutionary
violence is revolutionary struggle which manifests itself as the organized activity of the
the masses, it presumes the movement from organized resistance to an organized
running of the state, which evidence from Angola and Mozambique have carefully
demonstrated. This organized activity of the masses and the systematic evolution of
the revolutionary process can lead only to a higher sublation and the positive
channelling of revolutionary activity.
Given the fact that there are cultural nationalists, as well as those who might be
called revolutionary nationalists, what then is the role of Africans in light of the
historic condition of colonization and oppression? As Escartefigues views the situa-
tion, "our role as Whites dominated by Africa, by her weapons, her economic
doctrines, her religion and her culture, is to regroup, to set off and to carry to its
conclusion, our struggle for national liberation."14 Calling upon each stratum of
society to come together, Juminer describes colonialism almost as though it were a
cultural undertaking. For apart from his incidental moral reference to imperialism and
"her wicked economic doctrines," his argument against colonialism is presented as a
packet of a racial-cultural mixture. This, however, tends to distort the real nature of
colonialism, because one only discusses its superficial features (and comes very close to
articulating a racist ideology). One cannot lose sight of the fact that:
Colonialism is...primarily and basically an economic phenomenon, an
economic cause and effect. Its motive-force derives not from subjective emo-
tions, not from a Freudian "violence-complex" and not even from the conflict
of "races" and cultures, nor simply from political tendencies. Its attending
phenomena and surface manifestations should not lead us astray as to its inner
The fact that economics is the primary factor in colonialism does not mean that
one cannot and should not examine the superstructural aspect of colonialism which is
manifested in the various aspects of culture. However to the degree that one forgets or
ignores the fact that the economic is primary in the colonial situation, it is to that
degree that an artist often falls into the trap of extolling the mystical nature of
"revolutionary violence," or "our ancestral faith." Usually these tendencies are
emphasized at the expense of promoting organized ideological activity which is aimed
at preparing people for revolutionary struggle in order to effect fundamental,
deep-rooted social change.
It is this incapacity to understand the nature of social development that allows a
Juminer, still under the influence of Fanon, to idealize the struggle and to fall into the
metaphysical-existentialist trap of positing the spontaneous merger of the masses and
the leader. There is no understanding of the dialectics of struggle. Neither is there an
understanding of the leadership that emerges out of the masses or the leadership being
the raised consciousness of the masses. Yet, in all fairness it must be pointed out that
Juminer tries to bridge the gap between theory and practice of "dialectic and action."
As Juminer puts it:
Our mission of liberation must follow a double path; dialectic and action, or it
will not be at all because it is not enough to discover some miraculous keys, even
with great clamor; one must be prepared to use them.
Seen as the only means of liberation, clinging to the phrase white is beautiful,
and wringing it dry, dialectic is doomed to failure. Not only does it not set off
any profound echo in the masses, it even reassures the imperialist who goes so
far as to enter into the game, to bury the essence of our demands in his own
cultural mystique. And so it is that any conscious colonized person sees the
necessity of going beyond a slogan into political action: that is to say that he is
ready to accept all the consequences. It is only from that movement that com-
munication with the masses is established and becomes a threat to the
Although Juminer attempts to make theory and practice of the progressive elements of
cultural affirmation cohere with political action, he still makes the presumption that
there is some spontaneous, magical bond which emerges with the masses once the
purveyor of revolutionary violence announces his commitment to action.
Allegory therefore is asked to demonstrate the cogency of the ideas of "What is
Baoulian Colonialism" in a suitably arranged system of symbols. But after the
symbolic announcement of ideas, all the reader learns is that the Archduke is the
prime unseen mover of the anti-colonialist subversion, that internal self-government is
granted and a young ambitious colonial officer is sent home strapped in a "strait
jacket," the presence of a pink panty being his ruin. Indeed, what began as an allegory
ends as farce. There is absolutely no connection between "What is Baoulian
Colonialism" and the structure of the narrative, it merely sticks out as a sore, but
convenient, thumb upon which Juminer hangs his polemics.
In introducing the allegory, Paul L. Thompson suggests that "the simple narrative
line of Bozambo's Revenge, which is mostly episodic, permits the author unlimited
freedom in voicing his polemic and vividly colors his pictures of the harshness of
colonialism." 17 It seems to this writer, that the novel is better suited to polemical
exercises than the allegory. Because the novel has as its central features the artistic
image and the multi-dimensional nature of its symbolic action, the richness of the
novel is directly proportional to the number of possibilities that the images and
symbols suggest. The element of simplicity does not connote a lack of novelistic
vigour; nor does it deny a multiplicity of suggestions that symbols and artistic images
J.B. Priestley sheds some light on the nature of artistic imagery and symbolic
actions in his introduction to Carpentier's The Lost Steps.
We read and hear a lot about symbolism in fiction these days, and some good
friends of mine, admirable writers, may be found working hard at it. But all too
often we find so-called symbols stuck into a narrative like plums into a cake.
This is not what I mean by Symbolic Action, which demands that every setting,
every important event, everything that happens if it has any significance at all,
have symbolic depth and values. Such works can be read (or seen and heard in
performance), enjoyed, understood, on more than one level. And thus must not
be confused with mere allegory, nearly always dreary and unrewarding, nothing
more than a masquerade in which when once the masks are off all is revealed and
we are left dissatisfied. In allegory both writer and reader simply employ the
surface of the mind; the mystery of life and the depths of the mind are ignored;
nothing is touched in our inner world. True symbolism related our outer world
to our inner world, the symbol itself rises from depths we cannot penetrate; and
though symbolic works offers us one level of meaning below another there
always appears to be a final level that can never be properly explored being just
beyond the reach of consciousness.18
One cannot help but construe that Bozambo's Revenge lacks all of the richness,
diversity and complexity that one expects to find in a novel on the colonial condition.
Moreover, the work is wooden, static and assaults one's sensibilities in a rather crude
and unsophisticated manner.
Despite these shortcomings of Bozambo's Revenge, the work is not totally
unrewarding. It utilizes revolutionary struggle as the central factor of the narrative; it
dramatizes the need for a progression from "dialectic" discussion to "action"; and it
delineates some of the cultural implications of colonialism even though the con-
sequences are presented as the causes.
The attempt to belabour content at the expense of form results in the presentation
of a content that is not artistic and lacks in artistic measure. Herein lies the principal
limitation of the work. The side of the question where form is presented at the
expense of content is revealed in V.S. Naipaul's Guerrillas.
Gordon Rohlehr contends that it "is only when one reads The Middle Passage that
one realises how completely Naipaul has accepted anarchy and absurdity as the norms
of his society."19 It is, in this work that Naipaul bemoans the futility of Caribbean
existence and states that "history is based around achievement and creation, and that
nothing was created in the West Indies."20 Ten years later he commented even more
categorically that nothing will ever be created in the Caribbean. By 1974, however, he
had announced the complete curse of Sycorax upon our islands when he asserted that
"these islands, black and poor, are dangerous only to themselves." 21 In 1975 he wrote
Guerrillas, which to my mind is only a revival of Naipaul's past tirades against colonial
peoples. Culled in splendid insincerity and simplistic conclusions, Guerrillas primarily
repeats all of the tirades of The Middle Passage and those ideas that are contained in
the article, "Power."
Despite the fact that Guerrillas has received very favourable reviews in the United
States (one review refers to it as "probably the best novel of 1975"22) it is one of
Naipaul's worst novels. Apart from some snatches of beautifully sculptured prose and
some particularly perceptive insights into the character of the English liberal, the novel
really has very little to say about the contemporary Caribbean condition or that of any
developing society for that matter. Nor does it address itself to the nature of guerrilla
warfare, or the causal link between the dispossession that exists in colonial or
post-colonial societies and the presence of "guerrillas" or what we might call more
correctly revolutionary activity. Moreover, Naipaul has become too avant-garde a
self-conscious iconoclast whose egotism is unbelievably thinly disguised; an uncon-
cerned colonialist who displays a conscious irreverence (or ignorance) for any of the
factors that contribute towards making a guerrilla.
Guerrillas cannot be compared with the finely wrought masterpiece, A House for
Mr Biswas. In 1976, acclaimed as "one of the most significant and original writers in
the world today,"23 and promoted as one of the leading contenders for a Nobel Prize,
all innocence is gone and Naipaul has opted fully for chaos as the ideological centre of
Guerrillas and dehumanization as the vision that fashions it. Indeed after rereading
Guerrillas one is convinced that Naipaul had depended on sophistry and cynicism as
the predominant method of presenting his work; and that he has grown irresponsible
as his fame has grown. Success for Naipaul has prompted greater contempt for
dispossessed peoples; and with the irrevential air of a god, he looks down con-
descendingly at his unfortunate flock.
Guerrillas is, therefore, an elitist tract that projects the attempt of dispossessed
people to reconstruct their social reality as a meaningless exercise. The world is viewed
as being constructed in polar categories, so that the struggles in the Caribbean could
have no meaning at all or effect on the outside world at large. In the final analysis, the
demonstrated lack of correspondence between Naipaul's literary imagination and the
socio-political reality of colonized territories has prevented him from perceiving what
the people of Cuba, Vietnam, and more recently Angola have demonstrated: that is,
that people who have been cast in the rubbish heap of history are now rising to
reshape not only their own reality, but are proving conclusively that "the future of the
world" is being shaped in the hamlets and villages of hitherto obscure corners of the
world where peoples are now coming into themselves and refashioning the social
reality of their lives.
More particularly, Guerrillas is a novel that seizes upon revolutionary activity
(ill-formed though it is and even if Naipaul is unable to present it in its well-rounded
dimensions) to fashion its structure. It is set in a country that has just achieved
political independence and is struggling to gain economic independence a country
that is not too sure of its own individuality, and is trying to shape its own distinctive
national character. In presenting the activity that takes place at the level of post-revo-
lutionary struggle, Naipaul has demonstrated his incapacity to report that reality in its
fully rounded form. Moreover, his presentation of the nature of social reality that
takes place during this period manifests a literary sensibility that has been deformed
by the author's own blindness and lack of faith in the possibilities of formerly colon-
ized people to reconstruct and reformulate their social reality. Hence, where Juminer
shows abounding faith in the ability of people and revolutionary activity, Naipaul shows
unrelieving pessimism in their inability to achieve anything.
Lenin suggested in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, that the problem with
metaphysical thinkers was not so much that they were incorrect at all times and in all
places, but that their error lay in the fact that they only presented one facet of reality.
For example, Marx extracted "the rational kernel within the mystical shell," 24 of
Hegel's thought. Therefore, to the degree that the metaphysical thinker presents one
side of reality, it is to that degree that he can advance development. Negation could
therefore be understood as an interim process of development, in the narrowest sense.
Such a claim, I believe, can be made for A House for Mr Biswas, which is a one-sided
presentation of the colonial condition (the futility of the existence, the attempt at
self-identity, etc.) that brilliantly depicts one facet of the colonial reality and there-
fore, better helps us to understand the nature of our dispossession. It will always
remain a classic because of its harmony, its tentative nature, and its well-rounded
cadences, as well as its capacity to touch in man that constant quest to realize the
fullness of self which is universal to all men.
Guerrillas on the other hand, is banal and vulgar. The spirit of defiance and affirma-
tion that is celebrated in Mr Biswas, in spite of Naipaul, are the same sentiments that
Naipaul is unable to perceive in the activities of the "guerrillas." Where irony and
satire are able to highlight and relieve the monotonous, unrelieved gloom of A House
for Mr Biswas and focus upon the universal quest for liberation, Guerrillas cannot
bring to its aid any of these devices because the very nature of its subject matter -
revolutionary activity demands the use of different tools. It also presumes other
kinds of sensibilities and tendencies. Where irony and satire capture and embody the
content of A House for Mr Biswas, critical realism and an understanding of the chief
causal connection between social reality and individual dispossession become the chief
prerequisites for depicting the reality of revolutionary struggle. Lacking in an under-
standing of these relations and the absence of this form, Guerrillas becomes a dismal
It is against this background that one can understand the absurdities of Naipaul's
contention on the lack of possibilities inherent in former colonial territories. Guerrillas
is told through the eyes of Jane, a Canadian woman, who is an English resident:
She knew now, after four months, what she had known on that first day: that
she had come to a place at the end of the world, to a place that had exhausted
its possibilities. She wondered at the simplicity that had led her, in London, to
believe that the future of the world was being shaped in places like
these... Jane had at first waited for details of that [the local] situation to
become clear, for the personalities of whom people talked, the doers and dema-
gogues down in the city, to defend themselves. But the personalities were so
many, the principles on which they acted so confusing, and the issues so evane-
scent, that she had soon lost interest, had closed her mind to talk of new
political alliances that so often seemed to come to nothing anyway, and to
analyses of new political threats that could also quickly disappear. Nothing that
happened here could be important. The place was no more than it looked.25
It was a community now without rules; and the area was now apparently
without municipal regulations. Empty house-lots had been turned into
steel-band yards or open-air motor repair shops; cars and trucks without wheels
choked the narrow lanes. Where garbage dammed the open gutters, wrinkled
white films of scum formed on the black water. The walls were scrawled, and
sometimes carefully marked, with old election slogans, racial slogans, and
made-up African names: Kwame Mandingo (Slave Name Butler). There was
something competitive and whimsical about the slogans and the names. Humor
of a sort was intended; and it seemed at variance with the words of threat and
anger.26 (Emphasis mine)
Children played in some yards. Sometimes, on a veranda, a bare-backed man,
face and hands blacker than his chest, as though scorched by a fire, sat in a
hammock made of an old sugar sack and held a naked baby. Father and child:
the tedium of Sunday in the bush. This was a busy road. The crowded city was
just over two hours away. Yet these villages seemed insulated from weekend
holiday traffic, charmed villages, stranded in time, belonging to another era, an
era that contained no possibility of a future.27 (Emphasis mine)
I suppose you can say it started here. In the society you have here. It isn't
organized for work or for individual self-respect.28 (Emphasis mine)
But many of these sentiments have been articulated previously in the article,
"Power?" which was written for the New York Review of Books:
Something of the Carnival lunacy touched all these islands where people, first as
slaves and then as neglected colonials, have seen themselves as futile, on the other
side of the real world.29
They are manufactured societies, labour camps, creations of empire; and for long
they were dependent on empire for law, language, institutions, culture even
officials. Nothing was generated locally; dependence became a habit. How, with-
out empire, do such societies govern themselves? What is now the source of
power? The ballot box, the mob, the regiment? When, as in Haiti, the slave-
owner leaves, and there are only slaves, what are the sanctions?
In the United States, Black Power may have its victories. But they will be
American victories. The small islands of the Caribbean will remain islands, im-
poverished and unskilled, ringed as now by a cordon sanitaire, their people not
needed anywhere. They may get less innocent or less corrupt politicians; they
will not get less helpless ones. The island blacks will continue to be dependent
on books, films and goods of others; in this important way they will continue to
be the half-made societies of a dependent people, the Third World's third world.
They will forever consume; they will never create. They are without material
resources; they will never develop the higher skills. Identity depends in the end
on achievement; and achievement here cannot but be small. Again and again the
protest leader will appear and the millennium will seem about to come.31
Black Power in these black islands is protest. But there is no enemy. The enemy
is the past, of slavery and colonial neglect and a society uneducated from top to
bottom; the enemy is the smallness of the islands and the absence of resources.
Opportunism or borrowed jargon may define phantom enemies: racial minor-
ities, "elites", "white niggers". But at the end the problems will be the same, of
dignity and identity. 32
The vision of the Caribbean, therefore, where the novel is set, is a place, "which has
exhausted its possibilities," "a community now without rules, charmed villages
stranded in time ... that contained no possibility of a future ... in a society that isn't
organised for work or for individual self-respect." This is the sum-total of Naipaul's
message which is articulated in both his fiction and non-fiction works. These islands
are places where anarchy and futility abound.
Precisely, however, because all is futility and anarchy, all the creative impulses of
the people, be it sensuous or otherwise, are negated and scoffed at. In The Middle
Passage, Naipaul describes the revulsion he felt on hearing steel-bands after he had
arrived in Trinidad after a rather long absence . "The steelband used to be regarded
as a high manifestation of West Indian Culture, and it was a sound I detested." 3
Paradoxically, the steel-band is the only genuine, indigenous cultural artifact that
Trinidad and Tobago possess. Today, Jamaica has given to the world a unique and
creative musical expression called the reggae. Yet, in Guerrillas, we find Naipaul articu-
lating the same repulsion and rejection of one of the creative contributions of
Caribbean peoples to the treasure trove of world culture:
If I had my way I would ban music. And dancing. Make it a crime. Six months
for every record you play. And hard labour for the reggae, Jane. I am serious.
This is a country that has been destroyed by music. You just have to think of
what is going on right now on that beach. And think how lovely and quiet it
would be, eh. None of that reggae-reggae the whole blasted day.34
This revulsion for the only manifestation of the democratic culture of colonial
peoples35 is to be understood in Naipaul's total rejection of the aspirations of op-
pressed colonial peoples and his acceptance of the dominant culture of their op-
pressors. 36 Never mind the fact that he would eventually also reject that society later
on.37 Naipaul's concern for order and historical achievement as the mark of cultured
society is seen in his acceptance of standards set by the colonizers.
Naipaul's denial of creative activity at the level of artistic enterprises, is a necessary
concomitant of his similar denial of the possibility of any purposeful activity at the
level of revolutionary struggle. For if in one breath Naipaul denies the possibilities of
any creativity on the part of oppressed peoples, to accept the existence of any other
genuine creative activity on the part of the masses which challenges his previous
assumptions would so severely disrupt his ontological equilibrium, that it would
render meaningless his insipid sophistry. Hence, he has to keep repeating ad infinitum
the tired cliches.
This dilemma presents an acute problem for Naipaul. It stands at the centre of his
art. In describing the relationship between aesthetic activity and revolutionary
struggle, and correspondingly presenting the one as the necessary concomitant of the
other, E. Batalov, has observed that:
Marxism presupposes the study of historical processes, including the results of
the social subject's creative activity which embraces both the aesthetic (or
sensuous) dimension as art, and the formation of revolutionary consciousness as
a departure beyond the confines of given, actually existing relations and values, a
projection of new social structures and classical forms. Moreover, the link
between historical creativity (in particular, in the form of revolution) and the
imagination, is shaped by the fact that this creativity is also an aesthetic
phenomenon serving to embody the unity of sensuous-practical activity and
artistic creation subject to laws for creating the beautiful. (Emphasis mine)
As a matter of fact, revolution for those who participate in it is a living process
created and apprehended by the participants as corresponding to the historically
evolved structure of their sensuousness and to norms including aesthetic ones of
the culture in which they were brought up. As it destroys the old order, social
revolution inevitably confronts its popular rank-and-file participant and social
revolution is of necessity popular with the question of the new order, its nature
and forms, the methods for evolving these as a mode of that participant's own
Thus, one perceives in Naipaul the antithesis of our thesis. In order for Naipaul to
accept any sense of possibility for these small forgotten islands which have been
stranded in time, he must recognize their capacity for creativity, not only at the
sensuous-aesthetic level but also at the practical-revolutionary level, where people
restructure their reality through revolutionary struggle. But, having denied the
creativity of the people, having denied them even a history of any purposeful activity
- he is forced correspondingly to deny the possibility of any revolutionary activity at
any given level and to treat it as a squalid farce whenever it appears.
At quite another level, the very nature of Naipaul's negation renders him incapable
of making any meaningful analysis of the Caribbean condition. As he denied these
people the possibilities of ever making anything meaningful of their lives, he is in-
capable of ever understanding the liberation process that is taking place in these
islands. It is, precisely because of this feigned cynicism, practised iconoclasm and his
static a prior diagnosis, that he is incapable of judging the nature of these societies'
evolution. Having frozen a people in time, he is unable to understand that history must
be perceived as a process of continuous development.
Inasmuch as Naipaul has stated that the activity of these people is a farce and
meaningless triviality, he is incapable of cognizing the true causal connection of what
is taking place in the society that he is depicting. Neither Jimmy nor Stephens acts
within any social context. What, for example, is the cause of their discontent? Naipaul
explains that the content of their activity is motivated by 1) "fear" and "hate" of the
oppressor, 2) a certain sense of "despair" because they live in a constant state of
unreality (that is, madness), and 3) a certain unfounded and frenzied idealism. As he
says, it is a society where "everybody want to fight [but] there's nothing to fight
for ... [a society where] everybody wants to fight his own little war, everybody is a
guerrilla." 39 To a perceptive reader, it is all so very irrational.
When, therefore, the explosion comes and Stephens is killed, Naipaul can only
explain the social activity of the people within the context of "bad-Johnism" and the
"robber talk" of the legendary midnight robbers of Trinidad and Tobago's carnival.
"What about Jimmy? Roche said. "Any more about him?" "Jimmy kinda drop
out of the news. At first it was Jimmy Ahmed and the Arrow of Peace. Now you
hearing about all kinds of guys popping up everywhere. Peter, tell me. Before
Sunday, did you ever hear about the Arrow of Peace? How did I miss a thing like
"I'm the last person to ask. I miss everything. I never thought Jimmy had it in
him to start anything like that. I always thought that Jimmy was the kind of
man who would disappear at the first sign of trouble."
"That's probably what he's done. Events move too fast for him. And for
Meredith too. The two of them wanted to play bad-John, and the two of them
get licked down."40
The very nature of this dialogue is structured within a context that is anachronistic.
Bad-Johnism belongs to an era of the past. Violence which was once inward and
directed against oneself and one's own people, is now turned outward and directed
towards the exploiter class. This sophistication of analysis can be gleamed from the
poetry of the calypsonians, who in many instances are to be perceived as the true
barometer of the society.
If one compares the calypso of an earlier era with that of the contemporary era, a
very revealing contrast presents itself. "Canaan Barrow", for example, was a very
important and popular calypso that was written in the early forties by a calypsonian
called Lord Melody of Tobago. The entire calypso is a repetition of the chorus which
reads as follows:
Who dead? Canaan.
Who Canaan? Canaan Barrow.
Canaan Barrow went to town.
And a Red Army Bad-John knock him down.41
"Canaan Barrow", however, correctly depicts the nature of colonial violence of that
era. Not only is colonial violence directed inward but it destroys the people's potential
for cohesive revolutionary struggle and prevents them from correctly understanding
the nature of their oppression.
In 1974, however, the nature of analysis is quite different. Here is how Lord
Valentino saw it.
Trinidad is nice, Trinidad is a paradise,
Business expanding, more banks dey building,
so is de capitalist and dem should sing,
Trinidad is nice, Trinidad is a paradise.
And like the slave masters want to bring back de whip,
and de chorus singing like dey on a trip.
Trinidad is nice, Trinidad is a paradise.
But ah hear ma sister talking 'bout revolution day,
fire on de way.
They [Trinidadians] don't know their worth, like
they haven't a sense of value.
They don't know their rights, even that they cannot argue.
Three quarter of a million people cannot get up and do
something about the struggle,
But to plan for the next holiday to fete their lives away.
And forgetting that they own the soil,
On which their forefathers toil.
For de people who form the constitutional law,
For de oppressors and foreign investor.
Trinidad is nice, Trinidad is a paradise,
Amoco and Shell business did went swell,
On your oil dem foreign parasites dwell.42
The calypsonian who operated at the level of popular consensus of the people is able
to understand the social causes that accounts for the revolutionary activity of Jimmy.
This he is able to articulate. Naipaul on the other hand, suave and bourgeois in
education, can only explain the nature of social discontent in the rhetoric of the
forties where bad-Johnism and gang activity were the norms. In 1975, however, it is an
anachronism, and as some may argue, so is the writing of Naipaul.
Yet, it seems to me, that one can argue that guerrillas and revolt, ill-formed as they
are, represent the half-way house between gangs and bad-Johnism and revolutionary
theory, coming to grips with ever changing social development of their society.
In Guerrillas, Meredith, in his radio interview with Peter, contends that "we are too
vulnerable to other people's ideas. We don't have too many of our own."43 Later, in
the same interview, Meredith continues: "We're a dependent people, Peter. We need
other people's approval. And when people come to us with reputations made abroad,
we tend to look up to them."44 This, of course, is only one side of the story. Surely
the United Revolutionary Organizations and the United Labour Front are actively
trying to formulate theory in close cohesion with practice over and beyond the vul-
garism of bad-Johnism.
It is almost, as if Naipaul was trapped by his perception of the past; a past that is no
longer operative, yet a past which in its irreverence and obsolescence is thrust upon a
people and their future. He has no way of understanding the language of the present
and the aspirations of the future. Iconoclasm and satirical irreverence become the
substitute for the correct and accurate cognition of reality with very little corres-
pondence between present reality and literary imagination. It is in this fashion of
"bad-Johnism" that Naipaul sees national independence as "taking a chance," 4 and
the issuance of his warning that when the show of independence is over, "somebody is
going to go down there and start dishing out some licks." 46 All these literary per-
ceptions testify to the fact that Naipaul's vision is merely a relic of the colonial past
and that he still sees reality basically within the same context.
It seems to me that revolt or revolutionary struggle, at quite another level is not
caused primarily because "leaders" descend from the metropole (like Jimmy) or that
their perceptions are shaped largely as a result of unfulfilled relations with white
women. Revolutionary struggle (or revolt) occurs when people are profoundly dis-
satisfied with the nature of their lives. The romantic utopianism of Jimmy and the
other "guerrillas" arise out of the adventurism of radicals who do not see social
revolution as an outgrowth of the collective organized responses of the masses. As far
as Naipaul is concerned it is impossible for someone with "a Chinese shopkeeping
background to be in tune with the aspirations of black people." 47 It does not matter
if that Chinese has lived all his life with those people, that his social consciousness has
been fashioned by the same social reality of the "black people" and that he shares in
the same socio-political aspirations of those people. He is Chinese and according to
Naipaul he cannot be "in tune with the aspirations of "black" people. This to me,
smacks of racism, and many have long made those charges against Naipaul.
Unlike what Naipaul believes, however, leaders of any organized struggle against the
oppressor can never be thrust upon the people nor can he simply assume leadership; he
must grow out of the surging masses. The problem with Jimmy or for that matter,
Stephens, is not so much that they are either negroid or mongoloid, but the fact that
in the case of Jimmy, in his haste to deal with the wrongs of his society he allowed
idealism to get the better of him and in the case of Stephens he used the profound
discontent of a society to further his own aspirations.
Finally, it seems that not only is the existence of the guerrillas or the people of the
islands meaningless and futile, it turns out that life itself is meaningless. Like the
existentialist, life is an absurdity. Hence speaking about his sojourn in South Africa,
Roche could comment:
I used to go to Lisbon sometimes. It was a nice place to be in. Dangerous, full of
agents, full of South Africans. But it was out of Africa. I used to go to the
bullfights. They told me that in the Portuguese bullfight they didn't kill the bull.
I believed them. I went a lot. And then I heard that the bulls were killed
afterwards, after the fight. There was nothing else you could do with them. I'd
somehow believed that the spears or bards would just be taken out and the
wounds would heal. Oh my God, why is any of us allowed to live at all? That's
the miracle, the sheer charity of man to man." (Emphasis mine)
He was alarming her. But he didn't notice. "When I eat food and enjoy it, I
wonder why I am allowed to do so. When 1 lie down in my bed at night and
make myself comfortable, I wonder why I am allowed to do so. It would be so
easy to take it away from me. Every night I think about that. It would be so
easy to torment me. Once you tie a man's hands you can do anything to him."48
This, of course, is the logical culmination of Naipaul's irresponsibility. Where he begins
negating only the life of colonial man, he winds up negating all life. Life is basically
absurd he contends. Against this absurdity the death of Jane creates a deep sense of
desolation and void in Jimmy's world when he recognizes the aloneness and desolation
of his own condition. He recognizes:
Though he had been lost since the beginning of time, though he was lost in time
itself, and didn't know who or what he was, he was betrayed, his secret known.
The secret recalled him to himself, and his desolation was complete. He was
squatting beside the girl on edge of the dry pit, its crumbling walls still carrying
fork-marks, and Bryant, the cultass in his hand, was crying, like a man who at
any moment was going to scream.49
It was with the death of Jane that Jimmy recognized the loneliness of his position here
in this world, his deep abiding sense of vacuity. His revolt ends up as meaningless
because it is a sheer miracle that man is allowed to exist at all. Revolutionary struggle,
as a literary motif and a human activity, usually reaffirms life and the possibility of
life. In Guerrillas, the author uses revolutionary struggle not only to deny its positive
importance in the lives of oppressed peoples, but to point out the futility of existence
Naipaul in his article "Power" makes only a fleeting reference to Ortega y Gasset,
which would tend to show that at least he had some sort of passing familiarity with his
work. Reading Naipaul's work, one is convinced that there are many similarities of
thought to Ortega y Gasset. Ortega y Gasset, in his notorious work, The Dehumaniza-
tion of Art, argues that in the twentieth century:
There unquestionably exists in the world a new artistic sensibility ... This sensi-
bility is worthwhile to define. And when we seek to ascertain the most general
and most characteristic feature of modem artistic production we come upon the
tendency to dehumanize art...
Far from going more or less towards reality, the artist is seen going against it. He
is brazenly set on deforming reality, shattering its human aspect, (and)
Such is the sensibility that Naipaul brings to bear upon the work, Guerrillas a
sensibility that is fixed on "deforming" the nature of reality in countries that are
engaged in trying to revolutionize the quality of their lives. Dehumanization, then is
the chief characteristic of Guerrillas and at this point in his career, technique repre-
sents the major objective of authentic, aesthetic perception in the art of V.S. Naipaul.
In one brilliant stroke Alejo Carpentier, in his Explosion in a Cathedral, is able to
transcend the sociologism of Juminer and the banal formalism and dehumanization of
Naipaul. With the unparalleled reservoir of artistic richness, he is able to merge form
and content into an organic whole. The canvas which he paints is as broad as it is deep.
From his remarkably learned allusions to the deep multifarious richness of his
symbols, bespeaks of an artistic imagination that is firmly rooted in the landscape of
the Caribbean at one level, and the universal human condition at another level.
Set against the background of the French Revolution, Explosion in a Cathedral
involves the entire Caribbean area that is, the most socially advanced Third World
countries at the time into the universal quest for a new order, a struggle for a
"Better World" as the characters called it; a process that was designed to culminate in
Europe. It was not designed to end there. The novel is at once an evocation of the
universal impulse in man to struggle for liberty and the need to protect the gains of
that liberation, as well as the imperative that one should not be trapped by the
expediency of some of the actors in the struggle for liberty.
This is not to suggest that there are not certain limitations with Explosion in a
Cathedral, the least of which is not the amount of verbal extravagances that are
contained therein. The most serious limitation, however, arises from the author's
bourgeois perceptions of the world at the time that the novel was written. Yet the
one-dimensional nature of Juminer's art (Bozambo's Revenge) and the meaningless
futility of Naipaul's Guerrillas, give way in Explosion in a Cathedral to much more
fully developed characters, the multifarious richness of artistic creation and the depth
of artistic content. Revolutionary struggle in Carpentier's work is never presented as
meaningless, even though it might be repetitive. It is to be perceived always as the
outward manifestation of the inner dimension of change, that is, as the struggle for the
greater humanization of that society and a sense of the necessity of social develop-
There is also reason to believe that Carpentier understands that the genesis of any
historical struggle stems from the struggle between various social classes and is
economic in origins. In his Preface to "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,"
Engels pointed out that,
All historical struggles, whether they proceed in the political, religious, philoso-
phical, or some other ideological domain, are in fact only the more or less clear
expression of struggles of social classes, and that existence and thereby the
collisions, too, between these classes, are in turn conditioned by the degree of
the development of their economic position, the mode of their production and
of their exchange determined by it.51
Naipaul bent on dehumanization and cynicism failed to understand this phenomenon
and Juminer in his metaphysical-existentialist perception of reality tended to shroud
the authentic nature of historical struggle in a sort of idealism. By the use of critical
realism, Carpentier is able to point out the economic origins of the historical struggle
which takes place in the Caribbean.
Therefore, in Explosion in a Cathedral, Carpentier makes three fundamental points.
First, the novel moves from a reflection upon life to the actual participation in life in
order to transform it. For example when we see Esteban, Sofia and Carlos in Ex-
plosion in a Cathedral for the first time they are "like orphans, alone in a soulless city
indifferent to painting and poetry and given over to trade and ugliness." 52 Yet, they
have a dream; they hope and dream that life would be better, that some day there
would be a "Better World." And, so oppressed by the heat of the city they sleep on
top of the roofs of their home, "after talking, with their faces turned upwards to the
sky, about habitable surely inhabited planets, where life would perhaps be better
than it was on this earth, everlastingly subjected to the process of death." 53
The life lived by Esteban, Sofia and Carlos was removed from the sensuous
day-to-day existence which their compatriots underwent. They lived in a world which
they discovered through books and life was perceived as a perpetual game.
Everything was transformed into a perpetual game which established them at
one more remove from the outside world, within the arbitrary counterpoint
afforded by lives led on three different planes; the terrestrial plane, so to speak,
belonged to Esteban, who was little given to mountaineering because of his
illness, but permanently envious of anyone, who, like Carlos, would leap from
packing-case to packing-case on the mountain tops, hang from the panelling, or
rock in a Veracruz hammock slung from the rafters in the ceiling. Meanwhile,
Sofia carried on her existence in an immediate zone, situated some six feet from
the ground, her heels level with her cousin's temples, moving books from one
hiding place (or "lair" as she called them) to another. Here, she could stretch out
as she liked, undo her buttons, let down her stockings, or pull her skirts right up
to her thighs if she felt too hot.54
In this world into which Carpentier introduces us, life is merely reflected upon. Within
the context of revolutionary struggle, however, the point is: How do we transform
that world? The movement in the novel, therefore, is one from bourgeois self-in-
dulgence and indifference (which is personified particularly in the life of Sofia) to one
of commitment and responsibility towards life. This is rendered dramatically in the
last scene of the novel when we see Sofia joining the demonstrators who have taken
the struggle to the streets of Madrid.
Secondly, Carpentier links the French revolution to the revolutionary activities in
the Caribbean. It is part of his contention that even though the Caribbean has been
embroiled inextricably with the world-wide revolutionary potentials which were
unleashed by the French revolution, the great struggle for liberty in the New World
preceded that of the French revolution. Brottier makes it quite clear in the novel that
"all the French Revolution has achieved in America is to legalize the Great Escape
which has been going on since the sixteenth century. The blacks didn't wait for you;
they've proclaimed themselves free a countless number of times." ss The French
Revolution, therefore, must be seen as a part of a much larger historical process which
began with the Africans in the New World.
However, there was a difference in this historical process which cohered with the
national specifics of the struggle in the New World. The French Revolution performed
"the task of unchaining and setting up modern bourgeois society",56 in Europe
because, France, more than any other society in Europe, was ready for that trans-
formation. 7 The historical struggle for Africans in America was not aimed so much at
forming a bourgeois society as it was directed towards inaugurating the liberation
movements and the struggle for the elimination of slavery. The success of the Haitian
Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century testifies to the success of this struggle.
It is within this context that Carpentier chronicles the consistent struggle for
liberation on the part of the slaves in the Caribbean. He is aware, in the first instant,
that the French Revolution, with all of its contradictions its high points and its low
points made it possible for the Africans to intensify the national liberation struggle
in the New World.58 To be consistent, the principles enshrined in the slogan of the
French Revolution liberty, equality and fraternity had to be applicable to the
inhabitants of the New World also; this would give greater legitimacy to their struggle.
More importantly, however, the fact that Africans in the New World were struggling in
the sixteenth century for ideas that Europeans fought for in the eighteenth century
seems to suggest that the African slaves were indeed in the vanguard of the struggle for
human dignity in this new era of world history.
The ideals espoused during the French Revolution and the African struggle for
liberty in the New World as well as the movement of the Indians across the continent,
seem, in Carpentier's vision, to speak to quite another impulse in man the millennial
impulse of man to struggle for a Better World. Represented as two great world forces
- Theological Man and Totemic Man contending for the same ideals, and struggling
on the same stage, their confrontation and collision are presented as almost inevitable.
In the Great Migration northward of the Caribs and the Europeans penetration
southward, one force had to be defeated; the millennium would be achieved via the
sounds of cannons as they muted the poisoned arrows of a past civilization:
Two irreconcilable historical periods confronted one another in the struggle
where no truce was possible. Totemic Man was opposed to Theological Man. For
the disputed Archipelago had suddenly become a Theological Archipelago. The
islands were changing their identity, and were being integrated into the great
all-embracing sacramental drama. The first island discovered by these invaders
from a continent inconceivable to the islanders themselves had received the
name of Christ, and the first cross, made of branches, was planted on its shores.
For the second, they had gone back to the Mother, and had called it Santa Maria
de la Concepci6n. The Antilles were being transformed into an immense
stained-glass window, flooded by sunlight. The Donors were already present in
the shape of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Apostle Thomas, Saint John the
Baptist, Saint Lucy, Saint Martin, Our Lady of Guadelupe, and the supreme
figures of the Trinity were set in their respective places; and the towns of
Navidad, Santiago and Santo Domingo arose against a background of cerulean
blue, whitened by the coralliferous labyrinth of the Eleven Thousand Virgins-
as impossible to count as the stars in the Campus Stellae. With a leap of some
thousands of years, this Mediterranean had received the Christian Laying of
Hands, together with wheat and Latin, wine and Vulgate, the Caribs would never
reach the Empire of the Mayas, but would remain a frustrated people who had
been dealt a death wound just as their age-old design reached its climax. And all
that remained from the failure of their Great Migration, begun perhaps on the
left bank of the Amazon River in an age which the chronology of others desig-
nated as the thirteenth century, was the reality of the Carib petroglyphs on the
beaches and the river-banks indications of an unrecorded epic with their
human figures, inlaid in the rock, beneath a proud solar symbolism.59
It is this everlasting quest for a Better World, the "persistence of this myth of the
Promised Land,"60 which Esteban reflected upon as he rounded the Dragons Mouth; a
myth which "had changed in character to suit each successive century, responding to a
constantly renewed hunger;" 61 a myth which had to possess its own independent
existence, continuous and everlasting, in order to keep man humane and the spirit of
adventure alive within him.
It was this quest for a Better World that became the burden of Explosion in a
Cathedral. It was this quest for a Better World that kept men going on and on, from
one generation to another, which bestowed nobility upon men in the Kingdom of this
World, as Carpentier has pointed out in another context.62 But, as a critical realist,
Carpentier could only perceive the quest as being undifferentiated. Further, he did not
realize the unfolding nature of the quest; the fact that following the creation of
bourgeois society (that came into being after the 18th Brumaire), the two great classes
of society would then have to confront each other in order to decide just how that
quest for a Better World would be effected. Inequality and exploitation would have to
give way to equality and non-exploitation; slavery and barbarity would have to give
way to liberty and humanity.
Indeed, this whole torrent of human activity, this whole movement towards a
Better World did culminate in both the French and American Revolutions in the
eighteenth century. Speaking specifically about the French Revolution around which
the novel is based, Marx interpreted the Revolution in the following manner:
The first French Revolution, with its task of breaking all separate local, terri-
torial, urban and provincial powers in order to create civil unity of the nation
was bound to develop what the absolute monarchy had begun: centralization,
but at the same time the extent, the attributes and the agents of government
power. Napoleon perfected this state machinery ... Finally in its struggle against
the revolution, the parliamentary republic found itself compelled to strengthen,
along with the repressive measures, the resources and centralisation of govern-
mental power. All revolutions perfected this state machine instead of smashing
it. The parties that contended in turn for domination regarded possession of the
huge edifice as the principal spoils of the victor.63 (Emphasis mine).
It is the centralization of governmental powers and the perfection of the state
machines of the bourgeoisie state that would differentiate the first French Revolution
from those that followed and which prepared the way for the June Insurrection, "the
most colossal event in the history of European civil wars;" 64 the first great historical
clash between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. It is fairly obvious that this state
machine which had been perfected for the oppression of the masses of people must be
smashed, and as Lenin reminded us correctly, herein lies "the chief and fundamental
point in the Marxist theory of the state."65
While it could be argued "the Revolution had certainly answered some obscure
millennial impulse and developed into the human race's most ambitious adventure,"66
the Revolution represented much more. It marked a decisive milestone in human
progress, the first nascent assertion of a class for itself. The Third World was very
much a part of that movement.
Thirdly, in this novel, Carpentier presents revolutionary struggle as being con-
tinuous and history as being cyclical. These perceptions need to be treated in a very
serious manner because they presume a state of constant turmoil in society and project
revolutionary violence as a way of life that exists (or should exist) continuously in
society. Suffice it to say that these perceptions are caused undoubtedly because the
author ignores the nature of class struggle and the need for the strong and purposeful
organization of revolutionary struggle on the one hand, and an inability to see his-
torical development as dialectical on the other hand.67
What is significant about Carpentier for our purposes is the remarkable way in
which he imposes artistic formulation and control upon literary content and the way
in which he is able to project revolutionary struggle as the content and organizing
principle of his work. Set in a world where Esteban, Sofia and Carlos use the mourning
of their father as an excuse to prevent them from participating in the activities of their
society and discovering the world through foreign newspapers which arrive months
late, the privacy of these characters is intruded upon by Victor Hughes, who brings
them news which would not only change their lives, but would shape the entire epoch
as well: "All men were born equal",6 he tells them. According to his own testimony,
Hughes was a "man of the people,""69 who "supported the distribution of land and
property, the surrender of children to the state, the abolition of private fortunes, and
the minting of iron coinage which, like that of Aparta, could not be hoarded."'0
Inspite of all of his worldly sophistication, Sofia, who had spent most of her life in a
convent, is strangely fascinated by him.
Urged on by these somewhat "muddled expressions" (muddled presumably because
they could not quite understand all of the concepts contained in Hughes's exposition)
Esteban, Sophia and Carlos are forced to abandon their world of make belief. They are
fascinated by the verbal exchange of Victor and Oge; exchanges which contain some of
the most pregnant ideas of the age:
"We have gone beyond the age of religion and metaphysics; we are now entering
an age of science"; "The stratification of the world into classes has no meaning";
"We must deprive the mercantile interest of their terrible power of unleashing
wars"; "Humanity is divided into two classes, the oppressors and the oppressed.
Habit, necessity, and lack of leisure prevent the majority of the oppressed from
becoming aware of it, civil war will break out." The terms liberty, happiness,
equality, human dignity, and the very mysterious one of class war, coined by a
Scottish-economist, recurred continually in this reckless exposition, and were
used to prove the imminence of a greater conflagration, which tonight Esteban
accepted as a necessary purification, as an Apocalypse which he longed to
witness as soon as possible, so that he might start his life as a man in a new
These sentiments bombarded against the sensibilities and consciousness of these young
people. It released them from their world of make belief and gradually introduced
them into a world of action, which even in its squalour, contained all of the con-
tradictory tendencies of the age.
They are introduced to the French Revolution and made aware of its worldwide
significance. After meeting Victor, they discussed the Revolution for days and became
engulfed in the possibilities of revolution and all of its implications: "To talk revolu-
tions, to imagine revolutions, to place oneself mentally in the midst of revolution, is in
some small degree to become master of the world." 72 And so Esteban and Sofia were
drawn out of their idealistic world as they realized for the first time that there existed
a world beyond the confines of their home.
Fleeing Cuba, Hughes returned to Haiti to find that all that he possessed was
burned to the ground. From Haiti he proceeded to Rochfort where he became the
Prosecutor. Some months later he returned to Guadeloupe with the guillotine in one
hand and the Decree of the 16th Pluviose of the Year Two which abolished slavery in
the other. The Proclamation revealed that: "From this time forward, all men domi-
ciled in our colonies are declared French citizens, without distinction of race and with
an absolute equality of rights."73
But the Victor of this period is a changed Victor from the character encountered
earlier in Cuba. The first change in his character is the facility with which his judge-
ment could be bent to suit the whims and fancy of the leaders (of the French Revolu-
tion) of the time. Secondly, one is astounded by the simplistic manner in which he
could perceive the age, entirely unconcerned about its inherent contradictions. Victor
brought the decree that abolished slavery, yet he preserved the guillotine. The rule of
the guillotine would soon pervade and quickly became the hub around which the life
of the island revolved. When the Negroes, feeling the wrath of the guillotine, refused to
work and declared that they were free, Victor put them to the guillotine for their
arrogance and explained forthwith: "It's enough that we should look on them as
French citizens." 74
After Victor retreated from his position on the abolition of slavery, he gave the
Europeans full permission to have the slaves hunted and sold. The wonderful promise
of the 16th Pluvoise of the Year Two had degenerated into privateering and part of the
proceeds went to Hughes. At this juncture, Hughes had retreated from all of his
previously articulated positions, and was able to exclaim: "The Revolution is breaking
up. I've got nothing left to cling to. I don't believe in anything." 75
Concomitant with Hughes' loss of faith in the ideals of the Revolution, we see the
rise in the political awareness of Sofia as she decides resolutely to join Victor. She has
not seen him since he left Cuba, and with the idealism that he has started in her breast,
she is determined to join him and work with him in order to realise her dreams for a
Better World which she thinks that Victor still holds. As for Sofia, her political
sophistication has taken on quite another dimension because of her reading of the
literature of the Revolution.
As she stands on the bow of the ship that will take her to join Victor in Cayene, she
has the "impassivity of a mythological heroine contemplating the offerings brought to
her habitation by some seafaring race."76 She is determined to go to Cayene; no one
will stop her. Urged on by her desire to be with the "man who made her conscious of
her own being and who ... had spoken of feeling lonely in the midst of tri-
umphs ... She was bearing the furrow of her loins towards another's seed; she would
be the cup and the ark, like the woman in Genesis who had to abandon the home of
her fathers in order to go with her man.""77 She was determined to fulfill herself in the
new role which she had chosen. The Great Event of her life thus awaited her.
In Cayene, it seems as though Sofia's "existence ... had at least found a direction
and meaning,"78 as she dreamed of the great things that she would accomplish at the
side of this man who had opened up so much within her. Then came the promulgation
of the Law of the 30th Floreal of the Year Ten, where "slavery was reinstituted in the
French colonies in America, and the Decree of the 16th Pluviose of the Year Two was
no longer effective." 79
The first order of business would be the publication of the Law of Prairial, which
would restore slavery officially. The same Victor who "eight years before had shown a
persistent, an almost superhuman energy in abolishing slavery,... was now showing
the same energy in restoring it." 80 Challenged by Sofia about the inconsistency of his
position and the malleable nature of his convictions, Victor defiantly exclaims: "I am
a politician. And if the restoration of slavery is a political necessity, then I must bow
to that necessity." 8 Sofia, however, fails to be convinced and refuses to bow to
The Revolution has taught her quite a different lesson. For her, "the most splendid
thing the Revolution has done [was] to have altered more than one person's
ideas ... Now I know what ought to be accepted and what ought to be rejected."82
She opts for a life where people believe in ideals; where people's ideals are not changed
with each passing moment. She "wants to return to the world of the living, where
people believe in something. I hope for nothing from people who hope for
nothing.""3 Where Victor Hughes has chosen to deny liberty to the enslaved Africans,
Sofia has chosen to continue the revolutionary process and carry forward the ideals to
which Hughes introduced her when they first met in Cuba.
As Carpentier presents the novel, revolutionary activity is seen as cyclical. Hence,
when we last see Sofia and Esteban in the novel, they are taking to the streets of
Madrid to join in the revolutionary activity that was beginning to take place in that
country; a continuation of the process which began in the opening scenes of Explosion
in a Cathedral.
In his other novel, The Kingdom of this World, the same theme is re-emphasized.
The major protagonist of the novel, the slave, Ti Noel, sees the continuous process of
revolutionary activity in the following manner:
S.. a man never knows for whom he suffers and hopes. He suffers and hopes and
toils for people he will never know, and who, in turn will suffer and hope and
toil for others who will not be happy either, for man seeks a happiness far
beyond that which is meted out to him. But man's greatness consists in the very
fact of wanting to be better than he is.84
This cyclical conception of history prevents Carpentier from seeing the over-all nature
of historical development, especially the class essence of the struggles which he
depicts. The French Revolution and its antecedents in the New World took human
society to a higher qualitative level, rather than merely repeating a process in which
man strove blindly for a Better World. A Better World is possible when the labour of
the many is not appropriated by the few, when labour is turned into a prime need, and
the richness of the arts and sciences are available to the advancement of the many
rather than the few. The continuous struggle of the oppressed peoples of the world can
and will create a Better World through the scientific analysis of society, a thorough
understanding of the laws of social development and the revolutionary transformation
of their social order.
The inability of Carpentier to perceive the world as evolving in a spiral manner
towards the achievement of this Better World is inherent in the very form which he is
forced to use. The form which best describes Explosion in a Cathedral is critical
realism. While the critical realist writers (like Carpentier) "by searching for the link
between their characters and life and connecting their art with the natural course of
history... came close to an understanding of the processes which determined the
course of history," s8 an absence on their part of a scientific conception of history
prevented them from informing their art with "a forward-looking understanding of
man and the world." 86 This is particularly true with Explosion in a Cathedral, where
the critical realist approach to literature prevented Carpentier from depicting the
over-all nature of historical development and the class essence of the struggles which
Commenting on Carpentier and his novels, Professor R. Gonzales Echevarria main-
Carpentier returns to the eighteenth century in the Caribbean as a means of
telescoping into the present and beyond (by means of strategic anachronisms)
the historical-political processes undergone by the New Continent. In The
Kingdom of This World, dealing with the same period he finishes his narrative
with a "green wind," an unchecked natural force that wipes out the work of
men as if divinely ordained to frame in a natural cycle the historical process.
Explosion in the Cathedral (sic) ends in the streets of Madrid on May 2, 1808 -
with the implied prophecy of the Latin American wars of independence and
revolutions yet to come. The quest for origins in the natural fusion of history
and consciousness in a utopic past is abandoned in favor of a political history,
whose origins are to be found in the dissemination of the texts of the French
Revolution throughout the New World. The genesis is now a political one. The
myth of a past utopia has been replaced by the correlative myth of the future,
when all versions of history will at last be one, and all steps will be finally
found."8 (Emphasis mine).
The question is where are these steps to be found? In what ideological perception
of the world is the future of mankind to be made known best? Is it purely a
mythological process or is it possible to transform life through realist art? It is evident
that Explosion in a Cathedral does not adequately provide us with an answer, despite
the fact that it provides a link between the characters and real life, which suggests an
understanding of the course that history must follow.
The conscious presentation of art and life, fashioned by the materialist conception
is needed to present the manner in which all steps will "be finally found." The
purposeful presentation of revolutionary struggle as it forges a new materialist path for
mankind and the Third World becomes the function of the novel in post-revolutionary
SELWYN R. CUDJOE
1. Addressing the First Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, President Fidel Castro
summed up these difficulties of post revolutionary societies in the following manner: "What
does history prove? That men have had power and have abused power. Even m revolutionary
"- essess certain men acquire extraordinary power, especially in this phase, especially in the
St few years. When the revolutionary process becomes institutionalized, when there is
already a Party, when the rules are already established, when these rules are embraced by the
community, then there is no danger.
But in this phase of the revolutionary process which we have all lived, there were great
dangers; the danger of vanity, the danger of conceit, the danger of deification, the habit of
having authority, the habit of holding and exercising power. How many risks are involved!
And how many mistakes have been made throughout the history of mankind because of this."
Granma, Havana, January 11, 1976, p. ?.
2. Franco, op. cit., p. 59.
3. See Selwyn R. Cudjoe, Resistance and the Caribbean Novel, for a fuller discussion of Au sueil
d'un nouveau ri.
4. Bertene Juminer, Bozambo's Revenge (Washington, D.C.: Three Continents Press, 1976), p. ix;
introduction by Paul L. Thompson.
5. Mikhail Khrapchenko, "The Nature of the Aesthetic Sign," Social Sciences, Vol. VIII. No. 2,
6. Ibid., p. 127-28.
7. Ibid., p. 133.
8. Notes on private conversation, November 1976.
9. Juminer, op. cit., pp. 28-29.
10. Juminer, op. cit, p. 141.
11. Ibid., p. 42.
12. See Chapter 8 of this monograph for a fuller discussion of this topic.
13. E. Batalov, The Philosophy of Revolt. (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 77.
14. Juminer, op. cit., p. 44.
15. Tamas Szentes, The Political Economy of Underdevelopment, Budapest: Akademiai Kiado,
16. Juminer, op. cit p. 4849.
17. Ibid., p. xiv-xv.
18. Alejo Carpentier, The Lost Steps, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976); introduction by J.B.
Priestley. p. vi-vii.
19. Gordon Rohlehr. "The Ironic Approach," in Louis James (Ed.), The Islands in Between,
(London: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 123.
20. V.S. Naipaul, The Middle Passage. (London: Andre Deutsch, 1962), p. 29.
21. V.S. Naipaul, The Overcrowded Baracoon
22. V.S. Naipaul, Guerrillas, The New York Times.
23. Mel Gussow, "Writer without Roots," New York Times Magazine, December 26, 1976, p. 8.
24. Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1. (New York: International Publishers, 1975), p. 20.
25. Guerrillas, op. cit, p. 50-52.
26. Guerrillas, op. cit., p. 114.
27. Ibid., p. 176.
28. Ibid., p. 236.
29. The Overcrowded Barracoon, op. cit., p. 247.
30. Ibid., p. 254.
31. The Overcrowded Barracoon, op. cit., p. 250.
32. Ibid., p. 250.
33. The Middle Passage, op. cit., p. 250.
34. Guerrillas, op. cit., p. 144-145. It is of course very interesting and instructive to counterpose
Mr. Naipaul's attitude towards the reggae with the sentiments expressed by "Struggle", the
official organ of the Workers Party of Jamaica. Reviewing Bob Marley's LP Rastaman
Vibration the newspaper made the following observation; "Bob Marley is probably,
at this time, Jamaica's most well known artiste, nationally and internationally. Any new
recording by him must therefore be recognized as an important addition to Jamaica's cultural
life ... In "War" [one of the selections in the album] we see the revolutionary side of Bob
and of Rastafari, reflecting the growing anti-imperialist consciousness of Jamaican working
people. Bob chants: "UNTIL THE IGNOBLE AND UNHAPPY REGIMES THAT NOW HOLD
OUR BROTHERS IN ANGOLA, IN MOZAMBIQUE, SOUTH AFRICA IN SUB-HUMAN
BONDAGE, HAVE BEEN TOPPLED, UTTERLY DESTROYED, EVERYWHERE IS WAR."
"War" is the best thing on this LP and worth the money for itself alone. This is the side of Bob
Marley and of all our artistes that we should encourage. It not only recognizes oppression and
sufferation, but goes a step further. It says "until freedom from imperialism and apartheid
come, no peace for the imperialists and racists."
We look forward to greater works developing the anti-imperialist consciousness of our people
from Bob and the Wailers and all progressive Jamaican artistes." "Rastaman, Vibrations, a
review", Struggle, VoL 3 No. 11, June 23, 1976. p.3.
35. In Questions of National Policy and Proletarian Nationalism, Lenin differentiates between two
cultures in an oppressed society: the dominant bourgeois culture of the oppressor, and the
democratic proletarian culture of the oppressed.
36. See The Middle Passage, p. 41.
37. Writer Without Roots, p. 8.
38. Batalov, op. cit., p. 158-159.
39. Guerrillas, p. 95.
40. Ibid., p. 215.
41. Efforts to locate the year of this calypso have been difficult. Sam Ghany, Sales Manager of
Radio Trinidad has, however, confirmed the above information.
42. Lord Valentino, Straker's Records, Barbados, 1974.
43. Guerrillas, p. 235.
44. Ibid., p. 237.
45. Ibid., p. 217.
46. op. cit., p. 217.
47. Ibid., p. 238.
48. Ibid., p. 255.
49. Ibid., p. 281.
50. Jose Ortega y Gasset. The Dehumanization of Art and Notes on the Novel, (Princeton, New
Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1948), p. 20-21.
51. Karl Marx and Federick Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 1. (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969),
52. Alejo Carpentier, Explosion in a Cathedral. (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1963), p. 23.
53. Ibid., p. 23;
54. Ibid., p. 27-28.
55. Ibid., p. 231.
56. Marx and Engels, op. cit., p. 398-399.
57. In delineating the readiness of France for the transformation from one society to another,
Engels explains: "France is a land where, more than anywhere else, the historical class
struggles were each time fought out to a decision, and where, consequently, the changing
political forms with which they move and in which their results are summarised have been
stamped with the sharpest outlines. The center of feudalism in the Middle Ages, the model
country of unified monarchy, resting on estates, since the Renaissance, France demolished the
feudalism in the Great Revolution and established the unalloyed rule of the bourgeoise in a
classical purity unequalled by another European land." (See Marx and Engels., op. cit. p. 396)
58. Speaking about the exceptionally revolutionary situation in Haiti, Brottier comments in
Explosion in a Cathedral: "It's amazing to think... that the blacks in Haiti refused to accept
the guillotine. Sonthonax only managed to erect it once. The blacks arrived en-masse to see
how you beheaded a man with it. When they had grasped the mechanism they got angry,
hurled themselves on it, and smashed it into little pieces." (See Carpentier, op. cit., p.
232-233). It was very evident. The excesses of the French Revolution would not be accepted
in any way in Haiti.
59. Ibid., p. 244-245.
60. Ibid., p. 247.
61. Ibid., p. 247.
62. See Alejo Carpentier, The Kingdom of This World. (New York: Collier Books, 1970).
63. Marx and Engels., op. cit, p. 477.
64. Ibid., p. 404.
65. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works Vol. 25 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1974), p. 411.
66. Explosion in a Cathedral, p. 260.
67. See Resistance and the Caribbean Novel, for a more extensive discussion on this point.
68. Explosion in a Cathedral, p. 43.
69. Ibid., p. 52.
70, Ibid., p. 70.
71. Ibid., p. 70.
72. Ibid., p. 71.
73. Ibid., p. 125.
74. Ibid., p. 152.
75. Ibid., p. 207.
76. Ibid., p. 289.
77. Ibid., p. 289-290.
78. Ibid, p. 314.
79. Ibid, p. 319.
80. Ibid, p. 322.
81. Ibid, p. 323.
82. Ibid., p. 335.
83. Ibid., p. 335.
84. The Kingdom of This World, p. 185.
85. Nikolai Leizerov, "The Scope and Limits of Realism, Problems of Modem Aesthetics, p. 308.
86. Ibid., p. 309.
87. R. Gonzales Eschevarria, "The Parting of the Waters," Diacritics, IV, No. 4 (1974), p. 10.
"A VISION OF THE LAND": V.S. NAIPAUL'S
Commentators on V.S. Naipaul's The Middle Passage, his account of a trip to the
Caribbean in 1960, were quick to focus on his stringent criticism of the area's
societies. And rightly so, for Naipaul's work to this time reflected the view expressed
in this travelogue that "nothing was created in the British West Indies.... There were
only plantations, prosperity, decline, neglect."' It is this notion, and its corollary that
nothing was likely to happen in the future, that George Lamming had in mind when he
referred to Naipaul's failure to "move beyond a castrated satire."2 There was,
Lamming implies, no value system behind Naipaul's satire which could serve as the
basis for the area's regeneration. So much attention has been devoted to judgements
like Lamming's that the presence of an opposite impulse in The Middle Passage, the
search for an order in Caribbean society, has been ignored. This search is most evident
in Naipaul's response to the landscapes through which he travelled. In Trinidad, which
he had not seen since leaving it twelve years before, he remarks on seeming to see the
land for the first time, and in Surinam he is struck by the history embedded in the
So many things in these West Indian territories, I now begin to see, speak of
slavery. There is slavery in the vegetation. In the sugar-cane, brought by
Columbus on that second voyage when, to Queen Isabella's fury, he proposed
the enslavement of the Amerindians.... And just as in the barren British
Guiana savannah lands a clump of cashew trees marks the site of an Amerindian
village, so in Jamaica a clump of starapple trees marks the site of a slave pro-
vision ground (pp. 61-62; 182-83).
This awareness is a crucial one since the search for histories in the landscape becomes
the focus of Naipaul's later novels. It is the tension between this search and Naipaul's
abiding belief that nothing had been created in the West Indies or in Africa the "new
worlds" in which Naipaul finds the same essential features that shapes The Mimic
Men (1967), In a Free State (1971), and Guerrillas (1975).3 This tension is resolved by
A Bend in the River (1979), for the historical landscapes in it reveal only a "bush"
history, which yields no foundation for a society and no sense of place for the
individual. This novel clearly marks the end of Naipaul's twenty-year examination of
his "new world" landscapes for a native historical tradition.
The most fundamental outcome of Naipaul's Caribbean trip was a new focus, the
landscape, in his work. Prior to this trip his fiction is strikingly free of landscape
descriptions, particularly in contrast with the almost obsessive treatment of Caribbean
landscapes by such writers as Wilson Harris and Derek Walcott. In the pre-1960 novels,
Kenneth Ramchand correctly noted, Naipaul showed "little sensuous awareness of the
natural world."4 Only once in these works, at the outset of The Suffrage of Elvira
(1958), is even a feigned delight in the Trinidad landscape and the beginnings of a
placement of it in an historical context evident.
From the top of Elvira Hill you get one of the finest views in Trinidad, better
even than the view from Tortuga in South Caroni. Below, the jungly hills and
valleys of the Central Range. Beyond, to the south, the sugar-cane fields, the
silver tanks of the oil refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre, and the pink and white houses
of San Fernando; to the west, the shining rice-fields and swamps of Caroni, and
the Gulf of Paria; the Caroni Savannah to the north, and the settlements at the
foot of the Northern Range.
Harbans didn't care for the view. All he saw about him was a lot of bush.
Indeed, the Elvira Estate had long been broken up and only the tall immortelle
trees with their scarlet and orange bird-shaped flowers reminded you that there
was once a great cocoa estate there.5
The narrator professes to be a connoisseur of the local landscape he knows that the
best view is from Tortuga and he begins through it to feel towards the colonial past.
But this rush through the compass's four points, punctuated with references to junglyy
hills" and "shining rice-fields," is the language of a tour guide late in his day's work.
Like him, like Harbans, we find it hard to "care for the view."
A fiction based not just on landscapes, but historical landscapes presented such a
radical departure from Naipaul's early novels that this new impulse only became
dominant seven years after his Caribbean tour. In the novels immediately following it,
the landscape emerges as a crucial element, but one tied to personal rather than more
inclusive national histories. In A House for Mr Biswas (1961), the landscape emerges
as the key to identity. Part I of the novel centers on Mr Biswas's attempts to recreate
the pastoral landscape of his childhood, first at the Chase and later in the building of
the house near Green Vale. The centrality of the landscape is indicated by the storm at
Green Vale that propels Mr Biswas into "the Void" from which he emerges
strengthened. Similarly, in Mr Stone and the Knights Companion (1963), the incident
in the Chyauster fields spurs Mr Stone to the sole creative fulfillment of his life.
Only with The Mimic Men does the recognition of a national history in the
landscape become the necessary condition for establishing a stable identity. The land-
scape here carries a history which, although shunned by the protagonist Ralph Singh,
yields its meaning to other characters. The novel suggests that receptivity to histories
such as Naipaul found in the Surinam landscape can provide a sense of place in the
agitated modem world. Yet by In a Free State and Guerrillas, even as Naipaul's
characters become more adept at reading such histories, the land, rather than offering
a sense of place, discloses that alienation from it is inevitable. These characters divine,
in short, that they are suspended in foundationless "free states" or are functioning as
guerrillas attempting to reclaim irreparably devastated land. By A Bend in the River,
no impetus to search remains: as one character says of the land at the river's bend,
"This isn't property. This is just bush. This has always been bush" (p. 23)
Naipaul's later novels, then, illustrate the same tendency, only in a different mode,
that Lamming observed in the pre-1960 works; where they lacked a value system
behind the satire, the later novels finally show no historical order in the landscape.
Naipaul's return to the Caribbean had prompted a new focus, the historical landscape,
in his later works, but he could not finally affirm through it an order growing from a
The assumption which prevents Naipaul from affirming such an order is the same
throughout his career: that true culture is to be found only in the metropole. He
remains convinced, as he wrote in The Middle Passage that "it was only our
Britishness, our belonging to the British empire, which gave us any identity" (p. 43).
This assumption is reflected in Naipaul's later novels through the persistent use of two
closely related metropolitan models. One is the kind of British pastoral associated with
Imperial writers abroad, most notably Forster, Orwell and Joyce Cary in their works
with colonial settings. As Raymond Williams has found of such British writers,
Naipaul's work reflects the yearning for "an ideal of rural England: its green peace
contrasted with the tropical and arid places of actual work its sense of belonging, of
community, idealized by contrast with the tensions of colonial rule and the isolated
alien settlement."6 This ideal of rural England figures in Naipaul's later novels through
references to English pastoral literature, such as Hardy's The Woodlanders in
Guerrillas, and in fantasies like Singh's in The Mimic Men of his grandmother "leading
her cow through a scene of pure pastoral: calendar pictures of English gardens super-
imposed on our villages of mud and grass" (p. 89).
The other metropolitan model is the "new world" counterpart of the idealized
English pastoral landscape: the perfect garden of El Dorado (or in its African manifes-
tation, the Kingdom of Prester John). This model is employed as early as A House for
Mr Biswas through such details as the article, "RALEIGH'S DREAM COMES TRUE,"
which Mr Biswas writes on his return to his childhood home. And it is the basis for
the entire "Shorthills Adventure," which is prompted by the Tulsis' perception of
Shorthills as a new El Dorado. They hear its "glories listed again and again"; "The land
itself was a wonder," and even "if one did nothing, life could be rich at Shorthills"
(pp. 391-92). At the estate, formerly a French plantation, the Tulsis install themselves
as new masters among "the stupified villagers" and, like the colonists before them,
turn to plundering the land. The historical events which their adventure reflects the
search for El Dorado and the early days of a settler population are the "two
moments when Trinidad was touched by history" that Naipaul records in The Loss of
El Dorado (1969). That the formative events of such colonial societies as Trinidad
occurred early in their histories and were followed by stagnation or retrogression until
the present is the historical view informing Naipaul's later novels. Only England,
whether in its indigenous or colonial pastoral form, finally has sufficient history to
yield a sense of place to Naipaul's later protagonists.
While Naipaul's search for a history in the landscape of his "new worlds" is
ultimately frustrated, it is nevertheless a serious and concerted one. "The Circus at
Luxor the entry from Naipaul's journal which concludes In a Free State, illustrates
the terms he employs in his search. To feel "in place" in Naipaul's world requires
putting present, felt experience in an historical context, in other words, in a frame-
work providing a sense of historical continuity or tradition. Like his later work as a
whole, "Luxor" is an account of Naipaul surveying the landscape for an historical
context, which he senses might be provided by linking the present-day Egyptian land-
scape near Luxor to the nearby ruins of ancient Thebes. As his train approaches
Luxor, Naipaul at first discerns no such context, for the present and past landscapes
appear radically disjunct:
The peasant land rolled past the windows of the train; the muddy river, the
green fields, the desert, the black mud, the shadouf, the choked and crumbling
flat-roofed towns, the colour of dust: the Egypt of the geography book. The sun
set in a smoky sky; the land felt old. It was dark when the train left Luxor. Later
that evening I went to the temple at Kamak. It was a good way of seeing it for
the first time, in the darkness, separate from the distress of Egypt: those extra-
vagant columns, ancient in ancient times, the work of men of this Nile Valley
Beyond the question of how one can perceive the landscape as it is actually ex-
perienced, not simply as the cliche of the geography book, lies the more fundamental
one: How can a nation's history, present here in the Theban artifacts at Karnak, be
viewed "not in the darkness, separate from the distress" of the present, but in con-
junction with it? The task is difficult, for the difference between the eras is, in the
metaphor informing the passage, as great as that between night and day. The implied
solution is to see these landscapes not "for the first time" but for a second time, so
that "the land felt old" not only in the dark of the past but in the present day as well.
At first Naipaul takes refuge in the thought that such a sense of continuity is
impossible to achieve in the modern world. As he looks at an ancient painting of the
Nile, he thinks that portrayal of an ordered world whose inhabitants have a sense of
place was possible only for "the ancient artist", for whom
The land had been studied, everything in it categorized, exalted into design. It
was the special vision of men who knew no other land and saw what they had as
rich and complete. The muddy Nile was only water: in the painting, a blue green
chevron: recognizable, but remote (p. 24).
Naipaul, too, is seeking a way for his land, through the perception of the history in it,
to provide an informing context, to be "exalted into design." He wants the landscape
not only to be "recognizable" but also to reflect the "remote," the nation's history. In
this passage, Naipaul feels that only the ancient artist could achieve this end due to a
"special vision"; yet he realizes later that the ancient artist faced the same task as he,
only his predecessor had "a vision of the land" (p. 246). Naipaul's later works are, at
base, his search for such a vision, in order, one might say, to find an answer to his own
The Mimic Men is a more elaborate account of a search in the Caribbean for the
historical context that Naipaul sought in the landscape at Luxor. The novel is the
autobiography of Ralph Singh, the most self-conscious seeker in Naipaul's fiction for a
landscape he can claim as his own. He never finds that landscape, and our image of him
is of a frenetic traveller seeking a sense of place first in his native Caribbean island of
Isabella, then in London as a student, once again in Isabella as a suburban land
developer and politician, and finally in London when his political career fails.
Implanted in this framework are myriad excursions, both real and imaginary. As Singh
writes during one stopover in London, "I needed new landscapes, an unfamiliar
language, Northern Spain in a snowstorm, the brown earth whitening, the light sud-
denly grey; Provence on a sunny morning, green and yellow and hazy, and the big
Wagon-lit coffee cup kept steady by a heavy spoon" (p. 233). This reverie suggests
Singh's lack of direction in the juxtaposition of contrasting scenes, and as the snow
and haze imply, his not having the capability to see them clearly. "Landscapes" is a
word forever on his lips, but he is not capable of relating to them. His end is stasis and
withdrawal; he seeks, like the coffee cup, only to be steady.
There are landscapes in the novel which, through the history embedded in them,
suggest a means of establishing a sense of place. Even though Singh ultimately fails to
comprehend them, he does have intimations of their existence. His awareness of the
importance of such landscapes is reflected, most generally, in the form of the
autobiography he writes; until his retreat to a London hotel room at the close, the
broad pattern of the work is movement from the metropole to his native earth. He
senses from the outset that urban life is difficult to apprehend and lacks a discernable
order. "We seek the physical city," he laments, "and find only a conglomeration of
private cells," and he sees that this absence of organic order diminishes the residents
who become, like Singh, himself, "a cell of perception, little more" (pp. 18, 27). As a
remedy, both in London and after his return to Isabella, there is a ritualistic exchange
of romanticized rural landscapes from childhood between Singh and his acquaintances.
Singh's fixations are similar to those of his friends, but magnified: where their
memories are individual and romantic, his are historic and sublime. While the wider
scope of his concerns leads him to broader vistas, its very grandiosity prohibits him
from seeing the real landscapes he inhabits:
I go out to the centre of this city, this dying mechanized city, and in the window
of a print shop I see a picture of the city at other times: sheep, say, in Soho
Square. Just for an instant I long to be transported into that scene, and at the
same time I am overwhelmed by the absurdity of the wish and all the loss that it
implies; and in the middle of a street so real, in the middle of an assessment of
my situation that is so practical and realistic, I am like that child outside a hut at
dusk, to whom the world is so big and unknown and time so limitless; and I have
visions of Central Asian horsemen, among whom I am one, riding below a sky
threatening snow to the very end of an empty world (pp. 81-82).
Like the Tulsis before and Jimmy Ahmed in Guerrillas after him, Singh is debarred
from intelligent action by the choice of a pastoral ideal, which provides no useful
context for the agitated present. While Singh is quite aware of this problem, he still
cannot keep himself from spinning off further into the child's oceanic vision of his
Aryan ancestors over a millennium back.
Singh professes an inclination to give form to such fantasies through the writing of
history. His nascent feel for a workable starting point to study his own land is in-
dicated by the setting in which he foresees writing his work: a former slave plantation
on Isabella. He senses the importance of this landscape it is among the most detailed
in the novel yet it is a highly mannered setting from a past time when labourers cut
cocoa with "knives which are like the weapons of medieval knights" and slit the pods
in the novel yet it is a highly mannered setting from a past time when labourers cut
cocoa with "knives which are like the weapons of medieval knights" and slit the pods
"in the shade, arcadian figures" (p. 34). The more specific associations of this
harmonious plantation life are indicated by the summary of his contemplated
activities: "So the days would have passed, literary labour interdigitating with
arcadian setting, yearns to become the Happy Husbandman of the Western pastoral
tradition.' As in Soho Square, his initial impulse is promising but uncompleted; here
he distances himself from the "harsher" realities by transforming them into a classical
Singh has ample opportunities to confront the actual remains of plantations. First,
after his housewarming guests turn to vandalizing his "Roman house" (an indication
that Singh should discard his "classical" perspective), he drives out of the city to "the
ruins of the famous old slave plantation, the overgrown brick walls of the sugar
factory, the bricks brought as ballast in the eighteenth-century ships from Europe" (p.
75). That he seeks refuge in this locale indicates his sense of its importance; yet even as
he recalls that the plantation is a favourite spot for "rapists and others seeking social
revenge," he resists seeing how the slave past impacts on the present.
A more emphatic demonstration of the centrality of the slave experience is given to
Singh by Browne, a childhood friend:
I had been able at certain moments to think of Isabella as deserted and awaiting
discovery. Browne showed me that its tropical appearance was contrived; there
was a history in the vegetation we considered most natural and characteristic.
About the breadfruit and Captain Bligh we all knew. He told me about the
coconut, which fringed our beaches, about the sugarcane, the bamboo and
mango ... In the heart of the city he showed me a clump of old fruit trees: the
site of a slave provision ground. From this point look above the roofs of the city
and imagine! Our landscape was manufactured as that of any great French or
English park. But we walked in a garden of hell, among trees, some still without
popular names, whose seeds had sometimes been brought to our island in the
intestines of slaves.
This was what Browne taught. This was the subject of his own secret
reading (pp. 146-147).
Browne shows that there is a history, an order "contrived" and "manufactured," in
the Isabella landscape, a point that, through the comparisons with France and
England, Singh should find persuasive. Moreover, the provision ground provides a
promising perspective from which to view this history in "the heart of the city," it is a
nodal point in the island's history. Finally, the first task awaiting the islanders, to
provide native names and thereby clarify the order which exists in indigenous terms, is
implied. But Browne's summons to "look above the roofs of the city and imagine!" is
unheeded by Singh, who once again takes refuge in his "classical" perspective. On
visiting Browne's home, he focuses on the incongruity between the family's rough
existence and such details as their Roman names and a picture of them "before a
painted backdrop of a ruined Greek temple." Singh's mocking of what he sees as the
Browne's pretentiousness is actually a mask for his own discomfort, for theirs is an
example of "classical associations" linked to the "harsher island significance." For
Singh, the Western or "classical" tradition must not only be superior but
unadulterated; Browne illustrates in his homelife that native and Western are linked
and, moreover, in his description of the city that attention must and can be paid
to the indigenous aspect of this linkage.
Browne's is but the most vivid of the demonstrations given to Singh of history can
be read in the landscape. Naipaul supplements it with reactions setting the extreme
limits within which meaningful relation to the landscape can take place. On the one
hand are the Deschampsneufs, whose firm basis in the land's history is indicated in
their photographic collection of "people landing on surfy beaches and being taken
ashore on the backs of naked Negroes, forest vegetation, a waterfall, Negroes in straw
hats and striped knee-length trousers rolling casks of rum" (pp. 169-170). Theirs, the
history of the colonizer, is grounded in a feel for the island's physical world. Their
patriarch explains to young Singh, about to leave Isabella for the first time, why the
Deschampsneufs for generations past had ventured away but always returned:
You know, you are born in a place and you grow up there. You get to know the
trees and plants. You will never know any other trees and plants like that.
You grow up watching a guava tree, say. You know that browny-green bark
peeling like old paint. You try to climb that tree. You know that after you climb
it a few times the bark gets smooth-smooth and so slippery you can't get a grip
on it. You get that ticklish feeling in your foot. Nobody has to teach you what
the guava is (p. 171).
The sensuous feel for one's own land can never be recreated, old Deschampsneufs
shows, so he urges Singh to return, "And this island is a paradise, you will discover"
(p. 172). While idealized, old Deschampsneufs' vision of the island is a useful
corrective for the Singh who felt that he and Browne "walked in a garden of hell,
among trees, some still without popular names." Deschampsneufs does show, through
his love for the texture of the island's trees and his awareness of a history on Isabella,
that it has aspects of an earthly paradise one can claim as one's own. At the other
extreme from Deschampsneufs is the response of those, led by Singh's father, who find
the island a hell and attempt to redirect history through a millenarian movement.
While his father's movement has escapist tendencies, perhaps even the search for a new
El Dorado in the bush, it was part of a "general historical trend," which had
"generated anger in people who thought they were too dispirited even for that" (pp.
Throughout the novel, Browne, Deschampsneufs and Singh's father cry out to
Singh to see that his native landscape is valuable and flows from a discernable past.
The consequence of his rejecting them all is indicated by his end. Singh, far from
realizing his dream of becoming the Happy Husbandman, becomes a parody of another
type of the classical pastoral tradition, the Serene Contemplator. Like this figure,
Singh is a solitary meditator, but one mired in a London hotel room writing memoirs
which are far from serene.
Due mainly to the restrictions imposed by Singh's feverish perspective, Naipaul's
vision of the land remains obscure in The Mimic Men. The novel delimits not a cause
for his alienation from the land but a symptom: his craving for perfect pastoral
landscapes beyond anyone's power to secure. Thus, while The Mimic Men establishes
the history in the landscape as the key to fulfillment, it details only the primary
barriers to perceiving that history. Through the examples of the secondary figures,
Naipaul suggests that these barriers can be overcome. But this suggestion proves false
as the topography becomes clearer in the following works, for in them not individual
failures of perception such as Singh's but the very nature of the land itself insures
alienation from it. What had seemed the failure of a protagonist, in short, becomes a
novelist's vision of the land.
By contrast with The Mimic Men, "In a Free State" shows a character clearly
reading the history in the landscape. Bobby, an Englishman employed in an East
African state, comes to see that he is a remnant of a colonial era which is not only past
but which played a minimal role in the history of the nation in which he serves. Bobby
learns that he has attempted to fit in through imposing an inapplicable historical
context, English pastoral, on the nation's landscape. Unlike Singh, who never breaks
free from his fantasies of a classical pastoral refuge, Bobby comes to accept that he is
inhabiting an alien landscape which cannot offer him a sense of place. He learns, in
short, that his often-made assertion, "My life is here," is false.
The novella is the narrative of Bobby's trip from the state's "colonial city" to the
land of the nation's king during a time of conflict between the king and the nation's
president, with Linda, the wife of another English expatriate, whose obtuse response
to the landscape highlight's Bobby's growing perceptivity.8 Their trip is organized
around a series of panoramas of the landscape followed by descents to confront parts
of its mosaic; in other terms, around a succession of historical contexts which become
increasingly accurate after each exposure to the actual texture of the land below. At
the first outlook Bobby and Linda literally see nothing, their view being comprised of
the travel brochure abstractions they have been conditioned to think the view
This was the famous view. This was the wide openness the sky had been
promising. The land dropped and dropped. The continent was gigantically
flawed. The eye lost itself. in the colourless distances of the wide valley, dis-
solving in every direction in cloud and haze.
Linda said, "Africa, Africa" (p. 116).
This expanse is unfocused and, as the choppy diction indicates, its parts unrelated.
Following their descent, Bobby, after surveying a forest scene, begins to sense the
inadequacy of the English vision in Africa:
On the other bank tree trunks were black in the gloom; leaves and branches hung
low. The wood of a fairy-tale, far from home; what was so recently man-made,
after the forests had been cut down and the forest-dwellers flushed out and
dismissed, what had perhaps been intended only as an effect of art in a landscape
made secure, had become natural. It spoke of an absence of men, danger (p.
While comprehending that the European attempt to impose its order far from home
had been inefficacious, Bobby fails to perceive two more fundamental aspects
broached here: the place the Africans assumed and the small magnitude of the changes
wrought by the Europeans. The first is brought home to him later on a road which
manifests less of a European intrusion than the first "it wasn't built on an embank-
ment; it followed the land" where he is startled by dozens of Africans "very nearly
camouflaged" in the wooded hillside (pp. 157, 161).
Bobby finds as well that not only those creations the Europeans had intended as
"an effect of art in a landscape made secure" are fading, but their more substantial
ones as well. This realization comes following the descent from another plateau, one
from which Bobby at least is beginning to see more clearly:
They came out of the forest to bare ridge, and the valley on the other side
opened spectacularly; a miniature country laid out below them, every corner
filled with the same details of terraced hill and thatched hut, the smoke of
cooking fires, the wet winding paths: a view of miniatures of itself, dissolving in
mist. The view called for exclamation
But Linda only said, "Bergman."
Bobby set his face (p. 165).
More detailed than the first panorama, this view is still too highly mannered, and as
they come into a town after the descent, they find that what
had looked whole showed its dereliction. The drives of the villas were over-
grown, disgorging glaciers of sand and dirt through open gateways. The park was
overgrown. The globes and imitation coach-lamps in walls had been smashed and
were empty. Metal was everywhere rusty. The boulevard was more than bumpy.
It was cracked and fissured; the concrete gutters were choked with sand and dirt
and weeds; the sidewalks were overgrown .... The boulevard and park had been
cut level in land that was uneven (p. 166).
The misconception of the colonialists had been that order could be imposed on this
land at all, for such terms as "glaciers" and fissuredd" and the repetition of
"overgrown" and "sand and dirt" indicate the powerful elemental forces at work. The
kind of order the colonialists conceived was precisely Bobby's on the ridge of
"miniatures" in a sculpted landscape, and the incongruity of these views shows him
that not roads "cut level" but those like the ones associated with the Africans which
blend with the landscape survive.
It is only after these experiences that Bobby, during a stay at a resort hotel, can
clearly perceive the fading of the colonial era:
Bobby saw a flattened cigarette packet, black on faded red: Belga. It recalled
European holidays: as though Belgium and Europe had once lain across the
water, and the lake had been a version of the English Channel. This resort hadn't
been built for tourists in Africa; it had been created by people who thought they
had come to Africa to stay, and looked in a resort for a version of the things at
home: a park, a pier, a waterside promenade. Now, after the troubles across the
lake, after independence and the property scare, after the army's mutiny, after
the white exodus South and the Asian deportations, after these deaths, the
resort no longer had a function (p. 171).
As the final catalogue suggests, through looking at the town Bobby is able to relate the
failure of the colonial occupation to an order of historical events, which had been
noted disparately previously. This is his summing up of the meanings he has derived
from the landscape, and the beginning of his awareness that he is one of those who
only "thought they had come to Africa to stay." The consequence of his observations
is revealed when he rejects Linda's suggestion that they should have "done something"
to help the king, "whose car they see stopped on the road by the president's men:
"It's not your business or mine," he answers, "They have to sort these things out
themselves" (p. 217). This attitude reflects what he has read in the landscape: that the
effects of the European presence, overemphasized to begin with, are now almost
obliterated. He has learned that it is time to leave.
While the landscape of "In a Free State" might be read as the reflection of an
individual's lack of place in a particular historical situation, a general alienation is
insured by the composition of the landscape in Guerrillas. The novel, in contrast with
The Mimic Men, provides an unambiguous expression of the view that "nothing was
created in the British West Indies" or will be created in the future. This attitude is
evident from the outset when Peter Roche, a British expatriate working on the novel's
unnamed Caribbean island, drives with his companion Jane from the island's city to
Jimmy Ahmed's agricultural commune. The landscape they travel through is dis-
orienting, and it becomes more forbidding with each of the half-dozen times it is
described in the novel:
The sea smelled of swamp; it barely rippled, had glitter rather than color: and
the heat seemed trapped below the pink haze of bauxite dust from the bauxite
loading station. After the market, where the refrigerated trailers were unloading;
after the rubbish dump burning in the remnant of the mangrove swamp, with
black carrion corbeaux squatting hunched on fence posts or hopping about on
the ground; after the built-up hillsides; after the new housing estates, rows of
unpainted boxes of concrete and corrugated iron already returning to the
shantytowns that had been knocked down for this development; after the naked
children playing in the red dust of the straight new avenues, the clothes hanging
like rags from back yard lines; after this, the land cleared a little. And it was
possible to see over what the city had spread, drying out to a great plain; on the
other side, a chain of hills, rising directly from the plain (pp. 1-2).
The passage tells the history of a city ingesting the land, a city whose creations, like
the housing development, are ephemeral. The accretions to the city, which we learn
later has no discernible center, seem interminable due to the repetitive structure of the
long second sentence, and there is no stated relationship between the elements: one
simply occurs after the other. While it is deemed possible finally "to see over what the
city had spread" after the land clears, the brevity with which these fundamental
features are sketched makes them seem almost non-existent. The land, withering
further under the worst drought in forty years, is unreclaimable. More than this, it is
poisonous; the heat and dust, used throughout the novel to evoke the land's suffo-
cating effects, stifle the will of those who seek through the land itself to revive this
And it is on reviving the land that the work centres. The most concrete attempt to
do so is that of Jimmy Ahmed, whose commune's credo is
All revolutions begin with the land. Men are born on the earth, every man has
one spot, it is his birthright, and men must claim their portion of the earth in
brotherhood and harmony. In this spirit we came an intrepid band to virgin
forest, it is the life style and philosophy of Thrushcross Grange (p. 10).
Ahmed, having read Wuthering Heights, can only conceive, like the Tulsis and Singh
before him, of a return to the land in terms of English pastoral. Like them, he affects
the role of the plantation owner, his followers working "as if in parody of nine-
teenth-century plantation prints, which local people had begun to collect" (p. 15).
Ahmed's vision may seem ludicrous the stuff of what the populace knows is decora-
tive exotica but it has appeal as the only existing option to the city's suffocating
environment. The island government fears Ahmed because, like Singh's father, he can
serve as the focal point for the people's millenarian propensities, seen in their support
of an "After Israel Africa" movement. Even the cosmopolitan Roche is aiding Jimmy
and espousing "his own semipolitical slogans: the land, the dignity of labor on the
land; the revolution based on the land" (p. 114).
The major characters in Guerrillas perceive the landscape more clearly than Singh or
Bobby; they do in fact achieve unifications of historical context and present ex-
perience such as Naipaul sought at Luxor. Yet this ability is put in the service of a
futile undertaking since the land, clearly perceived, offers no sense of place. The novel
centers on the cases in which this disjunction of situation and heightened perception is
most pronounced, those of the expatriates and high level government official on the
Ridge, the exclusive area overlooking the city. To go there "was to lose the feel of the
city and see it as part of a larger view of sea and mangrove and great plain" (p. 28).
Opportunities to enclose the city within a broader frame while not losing its "feel"
occur twice in the novel. The first transpires when Jane, venturing down into the
garden at the back of her residence on the Ridge, finds a hut which "was less a
miniature than a replica of many shacks in the city" (p. 61). She discovers a derelict
man within, a machete by his side, and retreats up the stairs. Then, while looking at
the panorama below, she equates the man with Bryant, one of Ahmed's workers: "He,
like the man asleep in the children's hut, had issued out of the plain below, which
from this height could be seen all at a glance. Down there, in the garden, the scale had
altered; it was like being taken, for a moment, into the intricate life contained in that
view" (pp. 61-62).
Jane has encountered a situation in which the land below is placed in a broader
frame; in other terms, the context and the experience of the present have merged, as
Naipaul wished them to in "Luxor." Jane's experience is at once a more definite
unification of context and experience than Bobby was afforded and, since the island
shack is placed in the garden, the most graphic instance of "classical associations"
linked to the "harsher island significance" (which Browne's family exhibited in The
Mimic Men) in Naipaul's fiction. More than any of Naipaul's earlier characters, Jane is
given the opportunity to see the totality of island life and thereby to feel "in place."
Rather than doing so, however, this experience foreshadows her destruction. She is
sodomized by Ahmed in his stifling, dusty room, an act she initiates as much as he,
and is then hacked to death with a machete by Bryant. This sterile, ritualistic enact-
ment of the oppressed gaining power is the vision she and Ahmed achieve rather than a
formulation for reviving the land;
The experience of the more formidable Roche, a man who seemed to have "some
long view, some vision of the future," is more auspicious. He manifests a keen under-
standing of the landscape, for example, in his search for Stephens, a youth who
showed promise as a leader:
The houses, overhung by big breadfruit trees and mango trees, could be very
small, sometimes like miniatures, each house standing in its own little plot and
almost filling it. In the paintings done by local artists for the tourist trade it was
still a picturesque area: red tin roofs edged with white fretwork against the tall
green trees, pink oleander and red poinsettia leaning over narrow pavements, the
winding lanes, the hills. But even in the paintings now the black asphalt streets
could be seen to end in dirt tracks, thinning as they wavered up the hills and
splitting into paths; and above the staggered roofs could be seen the wooden
shacks, on thin stilts scattered about the stripped hillsides. The shacks, in this
season of drought, were the color of dust; the eroded hills reflected light and
heat; and the area was like a crater, enclosed and airless (p. 113).
While Roche's experience parallels Jane's, he confronts the city directly, not through a
backyard replica, and he is more actively involved, fashioning his own context for the
area by recalling the panorama of the artists' pictures. The very paintings he conjures
up are propitious, for the artists are beginning to render the city as it actually is, an
indication of a developing awareness of the island's real condition. Moreover, Roche is
not deterred from continuing to seek Stephens by the poisonous aspects of the en-
vironment: the heat, dust and enclosure of the area.
This scene is a marked contrast with a later one in which Roche is interviewed
about his experiences on the island:
Roche looked over roofs, silver or red, dramatized by the- tall pillars and the
dark-green fronds of the royal palm, to the sea, and the hills that run down,
ridge after ridge, to the sea. The hills were bare and firemarked, smoking in
patches, but the sun was going down behind them, and the sea glittered. In the
deep water behind those hills, doubtless, the American warships lay. But Roche,
imagining the sunset soon to come, the hills and the royal palms against the
evening sky, thought: it is, after all, very beautiful (p. 231).
This panorama, unlike the previous one in which Roche progressed from the super-
ficially "picturesque" aspects to the salient general features of the artists' renderings,
moves from the desolation which really exists to an imagined beauty, even as he knows
that the island has erupted into such chaos that the Americans had been called in. This
window view signals a change in his behaviour as well. He feels suffocated by the hot,
dusty interview room, and when reminded during the interview that he had "become
associated with the idea of the agricultural commune ... back to the land, the revolu-
tion based on the land," Roche confesses that he finds this idea "antihistorical," for
"All over the world people are leaving the land to go to the cities" (pp. 234-35).
The proximate cause of his change is an afternoon at the beachhouse of Harry de
Tunja. On the drive to it, he and Jane move into the island's past, progressing through
coffee and cocoa plantations, "bays of untrodden sand," and primeval forests to the
house occupying "an ancient site," which aboriginal Indians had used as a meeting
place (pp. 137; 132-33). This setting, which provides a graphic historical context for
the island, promises a further broadening of Roche's perspective. Yet at the beach-
house Roche learns the futility of trying to change what exists. Meredith, later his
interviewer, fashions a game demonstrating that "no one will make a fresh start or do
anything new" (p. 169). In the interview Meredith will, using Roche, show that what is
true of the private life is also true of nations: that the stagnation will continue, that
there can be no "revolution based on the land."
Roche's change derives from deeper causes than Meredith's machinations. It is
actually Roche's very strengths, the sensitivity to see the land as it really is and the
ability to put it in a broad historical context, which undermine him. Driving back from
de Tunja's, he becomes aware of the salient mood evoked by the island as he looks
"beyond the debris of the coconut plantation":
dead palm fronds, brown and shining, coconut husks in heaps, yellow-green nuts
awaiting collection. It would photograph well. The camera would get everything,
even the muddy olive color of the stripe of sea beyond the breakers, even the
yellow froth of the beach. It wouldn't get the desolation: the desolation they
had driven through to arrive at this spot, the desolation of the late after-
noon... (p. 180).
A camera wouldn't catch this desolation, but through such descriptions as this and the
often-repeated opening depiction of the engorging city, Naipaul does. Roche is justi-
fied in "getting some idea of a primeval landscape, sun and slime, heat and vegetable
decay," and through doing so his "long view, some vision of the future" is trans-
formed; the future of the island, he senses, will be a slide back into the primordial stew
of the past.
Guerrillas is the culmination of the dominant trend in Naipaul's later novels: the
disjunction between the characters' developing facility in reading histories in the
landscape and the increasingly inhospitable landscape they confront. The growing
clarity with which the landscapes are perceived is reflected in the increasing con-
gruence of historical context and localized experience. Naipaul moves from isolating in
The Mimic Men the problems of divergence of historical context (Singh's fantasies of
English pastoral) and reality; to a demonstration of how the two can become con-
sonant through the panorama/descent structure of "In a Free State"; to the tele-
scoping of experience into context in Guerrillas. Running counter to this development
is the degeneration of the landscapes. The most hospitable landscape, one in which
Browne and the Deschampsneufs can feel "in place," is confronted by Singh, a man
incapable of response to it; Bobby finds a pattern in his free state which yields only
the knowledge that for him the time to inhabit it has ended; Roche, who has the
background and the desire to serve on the island of Guerrillas, finds the land wasted
beyond recall. The Antaean myth provides an apt capsulization of these novels. Where
Singh, like Antaeus, is in the position to gain strength by touching his native earth,
those who do attain contact with it in the following novels find the earth no longer the
mother they sought.
In A Bend in the River there is clearly no history left to seek in the landscape.
Salim, whose life we follow from his leaving of his native home on the East African
coast to the town in Africa's interior at the river's bend, and briefly to London near
the novel's close, soon realizes that it is futile to seek "the relationships that bind a
man to the earth and give him a feeling of having a place" (p. 95). As he first surveys
the interior African town, which had been razed by the villagers at Independence, he
discerns a landscape offering not simply no past but no future:
Sun and rain and bush had made the site look old, like the site of a dead
civilization. The ruins, spreading over so many acres, seemed to speak of a final
catastrophe .... You felt like a ghost, not from the past, but from the future.
You felt that your life and ambition had already been lived out.for you and you
were looking at the relics of that life. You were in a place where the future had
come and gone (27).
While Salim will make attempts to establish himself in this landscape, he does so
dispiritedly, not with the frenetic need of Singh, Bobby or Ahmed. If at the outset of
the novel, he "feels" the futility of establishing contact with this land, by the close he
understands the basis for that feeling. Looking at the overgrown Domain, the Presi-
dent's model city, he catalogues the changes the town has undergone, changes which
follow no pattern of development.
This piece of earth How many changes had come to it! Forest at the bend in
the river, a meeting place, an Arab settlement, a European outpost, a European
suburb, a ruin like the ruin of a dead civilization, the glittering Domain of new
Africa, and now this (260).
The view of African history Naipaul provides here is one advanced most recently by
Hugh Trevor-Roper: that Africa can claim to have produced no civilizations because its
history evinces no development. It has only a "bush" or a "swamp" history of repeti-
tious cycles but no building on the accomplishments of the past to a higher level of
Salim's phrase "new Africa" is a recurrent one in the novel. This phrase is first used
when he observes the ruins of the colonial lycee; still visible through the rampant
bougainvillaea is its motto, Semper Aliquid Novi, an echo of the Roman historian
Pliny's phrase championing Africa as a fertile cornucopia always offering a new
wonder. In Salim's Africa, the allusion is ironic, for there is "always something new
out of Africa" because nothing persists long enough to become established. One of the
references to newness is a particularly vivid metaphor for the timelessness and there-
fore a historical nature of this society. Water hyacinths, which the people call "the
new thing" or "the new thing in the river," constantly "clogged up waterways" and
"grew fast, faster than men could destroy it with the tools they had" (46). Assuming,
after Heraclitus that a river's flow represents the passage of time, the hyacinth-choked
river is an image of cultural stagnation. The vain attempts of the villagers to remove
the hyacinths show the futility of trying to bring this town into history.
This "new world" is essentially the same as that delineated in Guerrillas; it is the
view of the metropole that distinguishes A Bend in the River from the preceding
novels. For most of the novel, as in the account of London by Salim's childhood
friend Indar, the metropole seems the vital society based on an historical order that it
had been in the earlier works. Happening to notice the engraved camels ornamenting
the standards on the Embankment by the Thames, Indar describes his coming to see
how England differed from Africa:
In Africa, on the coast, I had paid attention only to one colour in nature the
colour of the sea. Everything else was just bush, green and living, or brown and
dead. In England so far I had walked with my eyes at shop level; I had seen
nothing. A town, even London, was just a series of streets or street names,
and a street was a row of shops. Now I saw differently. And I understood that
London wasn't simply a place that was there, as people say of mountains, but
that it had been made by men, that men had given attention to details as
minute as those camels (p. 151).
To Indar, England is a civilization because, next to a flowing river, it has created a
lasting art. The English, unlike the villagers fighting the water hyacinth, have used their
tools to create a land with enduring features, evident here in a landscape made by men.
Indar's view of London does not finally prevail. He himself becomes disaffected
with metropolitan life and, like Singh, embarks on a fruitless quest for "some dream
village in his head" (p. 244). A Bend in the River presents a different view of the
metropole most forcefully, however, through the example of Nazruddin, Salim's men-
tor and the wisest man in the novel. Discoursing on the colonials "coming to the
center," Arabs with slaves among them, Nazruddin finds London becoming distin-
guishable from the "new worlds." He says of London:
We've come here at the wrong time. But never mind. It's the wrong time every-
where else too. When we were in Africa in the old days, consulting our cata-
logues and ordering our goods and watching the ships unload in the harbour, I
don't suppose we thought it would be like this in Europe, or that the British
passports we took out as protection against the Africans would actually bring us
here, and that the Arabs would be in the streets outside (239).
The metropole had been the last refuge for Naipaul's protagonists in the preceding
novels, for while it was not quite possible for them to feel "in place" in it, London had
offered a model for a different kind of society one with a rich historic basis where
something had been created. In A Bend in the River the centre no longer holds. The
distinction between old and new worlds breaks down; both have become what
Naipaul, in India: A Wounded Civilization, termed "the shattering world" of con-
In his later novels Naipaul has become, with the exception of Wilson Harris, the
most accomplished interpreter of "new world" landscapes. They finally remain
shapeless place where "nothing was ever created," societies which allow for none of
the "open possibilities" other West Indian writers have found in their landscapes. In the
novels through Guerrillas, the only open possibility, as Singh, Bobby and Roche for
their different reasons all learned, was a passage to London. With A Bend in the River
even that possibility is foreclosed, as Nazruddin's analysis indicates.
In his later novels taken as a whole, Naipaul's vision is essentially that described in
Tristes Tropiques (1955), Claude Levi-Strauss's account of a visit to the "new world"
that shortly preceded The Middle Passage. Writing of the decay he observed on
debarking in Martinique, Levi-Strauss noted that it was starting "to ooze out like some
insidious leakage from contemporary mankind." He held that the particular history of
Martinique had served "to hasten the advance of a universal process, to facilitate the
establishment of a lasting form of contamination which would never entirely disappear
from the face of the earth but would re-emerge in some new place."10 Naipaul's later
novels leave us with the feel of the decaying, contaminated landscapes of Africa and
the Caribbean, and with the prophecy that the "new place" the contamination is
re-emerging is England, the centre of Naipaul's world.
1. The Middle Passage: The Caribbean Revisited (Andre Deutsch: London, 1962), p. 27. Sub-
sequent references are to this edition.
2. The Pleasures of Exile (Michael Joseph: London, 1960), p. 225. Similar assessments have been
made by A.C. Derrick, "Naipaul's Technique as a Novelist," JCL, 7 (July 1969); Gordon
Rohlehr, "The Ironic Approach: The Novels of V.S. Naipaul" in M.G. Cooke, ed., Modern
Black Novelists (Prentice-Hall; Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1971) Wilson Harris, Tradition, The
Writer and Society (New Beacon Publications: London, 1973), pp. 39-40.
3. The Mimic Men (Penguin: New York: 1975); In a Free State (Penguin: New York, 1977);
Guerrillas (Ballantine Books: New York, 1975); A Bend in the River (Knopf: New York,
1979). References in the text are to these editions.
4. The West Indian Novel and its Background (Faber and Faber: London, 1970), p. 8.
5. Penguin: New York, 1976, p. 11.
6. The Country and the City (Oxford University Press: New York), p. 281.
7. The characterizations of the Happy Husbandman and of the Serene Contemplator, referred to
below, are those provided by Maren-Sofie Rostvig in The Happy man: Studies in the
Metamorphoses of a Classical Ideal (Akademisk Forlay: Oslo, 1954).
8. To many readers Bobby seems a distasteful and stolid character, but others, such as John
Thieme in "V.S. Naipaul's Third World: A Not So Free State," JCL, X, 1 (August 1975), find
him sympathetic and astute as I do.
9. This term is used by Ramchand in the introduction to The West Indian Novel and its
Background, p. 4.
10. Tristes Tropiques (Pocket Books: New York, 1977), p. 18. My emphasis.
THE NATURE AND FUNCTION OF LITERATURE, HISTORY,
Man, in his search for answers to problems concerning himself and his environment,
finds himself surrounded by innumerable facts which he has to employ in his solution
to these ever-present enigmas. To facilitate the understanding of these facts, the mind
organizes them in various disciplines. Each one is of a different nature and plays a
distinct function in the presentation of man's thoughts on the various phenomena of
human life, although they sometimes use similar techniques. Ortega y Gasset, in his
work entitled En torno a Galileo, says about facts:
By themselves, facts do not give us reality, but, indeed, they hide it, they present
us with the problem of reality. For if there were not facts, there would be
nothing hidden which it is necessary to discover.
It is by such disciplines as literature, history and science that man systematically
arranges these facts in order to better understand them, better understand himself.
This article is based on the ideas of the Mexican writer and literary critic, Alfonso
Reyes, as expressed in El deslinde, his outstanding work on the theory and criticism of
literature. I have also attempted to use the comments of various other writers and
critics who share Alfonso Reyes' ideas.
Using Arnold J. Toynbee's system for establishing lines of demarcation between the
three fields of literature, history and science, Alfonso Reyes affirms that the mind
confronts reality in various ways: it investigates absolute essence by means of
theology; by philosophy, it investigates being; history is concerned with past events;
and science with the nature of things. Then, man's own creations are presented in
literature. In distinguishing between the functions of history, science, and literature,
we find that whereas history, through discovery, narration and explanation, records
facts; science, by comparison and abstraction of facts, formulates general laws,
literature artistically fictionalizes facts. However, because of the fundamental unity of
the human mind, we find that we cannot completely isolate one branch of thought
from the other, and we will thus have points of contact and even some measure of
overlapping in the use of similar techniques and material.
The essential difference in the nature of literature, history and science lies in the
universal character of literature, as opposed to the restricted scope of science and
history. In his first conclusions about literature, Reyes says, "Nada que sea humane le
es ajeno .. ." Literature is universal both in the limitless range of its subject matter and
in its application. It is this universal dimension present in the works of such authors as
Cervantes, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dostoievsky, to name only a few, which chiefly
accounts for their greatness. It is because one of the functions of literature is to show
the complexity of human nature and of the human situation itself, that, in essence, it
must be concerned with all aspects of life. It, therefore, cannot be specific in applica-
tion as are history and science. Most critics share Reyes' view that universality is a
distinguishing feature of the literary phenomenon. Long ago, we know, Aristotle
affirmed that the statements of literature are of the nature of universals, whereas those
of history are of singulars. Arnold says that poetry is a criticism of life and that
literature "helps man to see life steadily and to see it whole."
Science, on the other hand, has been defined as knowledge of fact, restricted to the
kind of cognition obtained and verified empirically. In scope, then, it is confined to
certain limits, but not so with literature. Reyes states that literature contains
information about the various fields of knowledge, the notions and historical data of
each epoch, as well as the most precise facts about our inner reality, since it represents
the most competent manifestation of the operation of the subconscious, He points out
how all-encompassing is literature. So universal is its subject-matter that it can include
scientific as well as historical information. The Iliad, for example, contains a whole
conception of the history and the economic significance of Troy as emporium between
the East and West. In the Odyssey, too, we get in outline form, an account of maritime
geography, and the concept of the ideal of the young man in Western civilization.
Moreover, in Hesiod we get information on the relationship between meteriology and
agriculture; in the comedy of Aristophanes there are facts about the politics of the
Athenian parties. In Virgil, we learn something about natural history and of the arts of
breeding and rearing animals. Roman customs abound in Horace, while in the Cid we
are informed of the idea of the nation and about medieval institutions. Other areas of
knowledge contained in this universal phenomenon that is literature include pedago-
gical programmes in Rabelais, the theory of honour in Lope de Vega and Calder6n de
la Barca; the customs of colonial life in Sor Juana. In the literature of the eighteenth
century, we find writers concerned with scientific and social preoccupations of that
age. Voltaire's stories are often concerned with geography, economics and
mathematics, while Valera wrote of the morality of a certain stratum of Spanish
society, and Zola and Dostoievsky of criminology.
Literature, therefore, has as its domain all facets of human life and man's mental
state. In his "Reflections on Writing" Henry Miller mentions this totality of literature:
Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. The adventure is a meta-
physical one: it is a way of approaching life indirectly, of acquiring a total
rather than a partial view of the universe.3
For literature comprises much more than science or history, it deals with life in toto.
So comprehensive is literature, indeed, that it does not, like science and history, limit
itself to empirically observable phenomena, but it delves into the innermost reaches of
the human mind, and reports the thoughts, ideas, private desires and longings of man.
We can think of the final part of James Joyce's Ulysses as one of the many examples
of this in the modem novel. Moreover, the private desires of the poet are often the
subject and main stimuli of his work. Freud tells us of these profoundestt depths of
the eternal nature of humanity" with which literature sometimes deals:
Sometimes the penetrating insight of the poet has analytically recognized the
process of transformation of which the poet is otherwise the instrument, and has
followed it up in the reverse direction; that is to say, has traced a poem to a
dream. A friend of mine has called my attention to the following passage in G.
Keller's Der Grune Heinrich: "I do. not wish, dear Lee, that you should ever
come to realize from experience the exquisite and piquant truth in the situation
of Odysseus, when he appears, naked and covered with mud, before Nausicaa
and her playmates! Would you like to know what it means? Let us for a moment
consider the incident closely. If you are ever parted from your home, and from
all that is dear to you, and wander about in a strange country; if you have seen
much and experienced much; if you have cares and sorrows, and are, perhaps,
utterly wretched and forlorn, you will some night inevitably dream that you are
approaching your home; you will see it shining and glittering in the loveliest
colours; lovely and gracious figures will come to meet you; and then you will
suddenly discover that you are naked, and covered with dust. An indescribable
feeling of shame and fear overcome you; you try to cover yourself, to hide, and
you wake up bathed in sweat. As long as humanity exists, this will be the dream
of the care-laden, tempest-tossed man, and thus Homer has drawn this situation
from the profoundest depths of the eternal nature of humanity"4
In applying the criterion of universality, then, in comparing the nature and function
of literature with those of science and history, we conclude that literature, unlike
these other disciplines which are limited in scope and subject matter, is characterized
by its significant universality.
Reality, Reyes tells us, is a heterogenous continuum to which no positive concept
corresponds, and which, therefore, is incomprehensible in itself. In order to know it,
he says, we have to transform it. Sharing this view, Ortega y Gasset says5 that reality is
not a datum, not something given or bestowed, but a construction which man makes
out of the given material, the facts or data which surround him. The word which the
Greeks used for truth, he tells us, is aletheia, which means discovery, to take away the
veil which hides a thing. In investigating the way in which the writer, the historian and
the scientist approach truth we find another distinction in the function and nature of
these fields of thought.
Reyes, in his discussion of fiction and truth, states that the real happening, or
practical truth is only a limited manifestation of reality. He explains this by the
example of a poet viewing the twilight. For him fiction is "otro modo mas cabal de
verdad" 6 because it contains the evocation of the practical fact, and, moreover, there
is the expression of a real desire added by man in the process of creation, or, rather,
the real situation is complemented by the verbally manifested desire: "Sea el sol,
ademas de lo que suele, un monarca oriental que espira."7 Therefore, we get not only
the sunset, but in the poet's description, much more presents itself, things different
and private for each person, feelings universally experienced are perceived by the
sensitive poet and eloquently expressed for us, to be shared when we read his work.
The historian and the scientist, for the most part, objectively record information
obtained by research and by empirical knowledge. The writer, we have just seen, gives
us a further dimension of a situation observed, for he starts with the fact which forms
a point of departure for fictional creation. This fictional element, this creation, is a
characteristic of literature and clearly demarcates it from the usual modus operandi of
history and science. Reyes explains that in literature what we have is a translation of
an intimate truth in all its richness and arborescence, because the real happening is
only a minute portion of the truth. Literature, then, endeavours to express reality in
its totality, for it includes the philosophical. In one of his essays entitled "Fragmentos
de arte poetica", Reyes, writing on the process of literary creation, says "estoy
procurando traducir todo mi ser inconsciente en esa sustancia dura y ajena que es el
lengauje ..." The writer, indeed, reveals his own "unconscious being," something
which is not usually done in the work of the scientist and historian, and because of his
sensitivity and keen understanding of human nature, he is able, through the use of
such techniques as the "stream of consciousness", to present a character in his totality,
both the observable and the inner man. It is because the writer possesses a more lively
sensibility than the historian or scientist that he has the capacity to reveal the total
reality of a situation. William Wordsworth speaks of this quality:
What is a Poet? To whom does he address himself? And what language is to be
expected of him? He is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endowed
with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater
knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed
be common among mankind.8
But we must not let this phrase "total reality" mislead us into thinking that the
writer's presentation of reality is, therefore, more truthful than that of the scientist or
the historian. This would be too dogmatic a statement and can be understood only
with certain qualifications. We have, for example, mentioned that each discipline views
truth in a distinctive way, related, of course, to the function each performs. The chief
function of history is the discovery of facts. The historian, therefore, investigates and
narrates events which happened in the past. In origin, the Greek word for "history"
means "research, and refers to the judging of information in order to separate fact
from fiction". This clearly demarcates history from literature, for, whereas history's
purpose is to give valid information about a certain epoch, country, social condition,
this is not the aim of literature, for it presents reality not as it is, but refracted through
the creative imagination of the writer who presents his peculiar cosmovision. In dis-
tinguishing between poetic and scientific truth, Aristotle said that in literature it is
preferable to express an impossibility which is convincing than a possibility which fails
to convince the reader. But what is meant by the total reality expressed in literature is
precisely that the literary artist gives us a broader view of reality not provided by the
scientist or historian. Referring to this extra dimension, Reyes points out that litera-
ture dealing with a historical truth can often reveal a human truth which is more
profound than the bare historical facts. I think that we can clearly see this is such a
novel as Carlos Fuentes' La Muerte de Artemio Cruz which shows the human side of
the Mexican Revolution. In employing this criterion of the limited scope of truth
expressed in history as opposed to that in literature, David Daiches says:
Fiction enables us to explore the recesses of man's head and heart with a torch;
history allows us only the natural light of day, which does not as a rule shine
into such places..... History limits us not only to what has occurred, but to
what we know to have occurred, which is only a tiny segment of man's
behaviour, and not necessarily that in which man is most recognizable.
Literature is able to delve beyond the observable, which is what contributes to the
success of good novels. In Juan Rulfo's Pedro Phramo, he fuses the various dimensions
of reality and fantasy in order to deal with such questions basic to the human con-
dition as "What is life?" and "What is the real reality?" Is it the fantasy or the reality
It is this writer's opinion that although the distinction between literary artist and
historian that the latter bases his material on facts ascertained by research, whereas
the other presents data reconstructed through imaginative fictions is a valid one, yet
to insist on the absolute truthfulness of history is to be guilty of a serious miscon-
ception. For in determining the true nature of history, the human element must be
taken into account, we have to consider the historian himself. The 1966 World Book
The historian is a human being. He loves and hates, just as other men do. He has
his own beliefs, values, attitudes, opinions, hopes, and fears,... He selects the
things he considers important.10
To this we could add the prejudices of each historian which also help to determine his
choice of material. Further, Assyriologist D.D. Luckenbill says, concerning the accu-
racy of the records of Assyrian scribes:
One soon discovers that the accurate portrayal of events as they took place,
by year during the king's reign, was not the guiding motive of the royal
scribes... Often it is clear that royal vanity demanded playing fast and loose
with historical accuracy. 1
So we can recognize the distinction which we have established between the historian
and the literary writer with regard to their varying approaches towards truth and facts,
without dogmatically insisting on the demarcation based on validity of information.
But the essential point is that the historian's function is to provide humanity with
facts about past events, whereas this is not the role of the artist. The scientist, on the
other hand, is not concerned with what has happened, but with the nature of things,
concerning which he formulates general laws. Moreover, whereas history records and
literature fictionalizes facts, science, as professor and natural scientist, Merrit Stanley
Congdon affirms, although it is tested knowledge, it is still subject to human vagaries,
illusions and inaccuracies:
It beings and ends with probability, not certainty ... There is no finality in
scientific inferences. The scientist says: 'Up to the present, the facts are thus and
Science is able to produce information founded on experiment, and is therefore,
concerned with material which verifies that something is of a certain nature. History
states that something took place. These are distinct from literature where the interest
lies in arranging material concerning the relationships of human beings in such a way as
to produce a desired effect. While the scientist seeks answers to problems about the
nature of things, the writer's primary concern is with aesthetics. Whereas the chief
function of historian and scientist is to communicate information that of the writer is
to evoke certain emotions and feelings. The criterion which best demarcates history
and science from literature, then, is the aesthetic intention of the literary
In a series of essays on belief in literature, M.H. Abrams 13 refers to the varying
approaches to truth which distinguishes literature from science. He discusses the two
types of poetic theory which critics hold regarding the problem of belief in literature.
One theory considers poetry as a special language which has the function of expressing
and evoking feelings. It is, therefore, he points out, immune from the criterion of valid
reference, as well as from the claims on our belief, appropriate to the language of
science. The second theory, seeing a poem as an autonomous world all its own, regards
it, then as immune from the requirement that it correspond to our knowledge and
beliefs about the world revealed by science.
Corroborating the first theory is John Stuart Mill14 who defined poetry as "the
expression or uttering forth of feeling" and, therefore, what he called the "logical
opposite" of "matter of fact or science." Mill states that while science "addresses itself
to belief" by "presenting a proposition to the understanding," poetry acts by
"offering interesting objects of contemplation to the sensibilities," so that the reader
can accept it, without belief, for the sake of its emotional effects. In supporting the
second theory, A.C. Bradley, in his Oxford lectures, affirms that poetry
is to be not a part, nor yet a copy, of the real world... but to be a world by
itself, independent, complete, autonomous; and to possess it fully you must
enter that world, conform to its laws, and leave for the time the beliefs, aims and
particular conditions which belong to you in the other world of reality.1s
In presenting truth, then, whereas history and science can supply information on
only observable phenomena, thereby giving us only a limited view of reality, literature
is capable of presenting a more complete picture.
William Wordsworth described poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful
feelings" modified and directed by thought. In the role played by the emotion, is
emphasized one of the most important criteria which distinguishes literature from
history and science, to which we referred above, that one essential function of litera-
ture is the expression of the writer's emotion, and the arousing of similar feelings in
Aristotle, in his Poetics, claims that tragedy, with its incidents which arouse pity
and fear, accomplished the catharsis of such emotions. Many critics consider this an
important function of literature. Reyes himself, says of the writer:
La emoci6n que expresa o que communica lleva disueltas todas las pasiones,
todos los anhelos, todas las reivindicaciones contra el pequeno suceder coti-
He agrees that literature helps to relieve the writer (and the reader) of the pressure of
Moreover, the cathartic effect of literature is a direct result of its universal refer-
ence, because literature makes us see our personal emotions as part of a universal
human experience. But the purpose of science is not to express the feelings of the
scientist. Certainly the emotion is often the drive to work scientifically and to achieve'
his desired ends, yet science is by nature objective. It, therefore, uses referential.
language, whereas literature, particularly poetry, employs emotive language, one
charged with feeling, thereby permitting the reader to experience emotionally what is
expressed. The scientist, who demonstrates indifference, analyses an experience in a
rational way, but the poet, by expressing his emotions, arrives at the very essence of
his work, for he portrays feelings and attitudes which are shared by all humanity.
Wellek and Warren tell us:
to express emotions is to get rid of them, as Goethe is said to have freed himself
from Weltschmerz, by composing The Sorrows of Werther. And the spectator of
a tragedy or the reader of a novel is also said to experience release and
This characteristic of literature is not shared to any great extent by science in which
the reader, like the writer, usually remains neutral and objective towards the material.
Jacques Barzun, states as the purpose of science:
to ascertain facts and its method is to determine relations and express them in
equations. The scientific sentiments are neutrality and impersonality, or in one
word: objectivity. Science solves the problems it sets itself by leaving the
observer wholly outside the experiment... 18
The emotion of the writer must not influence the scientist's findings, but literature is
dependent on emotion, for it is the poet's emotion that is the source of what is
important in his work. Freud considers emotion or subconscious expression to be the
most important element in art. He says that the poet or artist "forces us to become
aware of our inner selves in which the same impulses are still extant even though they
There are, nevertheless, certain scientists who firmly believe that there is aesthetic
feeling in certain branches of their discipline. Henri Poincar6, for example, subscribes
to this school of thought. He sees a certain harmony in numbers and forms, and
believes that there is geometric elegance and a true aesthetic feeling known by all real
mathematicians, something which is capable of developing in us a sort of aesthetic
emotion. Poincard believes that this feeling is an important guide in mathematical
invention, for it brings only the most useful of the unconscious elements into the
focus of the mathematician's attention. Nevertheless, although the foregoing may be
true, the emotion does not play as decisive a role in science as it does in literature. The
part played by the emotion in history differs from that in literature in that, in the
latter, it is the writer's own emotion that is important, whereas in history, it is mainly
the emotion of the characters who are the makers of history that is portrayed.
An all-pervasive theme in the entire literary production of Alfonso Reyes is the
social function of literature. He sees literature as a vehicle for drawing peoples
together, unifying them spiritually, thereby making them better neighbours. Manuel
Olguin, in his book on this humanist writer, tells of Reyes' practical outlook on
hacer del cultivo de las disciplines del espiritu un instrument de acercamiento,
mutuo conocimiento y paz entire los pueblos, para convertir a este planet en
una morada mis just y feliz para todos. Tal es el mensaje de Alfonso
There are various critics who share Reyes' view, notably S.I. Hayakawa, who points
out a distinction between science and literature, regarding this social function:
By means of scientific communication, with its international systems of
botanical and zoological nomenclature, international mathematical symbols, we
are enabled to exchange information with each other, pool our observations, and
acquire collective control, over our environment. By means of affective com-
munication by conversation and gesture when we can see each other, but by
literature and other arts when we cannot we come to understand each other,
to cease being brutishly suspicious of each other, and gradually to recognize the
profound community that exists between us and our fellowmen. Science, in
short, makes us able to cooperate; the arts enlarge our sympathies so that we
become willing to cooperate.20
At a Conference of the Association of Commonwealth Language and Literature
Studies held at the University of the West Indies in 1971, a paper was presented
entitled, 'Tradition, The Writer and Society." Here, it was shown that Wilson Harris,
well-known West Indian writer, uses a symbolic approach to literature in portraying
the social reality of his country, Guyana. He is seen as an alchemist who uses the
power of the imagination to conceive and to generate unity and rebirth in the
Guyanese individual and society and, by implication, in humanity as a whole.
Then, a few years ago, when the Swedish Academy awarded the Nobel Prize to
Samuel Beckett, they based their decision on a consideration which emphasized the
social role of literature. He was awarded the honour "For work which, adopting new
forms for the novel and the drama, draws the grandeur of man today from his very
destitution." Beckett is regarded as a writer who combines aesthetics and social com-
mitment in reflecting the moral and philosophical climate of his time.
Throughout the ages, men have regarded history as having the social function of
teaching men by examples from the past. Montaigne saw history as a window through
which a man looks out upon the world. Cervantes, himself refers to this didactic
function of history, telling us of its role in the education of the mind, and in the
guidance of human conduct:
... history, rival -of time, storehouse of deeds, witness for the past, example and
counsel for the present, and warning for the future.21
Although didactism is not a function of literature, nevertheless, since the latter
deals with man in his world, the reader or audience can learn from examples of
characters in novels and plays. Moreover, the literary techniques of rhythm, meter, the
echo and the rhyme are often employed for a pedagogic purpose. Indeed, most of us in
our early days in school, learned arithmetic tables or certain rules of grammar by the
aid of simple verses. Reyes points out how law students of his own school-days would
put into verse some of the enumerations of administrative law which could hardly be
learned in any other way, and that in France, in order to remember the first eleven
figures of the relationship between the circumference and the diameter, expressed by
the letter nr this dodecasyllabled line is employed:
Que j'aime a faire connaitre ce nombre utile aux sages: Noting separately the
number of letters which each word has, we get the following figures:
In the foregoing examples, however, it is not literature itself that directly performs a
didactic function, but, rather, it is the employment of literary techniques for a didac-
In considering the social function of literature, we cannot help but mention the
contemporary controversy regarding the commitment or non-commitment of the
literary artist. Literature, for the most part, as we have previously stated, expresses the
writer's view of the cosmos. He selects and organizes his material to best serve his
aesthetic purpose. His work may simply reflect or it may attack his society. Some
critics, the proponents of "Art for Art's sake" believe that a writer should create for
its own sake, others feel that a writer is obliged to treat society's problems, in an effort
to find solutions. Reyes believed that by exposing the creative works of the authors of
various nations and by writing critical essays on these works, he was bringing about a
better understanding and effecting a spiritual communication between men. Other
Latin American and Spanish Caribbean writers who share the belief in a writer's
commitment include Pablo Neruda, Cesar Vallejo, Nicolas Guillen and Octavio Paz.
The first two writers saw in expressing certain socialist ideas in their work a means of
uniting themselves with other men. With their poems, they tried to bring about social
change, by pointing out some of the evils which divide men. Guill6n and Paz speak of
such problems as the lack of communication and of individuality in modem society,
and express the view that man is lost in a disintegrating society.
But literature does not only reflect the current social situation, the social respon-
sibility of the writer goes beyond this, for, through language, he can direct man to a
better life. Reyes tells us:
Por supuesto que no siempre se trata de establecer un mapa que corresponda a la
realidad de un territorio ya existente. La misibn directive o creadora, del
lenguaje, la que mis de cerca nos atine, o es la funci6n mhgica de la poesia, que
no se refiere a necesidades empiricas, de accidn inmediata, o es la funci6n
ut6pica de la persuasion o de la juridica, que propone a la sociedad el mapa de
un territorio que a6n no existe; mejor dicho: un plano de arquitectura para un
edificio por construir.22
A few years ago, at Cambridge University in England, a debate was held on the
subject: "The Role of the Artist Is To Change the World." Among the speakers was
Michael Kustow, director of London's Institute of Contemporary Arts. Mr Kustow
stated that whereas professors, politicians, speakers in debates have roles, artists do
not. For roles are things to be performed in front of other people. The artist, he said,
does something else obeys a necessity, solves a puzzle .. Whatever he does and
however he does it, it is an act in search of freedom, and cannot be contained in the
strait jacket of any definition. Every work of art is a revolt against culture, against
aesthetic forms, against existing artistic languages. It is a revolt in the name of fresh
perception. Mr Kustow referred to certain watchwords used by various writers such as
William Blake, "Without contraries, no progression." "The important thing," says
Marat in Peter Weiss' play Marat/Sade, "is to pull yourself up by your own hair to
turn yourself inside out and see the whole world with fresh eyes." 'Transform the
world' said Marx; 'Change life' said Rimbaud these two watchwords are for us one
and the same," proclaimed Andre Breton in 1934.
Mr Kustow further pointed out that no work of art ever ended a war, built more
houses or stopped unemployment. When a work of art tells us directly what to think
or how to act, we have an inbuilt capacity to turn off because it does not leave us
room to think for ourselves. Then, like Alfonso Reyes, he affirmed that true art gives
us a forecast of a world to come, and that is why, although artists do not set out to
change the world, yet, they make us aware of the inadequacy of the status quo.
In performing its social function, science directs itself mainly at outer reality.
Admittedly, the psychiatrist and psychologist deal with man's mental and emotional
states, yet literature deals more comprehensively with both the outer social reality
and, more importantly, with man's inner reality (his emotions). Science is more
limited in scope. By comparison and abstraction of facts, it chiefly provides
information which helps man to better understand the world about him.
There is one way it seems to me, in which the social and emotional functions of
literature coalesce, and illuminate thereby the main point of Reyes' philosophy. For it
is the ability of literature to probe man's inner reality, to treat emotions and feelings
common to men everywhere that results in the sympathy and understanding between
men about which Reyes speaks throughout his works.
In investigating the nature and function of literature, history and science, we find
several criteria for distinction. Each one of these fields of thought is by nature equip-
ped to confront reality in a unique way. Literature, is, in character, more universal
than science and history which are more limited in range, being restricted to specific
areas of reality, while literature can deal with reality in its totality. A second criterion
is that of truth. The historian and scientist are obligated to present direct empirical
facts, but not the writer, he is not so limited. He presents empirical truth "clothed by
his sensitive reaction to it." Through fiction, he portrays a further dimension of
reality. The most defined line of demarcation between history, science and literature,
then, becomes the aesthetic intention of literature. The writer, above all else, unlike
the scientist and the historian who are most concerned with information, evokes
emotions. The scientist and historian perform social roles in providing man with
information for a better understanding of his environment. Literature we think fills a
much more essential function:
it makes available for the individual a whole new universe of inner feelings and
desires. It exposes the endless potentiality of the instincts and the "heart" by
revealing the various ways in which they may adapt themselves to experiences. It
changes the emotional content of his consciousness so that he can react more
subtly and deeply to the world.. It makes possible new levels of conscious
sympathy, understanding and affection between men.
Literature can point man to a better world in a way in which science and history rarely
can. Maybe through history, we can learn from the past and we can see a brighter
future physically, through science, but through literature we can at once experience a
dimension of reality which is not readily available to most of us, lacking as we do the
intense sensitivity of the literary artist.
SHEILA YVONNE CARTER
1. Josh Ortega y Gasset, En torno a Galileo, trans. Man and Crisis by Mildred Adams (New York,
1958), p. 13.
2. Alfonso Reyes, El deslinde (Mexico, 1963), p. 110.
3. Henry Miller, "Reflections on Writing" in The Creative Process (Berkeley, 1952), ed. by
4. Sigmund Freud, "The Interpretation of Dreams" (1900) Trans. by A.A. Brill, in Great Books
of The Western World, 54, p. 239.
5. Josh Ortega y Gasset, op. cit, p. 12-13.
6. El dealinde, p. 175.
8. Brewster Ghiselin, ed., The Creative Process (Berkeley, 1952), p. 83.
9. David Daiches, A Study of Literature (New York, 1964), p. 24.
10. World Book Encyclopaedia, 1966, VoL 9. p. 233.
11. D.D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, VoL i, p. 7.
12. Merritt Stanley Congdon, The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe (London, 1958), p.
13. M.H. Abrams ed. Literature and Belief (New York, 1958), p. 3.
14. Early Essays, pp. 202, 208; Letters of J. Stuart Mil ed. by H.S.R. Eliot (London, 1910), 11,
15. A.C. Bradley, Oxford Lectures on Poetry (London, 1950), pp. 4-6, 17.
16. El deslinde, pp. 206-207.
17. Rene Wellek and Austin Warren, Theory of Literature (New York, 1956), p. 36.
18. Jacques Barzun, Science and Poetry (New York, 1957), p. 85.
19. Manuel Olguin, Alfonso Reyes, ensayista (Mexico, 1956), p. 35.
20. S.I. Hayakawa, Language In Thought and Action. 2nd. ed. (London, 1965), p. 126.
21. Miguel Cervantes, Don Qugote, Part 1, Chap. 9.
22. Eldealinde, p. 221.
23. Christopher Caudwell, IBusion and Reality (London, 1947), p. 154.
A Retrospective Comment on The Pond and A Review of Mervyn Morris's
Shadowboxing. New Beacon Books Ltd. (London) 1979. Pp 51 51pp. JS6.00.
On its appearance in 1973, Mervyn Morris's first book of poems, The Pond, some-
how seemed to manage to escape extensive critical comment a pity, since we have
comparatively few poets and the sound of another voice is therefore an occasion for
notice, if not celebration. However, it did attract from Ken Ramchand the following
Morris's The Pond contains poems by a man trying decently to control his life
and his craft; sensitive and intelligent enough to be disturbed by what he sees in
his society and by his own deeper imaginings, but too committed, perhaps, to
the fiction of order either to reject compromise or to open himself up to radical
The tone is a little condescending, but that is no big ting. More disturbing is our
suspicion that the critical judgement has been pronounced in a set of terms that are
external to the work. After all, it is not for the critic to require of the artist a
particular point of view whether it be rejection of compromise, openness to radical
questioning, or any other. Rather, he must enter the work and respond to it according
to how well it has seduced him to its vision. And in the Caribbean situation, multi-
lingual, multicultural, owning, almost by antipathy, the literature of England, and
disowning (up until recently) the African pulse that both drives us to sing and marks
much of the melody, the critic must lack predispositions, precisely by being disposed
to follow the artist anywhere. That "entry" which we require of him is the capacity to
be subject to the art-thing: to allow the poetry to work him over, and then to
examine, for the benefit of the rest of us, just how much sweat it has exacted.
Make us quarrel with Ramchand a little more. The first poem in this collection,
"Valley Prince" (for Don Drummond) unequivocally rejects the compromise of con-
ventional attitudes, satisfactions, solutions "blowing it straight", as the poem puts
But straight is not the way; my world
don' go so; that is lie
Oonu gimme back me trombone, man:
is time to blow me mind.
This is hardly the poetic comment of a man "committed to the fiction of order"! The
poet could have written any poem for Don D. His particular comment in "Valley
Prince" owns to, and owns the possibility of the most radical "solution". "The
Forest" proposes the same kind of outright rejection of:
a dry world, crisp and certain
in the sun, where practically anyone
could laugh and prattle all day long,
seeing clear for seeing nothing.
where the leaves are damp,
where no birds sing.
In the dank air of the forest the poet invites us to "embrace the gracious maggot m the
mind." "The Forest" may have its faults but it is clearly requiring precisely that
rejection of compromise which Ramchand, oddly, finds lacking in the whole work.
Perhaps the problem is with how the critic understands the central ambivalence,
ambiguity, irony which is evident in the poems in Morris's new collection
Shadowboxing, as well as in On Holy Week, and The Pond, which we are now dis-
cussing. It is easy to regard the use of ambiguity as a fence-sitter's device, as quint-
essential evidence of the lack of either the courage and/or the conviction to plunk for
one or other kind of radical option. But to juxtapose opposites is not to argue for the
choice of neither: rather it is to require that the choice, when it comes, is not any
reckless impulse to action, but the kind of clear election of one side which is informed
by full acquaintance with the other. Morris's particular vision of the world is presented
in his poetry in precisely these terms. It is what one does with a pencil point to make
it sharp: rub down one side fist, and then the other, or better yet, rub down all the
angles, in turn. But the aim is the sharpening of the point, that is, the honing of vision
and critical faculty and choice not the accommodation of the fence post in one's
Poems like "Narcissus" where the poet stands an ancient legend on its head;
"Greatest Show on Earth", where the combination of images and word play forces the
conclusion that it is the clown who "will not leave this ground" who is in touch with
the action, rather than the high flying Great Majumboes and the whip-cracking
tiger-trainer, the Mighty Marvo; "Outing" where the death of a schoolboy becomes a
celebration of curiosity; "Young Widow-Grave" which returns "dying" to its
Elizabethan sexual significance, and reminds us coarsely, callously, that in the midst of
death, at graveside, there is continuing "life" of desire; "Stripper" that mocks at both
poet's art and his supposed detachment, and reduces (strips) him to a final recognition
recognition of his mere manhood; these are hard poems, poems that require that we
understand how constantly and with what wilfulness we prefer the apparent to the
real, savour the lurid, pursue our merest instincts and resist self-scrutiny. If they seem
to be polite and orderly, that is part of the craft and of the statement, part of the
poetic sleight of hand. Murder, after all, can be a modest thing.
At this point it is useful to consider a poem like "To the Unknown Non-Com-
When the battle started Meanwhile the bullets overhead
he was quick to duck. were troubling him somewhat
He lay on his face in the open street and buildings burning either side
cursing his luck. had made the middle hot.
"Come join us!" (voices from the left) He thought perhaps he'd better choose.
"Come help us in the fight!" He crawled to join a side.
"Be honest with yourself; you're ours," A bullet clapped him in the neck-
said voices from the right. Of course he died.
They left him face-down in the dust,
carcass going rotten.
Bullets whistled overhead.
He was forgotten.
Clearly, in this poem at least, the poet is advocating a middle of the road stance,
for, after all, it is when the non-combatant leaves the open street and makes for one
side that the bullet "claps him in his neck." Except that, that is to miss the cues of
form and symbol that the poem plainly offers. The cavalier tone, merry rhythm and
casual prosody force us to question how "real" the fight is; the voices from the left
and right sound more like children playing tug-of-war than opponents in a gunbattle; it
is not accidental that the "Unknown Non-Combatant" (and the title contains as it
often does in Morris, the central irony), is caught in the street while the supposed
combatants are tucked away on the sides. The street is after all where the real struggle
to stay alive is; the fellows who make "the middle hot" make it so from the com-
parative safety of their street side positions; the fellow gets dead (symbolically as well
as actually) when he gives up the street battle to stay alive and makes for a side, not
out of any real pursuasion but because the street struggle has been made dreader by
the fellows throwing bullets from left and right, and he opts for an easier way out. The
Unknown Non-Combatant is in fact a very well known combatant: he's the fellow
catching his ass to stay alive every day and we know him because we see him all
around us. He is the fellow who gets shot and left to rot in the street; he is not
important because those of us who run things, who arrange the struggle from street
side, are pre-occupied with our war, not with those whom it may kill.
This is serious socio-political commentary, of a piece with "Meeting" in the
Shadowboxing collection, which we will shortly discuss at some length and, con-
sidered with poems like "Catch a Nigger", "To An Expatriate Friend", "I Am The
Man", "Case-History, Jamaica" and "The Early Rebels", must, to my mind, disqualify
Morris from the category of private/introspective, to which Lloyd Brown2 assigned
him. Brown sees "Unknown Non-Combatant" as "seizing upon the narrowness and
limited humanity of both sides as a basis for refusing to join the right or the left."3
The poem does condemn the narrowness and limited humanity of both sides, but the
poet does not therefore refuse to join sides. What he suggests is that the sides stop
playing games and address themselves to the plight rather than the destruction of
the man in the street.
Indeed one of the repeated themes of the poems in this collection is the need to
deal responsibly with our selves and with our contact with other selves; as well as the
need to recognize how easy it is not to do this and to become involved with the
appearance of action rather than action itself. "Love Story", "Moth", and "West
Indian Love-Song" make this point in respect to man-woman relationships. The poetry
insists that we recognize that there is inevitably a private aspect to our public/political
being, as there is a public/political aspect to our private being.
It was perhaps an error on Morris's part to call the work The Pond, for, fine though
this title poem is, it lacks that ubiquitous collation of words and images, cohering and
contrasting simultaneously, that anchors most of the rest of the work and so especially
defines the man's art and particular perception. (Also the title poem may be what
persaudes so many persons of the primacy of the introspective quality in the poems.)
We have commented elsewhere on Morris's resemblance to the metaphysicals: it is this
crafty, exuberant manipulation of the counters of word and image which is not as
manifest in this poem as it is in others in the collection. Indeed when one moves from
The Pond to Shadowboxing one of the obvious differences between the books is the
fact that poems such as "The Day My Father Died", "Of a Crippled Schoolmaster",
"Little Boy Crying" and "Family Pictures" have disappeared, and it is poems
characterized by this tight metaphysical cogency that have gained the upper hand. The
shift is, in some respects, signalled by the last poem in The Pond: "Mariners."
slicing through dark
dim on the foredeck
scanning for shark
the sea fearers
sick in the deep
bilious in daylight
we are the sea-searchers
scaling the night
keen in the darkness
fish-eyed in light.
The poem remains enigmatic: the who/we are undefined except by their strange
sea-fearing function and night belonging aspect. 'inese are not mariners who love the
sea: the crisp definition of action offered in the first verse describes the role of the
poet as it is widely perceived. Verses two and three suggest the turmoil of the questing
poet, at once "keen in the darkness" and "sick in the deep", hooked on his sea search
and terrified of it. The yield of this pleasing terrible quest constitutes the "curiosa"
displayed in the poet's shadowbox to which he refers in "Interior" in this third book.
"Storypoem" with which the Shadowboxing collection begins is a statement about
the poet's private disposition; and his contrariness. In a situation where everything
urges the pianist to provide a virtuoso performance "the whole hall full... voci-
ferous applause" he "just sat there/listening." This is the poet declaring his hand: he
will do with his craft what he wishes, regardless of the critical clamour. Indeed there is
a sneaking suggestion that he is not averse to setting up a confrontation situation in
order to be able to 'listen.' "Notice", which comes later in the book, re-echoes this
suggestion in a kind of veiled symbolic threat.
The poem seems at first a public poem: the "Notice" is a call to "trippers" to be
wary of the "dangerous currents" in life, interpersonal relationships, politics, even
"scientific" pursuits. It is issued in the form of an apparently casual comment, thus:
last week a tripper
going too far
the bloated carcass
rolled up near
this weather-beaten notice
The danger has been advertised, the risk taken nonetheless and terrible con-
sequences suffered. The reference is to the recklessness of human nature, its wanton
commitment to its own destruction, to ignoring dangers which are obviously there.
The poet reiterates the warning in the last line of the poem, and somehow, at some
third or fourth remove, he seems to admonish reader and critic, with a grave personal
authority, about their dealing with his work and with himself. The same quiet but
highly personal intervention expresses itself in "Brief." The ambiguities in the title are
several. At one level, however, this is a clear political statement, pointed though it is at
the personal-political commitment, rather than at party or movement or ideology. It
belongs, by virtue of this aspect of its content, with "Meeting", "Afro-Saxon", "For
Consciousness" and "They" which we will shortly consider.
The fact is that Mervyn Morris's poetry is not polite, nor prosy, nor lacking passion:
what it is is unhysterical, so that the bare heart on the sleeve, the bloodied chest are
unceremoniously exposed. He would have us attend to the wound, rather than loud
summonses announcing that it is there. The problem is that the man's muted
metaphorics can fool us so easily, and a poem like "They" which is a powerful
comment on the careless, self-willed, self-delusive aspects of human personal, social
and political behaviour can slash us as it slips by, so that, though we are lacerated, we
do not know we bleed. Hear the poem -
they tapped and tapped on the shell
and the shell broke
and the yolk broke
cracked they said it's cracked
then they opened the cracked shell wide
It says we have a child's obsession with destroying what is fragile (like the
individual person, relationship, the social fabric). We may not quite know what's in
that shell, but we know it's easily destroyed. We know that if we bang on it we'll break
it; still, we don't have the moral courage to bang. (There is something decent about
theft that there isn't about embezzlement). We're not even clear about why we want
to trouble the thing, rather than leave it to get on with its hatching. Compulsively we
annoy the delicate creature till it cracks, and having cracked it or better, it having
been cracked we have license to open it because it's damaged now, it's no use. And
then we cry. The poet does not say why we cry. Certainly it is not only that we have
crucified a defenceless victim. Perhaps it is also because we cannot seem to avoid this
quiet determination to ritual murder, to aborting foetuses and then lamenting that we
have nipped them in the bud. We know that we are demonised but have no will to rid
ourselves of the devils. Perhaps that is why we cry.
Other poems in the Shadowboxing collection make equally savage comments on
how little we are in community, in love; on how prone we are to destruction instead.
"Womansong" and "Theatre" and "Cave" say this. "Afro-Saxon" says it too: watch
this one, though, or it may also fool you. Morris's ambiguity is at work here. At the
end of the poem it is the "nigger" who, approaching the border of "Blackness", is
torpedoed by "thought-inspectors" whom we start out with as the definers of true
negritude. At the end, though, we must suspect their purposes. Perhaps it is they who
are determined that the niggers of the world will never be allowed into their blackness,
they who are determined that blackness should not be a way that people are and come
to value and assert, but that it should be a new elitism, another club into which only
those carefully screened and approved and identified (by them) as BLACK shall be
admitted. Sounds familiar? South Africannish? Hitlerish? Who then are the
At this point we-must return to the beginning of the poem. Watch it carefully now:
Another friend arraigns me:
too detached, he says
of all the ways of feeling
true blacks, as a rule,
The duplicity has been there from the start. WHO is "absurdlyfree/of all the ways of
feeling/true blacks ... share"? The poet? Or the arraigning friend? And check that "as
a rule"; does it mean "by and large" or is it an early warning of the principles of
ethno-ideological purity against which the thought-inspectors, the riew klansmen of
Part II will measure us? Observe the counterpointing of the "absurd freedom" of the
nigger and the "as a rule" ways of feeling by which one qualifies for this elitist
The poet's pre-occupation with using word, symbol and incident to signify various
and often contradictory meanings is unrelenting. In "For Consciousness", verse one,
we have -
brothers of de country
raisin' Cain in town.
They have had to leave the old plantations which have withered and the factories
which have closed down. The brothers are "raisin' Cain" in all kinds of ways: first, as
in the common meaning of the phrase, they're kicking up a stink. Making their
presence felt. But the Cain is obviously Biblical, as well it is the barrenness into
which Abel's brother was cast out, the cultivation of the crop of bitter frustration.
And it is also the 'raising cane' of the historical plantation, an expending of energy
which means sweet for someone else and leaves the slave with only the taste of sweat
in his mouth. Verse two says:
An' now dem in de city
sweatin' blood dem fin'
is jus' like de same system
dem mean to lef behind:
"Raisin' Cain in town" is "de new plantation story"; if the conscious brethren are to
survive, they had better discover how to sight the oppressors, the new plantocracy;
In de new plantation story
first t'ing dat have to know
is who an' who to tackle
when de call to battle blow.
This is the poet's definition of the struggle the final "raisin' Cain": within the
sounded word is balanced the promise of ultimate sweet which is ours, (if we raise
"cane") and the cup of continuing oppression and frustration (the other "Cain") which
our new masters will force upon us if we do not identify them fast. A fine irony.
It is a pity that Morris does not use Creole/Black language more often in his poems,
or does not offer us such poetry more frequently. When he does use it, as in "For
Consciousness", "Give T'anks" and "Responses", he uses it well.
No one aware of the current social and political turbulence in Jamaica could read
"Working Out" without construing it as a comment on this situation. The
characteristic duplicity in the last line presents the shadowboxer having all along
prepared himself for the fight by grappling with imagined opponents, on the real night
coming out of his corner "swinging"; one wonders whether the "swinging" is a
helplessly ineffective gesture, or is a "swinging" at the end of his opponent's rope. We
are faced, in a way, with a comment on the vainness of human attempts at
self-protection. The truth is that despite our preparations we may end up dead.
"Theatre" is a comment on how those who do not care may effect grand ruin on
another person, other persons, whole societies, and then walk off, unrepentant and
unscathed, perhaps not even aware of the death they have effected.
"Meeting" deserves to be lingered on:
An unfamiliar bed spuriously dry
of radicals. And me we banter
looking to root knowing
out lies. something
A nightmare- critical
comrade after comrade is growing
up to criticize! a movement
I took threatening
to planting solidarity
in your eyes.
This is the poet at his crafty best. He goes to a political meeting, a gathering of
radicals, looking to protect the commonweal, bent upon finding out truths. The
meeting is a "nightmare", the comrades in turn "springing/up to criticize". (The
lineation is important; the line breaks allows "springing" to suggest attack as in the
pouncing of an animal, before linking it to the next line, and also permits "up to" to
suggest a certain complicity, an acting out of some pre-determined wickedness). In
this public gathering, the poet is seduced by a private pair of eyes, for the public
getting together is accomplishing little. The encounter has strong man-woman currents,
signalled from the beginning of the poem by the use of words like "bed" (for the
grouping of activists), and "root" for his intention to ferret out possible untruths at
the meeting. Even "nightmare" (used to describe the meeting), though it may seem a
little ludicrous, suggests the emergence of the lady-of-the-evening with whom-the poet
is pre-occupied by the end of verse one. By that time the "rooting" has become
"planting": the possibility of false statement has become the actuality of real
By verse two the poet's attention is only peripherally on the politics; it is centrally
on the woman. The "spuriously dry" banter refers not only to the fact of the real
concern of both parties with the political issues, but to the blossoming of the personal
chemistry between the two. The "critical something" that "is growing underground" is
the power of the meeting of the two persons. It is "critical" in nice counterpoint to
the "criticizing" of the comrades in the second verse. Whereas the latter accomplishes
nothing, the former makes a crucial difference. The something is "underground"
because it is hidden from the group, and evident only to the poet and the woman; also
because the real commitments are private between person and person, are grounds and
roots in this respect.
In the end the interpersonal encounter yields "a movement/threatening/solidarity":
this is a delicious double-entendre. The movement, this real coming together of two
people, threatens the false solidarity of the comrades, for it will ultimately destroy it;
but it also "threatens", i.e. promises, the solidarity of two people locking together
physically, in the flesh, for making community, and socially, in affection, for the same
reason. In the end one recognizes that the poem asserts the triumph of real (social)
community in and through the power of the strongly suggested sexuality of the
encounter. Nowhere in the poem is it stated that the owner of the eyes is a woman.
The poem asks for a man to meet a man in the acknowledgement of mutual worth,
respect and need. Perhaps because it nevertheless so well celebrates woman, this is my
favourite poem from this collection.
Hard behind it is "An Offering", another poem about man-woman relationship,
initially, and by extension about relationship generally, all relationship.
In love, and reverently inclined
I bear the lesions of my mind.
But from your eyes the message is
that I must do the bandages
again, swaddle my wounds.
Such prophylactic fear impugns
my gift. Unwrap my injuries.
"One, Two" and "A Temperate Love Poem" are in the same vein, as is "At Home."
What, in The Pond was an interest in the relationship between man and woman, and
between them and the wider social group, has in Shadowboxing grown to a
pre-occupation. In The Pond Morris examined these relationships with simple cynicism
- as manifest in "Love-Story", "Young Widow-Grave", "Moth", "West Indian
Love-Song"; in Shadowboxing the complex of their inherent contradictions has
become an extra dimension of the poet's vision, a fact of the "whole" of experience that
refers always to the "rest of things" and is here almost regardless of what is being
discussed. We have already pointed out how the man-woman encounter described in
"Meeting" is in tact a comment on political solidarities. "One, Two" is as much about
the possibility of honesty, of real communication between persons, as it is about the
hazards of making love. "Dreamtime", "An Offering" (reminiscent of "The
Reassurance" in The Pond) and "Programme" are also about the vulnerability of the
male ego, and "Muse", in which the poet speaks of the truculence of his goddess, is a
comment on all desire, all urgent wanting, every inspiring human vision:
when you woo her
she will fade
This is how
the game is played
Between The Pond and Shadowboxing death as the final inevitable perspective, has
grown to occupy the poet's interest in the same way. "Hey Ref", "Swimmer",
"Pre-Carnival Party", "Danse Macabre", "A Birthday Poem", "Communion",
"Terminal" and "Checking Out" all deal in some way with this theme. "Pre-Carnival
Party" (after a poem by Jules Romain) is particularly provocative:
One evening in another town
a little before Carnival -
a funny man with flies around
him crashed into a bar.
"Beauty-queen an' sagaboy," he said,
"dey posin', but dey ain' fool me:
de one sure t'ing is all-yuh dead
dis time nex' century:
"yuh looking' vague an' sad like when
yu ain' know what to-duh.
Look alive! Before ah sen'
de side fo' yuh!"
Reminded of the loyal flies
buzzing round his face,
the people quickened into life -
jumped up and shook the place.
On what it was that made us jump,
injecting life into the fete,
the pundits waver or are dumb.
Was it the fear of flies or death?
There is something here of the earlier Morris, the poet of The Pond: the story line, the
use of nation languages and the "local" contextuality of the incident contribute to the
poem's dramatic effect. But the confident manipulation of metaphorical tokens is very
much there. The incident takes place a little before Carnival, a (Carnal/flesh
consuming) celebration which comes prior to a kind of death; the person concerned is
a "funny" man and various connotations of the word are implied. The "posin' of the
beauty queen and saga boy is somehow far less lively than the "crashing" interposition
of the man into the bar and the buzzing of the "loyal flies round his face." It is his
intervention with the crude prophecy that "one sure t'ing is all-yuh dead/dis time nex'
century" that interjects life into the party. And of course it all happens "in another
"A Birthday Poem" with its central image of the circling "peel-head john-crow"
year after year presenting birthday "congratulations dead on time" is also riveting in
its effect. The poet has grown to accept the familiar scavenger, presented by "supernal
mockery" as a
gliding messenger on time
each year, in pantomime
of blessing, wry malevolence
of joy before our wasting innocence.
The lineation is again important: the messenger is prompt and glides on time, which is
at once his element, and the text of his greeting. The message of the carrion bird is a
"pantomime of blessing" for it mocks its, and is it at once. The john crow lives by eating
flesh, and his greetings therefore anticipate our dying as the source of his continuing
survival. But even in his "wry malevolence", he is a "joy." The poet has
accommodated himself to the ritual cycle of death and rebirth as personified in a
perverse way in the bird himself (and his circling) and finds it a wholesome symbol as
counterpointed to "our wasting (diminishing and accomplishing nothing) innocence."
Morris has arranged both books so that the processional order of the poems itself
makes a statement. "Give T'anks" in Shadowboxing (also about time) is interestingly
placed. The poem asks for a continuing Divine intervention that will stay time and
permit still "odda years of love." But the five poems that follow seem in various ways
to despair of the achievement of that affection, in human terms at least, and the
remaining poems in the book are the "death poems."
If the poems in this latest book are mostly short perhaps because the poet is
listening the craft, as we have tried to demonstrate, is consummate. Even in the few
which seem to lack momentary vision of God's face, the finely wrought surfaces
require appreciation. I would not have included "Dadd, Poor Dadd" in this collection:
it is a good poem but not immediately relevant. Nor did I like "The Music Room",
"Tunnel" and "Swimmer"; by Robert Graves' test, they did not make my hair stand
The book itself is very well produced. The cover is simple, the shadowed typeface
used for the title and author's name nicely reflects the title Shadowboxing. The poems
come one to a page, and the graphics inside are clean and pleasing. At J$6.00 the book
is a bargain and more than a credit to New Beacon Books.
PAMELA C. MORDECAI
1. Ramchand, K. and Alleyne, A., Journal of Commonwealth Literature, VoL 12, No. 2, Dec.
2. Brown, Lloyd, West Indian Poetry, Twayne Publishers, Boston 1978, p. 175.
3. Ibid., p. 174.
4. Mordecai, P., Review of On Holy Week in Caribbean Quarterly, VoL 22, No. 4, Dec., 1976, p.
5. Brathwaite, Edward, "History of the voice an electronic lecture"; Lecture presented at
Carifesta Seminar on the Arts, Mona, Jamaica, 1976.
A new paperback edition
Rebel Slave Communities in the Americas
edited with a new afterword by Richard Price
This is the first systematic study of the communities formed by escaped slaves
In the Caribbean. Latin America, and the United States. The volume includes eye-
witness accounts written by escaped slaves and their pursuers, as well as modem
historical and anthropological studies of the maroon experience.
"A splendid anthology, skillfully edited and introduced."-Eugene D. Genovese
"As rich and informative a collection as one could wish, and one made useful
by the fine Introduction."-Benjamin Quarles
"What emerges is a comprehensive picture of universal black resistance to
the institution of slavery that will be valuable to both student and scholar."-
Library Journal 85.95 paperback
The Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore. Maryland 21218
EPITAPH FOR A BROTHER
The sun rises and a new day dawns
And the glory of sunlight flares over the earth.
For a brief spell of eternity it glows
And then the pall of night is drawn.
Darkness plugs the gap of day
And the light is no more Eternity
Settles like a black shroud. Finally.
While the light shone we laughed
And loved in the green beauty of spring.
Through the seasons we frolicked;
Summer came and went, and
Autumn vested the leaves with a golden tan.
The leaves fell and withered.
And coldness in our clime
Shattered the world of our gladness.
And life shrank into a chrysalis
Of numbed sleep from which we know no waking.
What was the use of it all? Why should the leaf
Fade and be blown by the wind;
Sprout with the green wonder of birth?
Why bloom the rose only to wither and die
Within a season's glory?
Why must the question be forever asked;
Why? Why? Where is the end to be?
This then is the end; truth, love, charity -
Not for ourselves but for others, one for another;
If only to make this earth happier for our having
Been here; that those who follow may say:
He was here briefly and he loved
These things that now we love
And through his kindness and the life he led
We now grope not, but walk
With heads erect and singing
Towards a brighter day.
A TRAVELOGUE CONTINUES
"Lawd Gawd Miss Meta
how you dear, you looking
so thin, how de children
how de boy away?"
"I hear from he yesterday
he say it cold, cold up day
and nuff snow, it look
like the thing you does
find in the fridge when
you defrost and spread all over
the place like chicken feathers."
"Miss Meta I feel for ya boy,
he in mek to stan no winter, yuh.
After all dem years in the
sun, he bones must creak
up. All of dem when de
come back does be suffering
"Boysie say it so cole that
if you pee outside it does
freeze in a long yellow
popsicle, he says the
snow fall soft out of
de sky like white bird
shit and the wind does
blow not like we cold
off Bathsheba Coast but
sharp like a razor blade, it
does knife the skin.
Everyday he walking
he face all grease up
rap up like a piece o'
fry fish from Baxter's road
all warm inside and
the little white dust
settle on he coat and
he so frighten, it
look like the plague.
"Miss Meta dah is the
first time the boy see
snow, the only people
could live in that is
dem white people,
that is why they face
so tight up so
the cold shrink it."
"Miss Ethel, I know's
it's real cold up dere,
I hope ya boy got
enough sense to keep
herself warm and eat well
cause that is de only
thing that does keep out
My girl says for the
whole winter in Toronto she bubbies
was hard like rock stone."
"Eh, Eh, you too liard, Miss Meta"
"Lie, I not lie, dah place call Canada
Man it mek black people
shite wid cold, no wonder
the girl children does behave so
when dem reach, nuttin
like piece of man to warm dem,
but don't fret dear, don't fret
de Good Lord nor gwine give
Boysie more than e' can bear,
it is better to tek the trials
and tribulations of the winter
and get education than stand
'bout dis place like leggo beast."
"Dat is true, Dat is true Miss Meta."
by STANLEY REID
Masters of the Dew by Jacques Roumain. Translated by Langston Hughes and Mercer
Cook. Heinemann Caribbean Writers Series. 1978. pp. 192.
It is very good to see one of the French Caribbean classics made easily accessible to
readers of English. Roumain's novel, Masters of the Dew, has a place with Cesaire's
poetry and Edouard Glissant's novels as a key work for our understanding. It has long
been a favourite: declaimed, wept over, filmed, staged and televised almost everywhere
except among Haiti's nearest English-speaking neighbours.
Jacques Roumain has retained an aura of prestige due in part to identification with
Manuel, the militant hero and Messianic saviour he created in this novel. It is his only
substantial work and was published posthumously in 1944, after the writer's tragic
early death at the age of 37. Roumain was an exceptionally gifted member of the
Haitian elite, who turned his back on the usual aspirations of his class to identify with
the underprivileged. Early travel and a wide educational background gave him the
lucidity to go beyond any sentimental approach to folk culture or narrow political
dogmatism. He equipped himself with the skills of the professional ethnographer in
order to study Haitian peasant society, and his political aspirations found their focus
in the founding of the first Haitian communist party. His literary output is modest
compared to his journalism and theoretical essays, but includes a few poems of real
quality, and briefer prose works which look with equal skill at aimless examples of
privileged youth and peasant stagnation. Masters of the Dew is his literary testament.
The novel tells a straightforward tale of Haitian peasant life. Manuel returns from
cutting cane in Cuba, and falls in love with the gentle Annaise, who belongs to a rival
clan. The village is riven by a blood feud and devastated by drought. Manuel refuses to
accept the fatalistic resignation typified by his pious mother, and will not drug himself
with vaudou rites. He seeks and finds a spring to irrigate the crops, and heals the
breach between the warring factions. Stabbed by a jealous rival, his blood consecrates
a new era of constructive cooperative among the villagers.
However, through this tale of basic human passions, Roumain is urgently concerned
to testify to worker solidarity as a power for change. His title stresses the peasant
acceding to power over his own destiny, and the central image of the book is the
coumbite, the collective working party of Haitian (and of course African) agricultural
tradition. The oppressive rule of rural police and profiteering shopkeeper is challenged
by the villagers' dawning consciousness of their collective strength Through Manuel's
accounts of Cuba, Roumain sketches in links with the international struggle of the
The novel tells a straightforward tale of Haitian peasant life. Manuel returns from
cutting cane in Cuba, and falls in love with the gentle Annaise, who belongs to a rival
clan. The village is riven by a blood feud and devastated by drought. Manuel refuses to
accept the fatalistic resignation typified by his pious mother, and will not drug himself
with vaudou rites. He seeks and finds a spring to irrigate the crops, and heals the
breach between the warring factions. Stabbed by a jealous rival, his blood consecrates
a new era of constructive cooperative among the villagers.
Yet this is the least arid of committed novels. Roumain may disassociate his hero
from the escapist ecstacies of vaudou, but he is no materialist. His political fable exists
in creative tension with a poetic myth of salvation. Manuel is redeemer and
water-bringer, causing new life to spring from the dust, and stir in the womb of
Annaise. Nature for Roumain vibrates with a pantheistic life, and it is the blood
libation which sets the seal on the Marxist gospel. Sun blesses iron hoe-blade and
ground lies open to the seedtime and the dew: the network of archetypal symbols is
too powerful to be explained away as the conscious manipulation of a Caribbean
audience primarily receptive to the metaphors of revival.
The blend of message and myth is often attempted, but seldom succeeds as well as
here in retaining an accessible clarity of action and narrative texture. Roumain's
parable never strays from a luminously simple plot, concentrated in time and set in
one small community. What is most worthy of detailed attention is Roumain's text. As
Michael Dash has demonstrated in his valuable introduction, Roumain creates the
illusion of a collective voice, reflecting the peasant's own consciousness and not the
imposed authority of a third-person narration. He draws on Creole syntax and lexical
items, the metaphors of Creole reality, and moves his narrative with great fluidity
between extensive dialogue and free indirect speech of the kind elaborated by the
masters of the nineteenth century French novel like Flaubert and Zola. The result is a
dramatic and poetically charged text which fuses Roumain's different concerns into a
single imaginative vision.
A good deal of this impact is unfortunately muffled in translation. This is a reprint
of a version by Langston Hughes and Mercer Cook composed soon after the novel's
first publication. It reads pleasantly and fluently on the whole, succeeding best with
Roumain's lyricism, and least well when obliged to draw on a marked area of
colloquial speech, since here a Southern American flavour coexists uneasily with the
Finally, in welcoming this publication and recommending it strongly for all libraries
across the region, especially in schools where knowledge of the French-speaking
Caribbean is still far too limited, I would say a word about the cover photograph. The
choice of this cocktail-party peasant girl, with plastic rose in manicured hands, betrays
a dismaying insensitivity to what is moving and true about Roumain's portrayal of
Caribbean rural life. Let us hope a second printing will rectify the error in taste.
The Schoolmaster by Earl Lovelace, Heinemann Caribbean Writers Series, 1979, pp. 171.
In 1968, three years after publishing While Gods are Falling, Earl Lovelace's first
novel, Collins brought out The Schoolmaster. For eleven years this was the only
edition of Lovelace's second novel. Now Heinemann has recently published it in its
Caribbean Writers Series. This new edition has been long overdue. Even though The
Schoolmaster remains one of the finest novels ever written in the West Indies, it has
gone largely unnoticed by several critics.
The story is disarmingly simple. Into slumbering, bucolic Kumaca in North-East
Trinidad, the villagers bring a stiff, egocentric schoolmaster, against the wishes and
arguments of an uncommonly circumspect Irish Catholic priest, Kumaca's itinerant
pastor. Having come to regard the village as his own fief, the schoolmaster rapes
Christiana, a fetching nubile girl who is betrothed to a love-sick youth. The pregnant
girl, who shares a mysterious communion with her dead mother, drowns herself.
The coming of the schoolmaster is the hub around which the major issues in the
novel turn, and around this event Lovelace constructs a story of compelling tautness.
There are in The Schoolmaster, it seems to me, a number of covert socio-political
nuances, and one is certainly tempted to read it as if it were an allegory. There are, for
instance, the two imposing figures of the schoolmaster and Father Vincent. They are
dynamic, carefully drawn characters; and yet they both possess considerable symbolic
value. The schoolmaster, for all his deference in the presence of the Irish priest,
behaves as if he were a colonial massa. He buys a horse of shimmering beauty, and he
rides it as if he were the governor of Kumaca. In time the village makes him its
cynosure, and he drinks deeply of the adulation he receives. The white horse is, of
course, an emblem of his otherness and superiority. It also establishes a tenuous, but
important, link with the detested Captain Grant, Benn's former rich, white boss. The
schoolmaster's self-conception is equally important. Kumaca, he feels, needs him. It is
his duty to save the backward villagers from themselves. He thinks of himself as "some
sovereign of the Backward Regions."
But not all of the villagers are taken in by what Kenneth Ramchand in his
Introduction to this new edition calls the schoolmaster's "inward hunger." One of
these is the remarkably perceptive Benn, whose donkeys are the priest's only
transportation into Kumaca. The schoolmaster is a native, to be sure; but his thinking,
Benn tells the priest, "is that of your people." From the very start it is clear that the
schoolmaster is not one of the villagers, and Lovelace keeps his shrewdness and mani-
pulative skills constantly before us. Constantine Patron, a defender of Kumaca's status
quo, actually regards him as an interloper who is inflicting a "foreign" culture on
Kumaca's uncluttered way of life.
Father Vincent is also the colonial master to whom the villagers must turn for
advice. A patronizing and rather formidable authority, he is also a sullen, ineffectual
priest who cannot come to terms with his own weaknesses, his doubts and his
occasional bouts of depression. He could not face a Kumaca that was part of the world
of cold reality, so he tries to keep the village alienated, its bucolic charm untouched by
In 1926, a committee representing massa's best interests argued before the Legis-
lative Council that if masses of Trinidadians were educated the agricultural base of the
country would be destroyed. If the island was to remain an agricultural country the
less education the better for all concerned. This attitude seems to be reflected in The
Schoolmaster. Constantine Patron's motives for resisting change are partly selfish,
certainly; but his question, "and what would become of the cocoa when the young
men must go to school?" is of a piece with massa's argument. Father Vincent, we
notice, argues, rather strenuously, a similar position. He equates ignorance with sin-
lessness, but his comments also remind us of massa's: "You do not need too many
going to school ... you have a way of life that is related to your economic and social
situation." Beneath the priest's ostensibly rational arguments is the belief that the
villagers are incapable of dealing with the problems they will encounter in the "real"
world. They must never leave Eden. Childlike they must remain. The socio-political
nuances in the novel can be driven too hard, I realize, the priest's attitude, however,
may remind us of Carlyle's notorious description of the typical West Indian sitting
under a suitable tree, "rum-bottle in hand, at ease in the creation," and eating
One of Lovelace's most important achievements in the novel, I think is the creation
of a sense of isolation in the village. The pastoral tenor of the novel, which Lovelace
methodically establishes early and effectively, is meant to enhance Kumaca's other-
worldliness. Over the years Kumaca has become more and more alienated, more and
more insignificant. Paulaine Dandrade, who refuses to accept the village's fusty stagna-
tion, recognizes that while the rest of the world is moving forward Kumaca is calcified
in its primitive life style.
Kumaca, Paulaine sometimes feels, "is not even in the world." We may wish to see
this remark as a metaphor for the West Indian's search for identity and a significant
place in the world; for the smallness of Kumaca is matched by the impotent smallness
of the West Indies. For a man living in a tiny island such as Trinidad his dignity, his
value as a person, his integrity all of these are absolutely crucial. The search for
these things has always been important to all human beings, to be sure; but given the
exploitation of the West Indies in the past, this search has been a matter of chronic
anxiety for the people living in the impoverished islands. This search is at the heart of
Benn's confrontation with Captain Grant illustrates, rather effectively, this in-
exorable search. He is the first of three characters whom Lovelace uses to dramatize
this theme. When Grant, utterly abashed by Benn's refusal to sell his horse,
deliberately shoots the animal, he symbolically kills Benn, who loses his job. Benn's
desire to be somebody is with him right up the end of the novel, and he resists the
nihilism he finds everywhere with admirable doggedness.
Francis Assivero, another villager of sturdy character, also refuses to yield to the
hard vicissitudes of life. Having fallen on hard times, he is preoccupied with the need
to be a man. Harried by his fall and heavy debts, he is easy prey for Dardain, the
village's enterprising but unscrupulous shopkeeper, who blackmails him into calling off
the marriage of his son and Christiana. Towards the end, however, Assivero stands
magnificently alone in Kumaca, holding Dardain's life in his hands. We are shown an
unremarkable man, living in an unremarkable village, finally achieving an exultant
dignity, standing alone in the center of the village, metaphorically returning to the
central position he once held. It is a tense moment in the story, and Lovelace's taut
prose is most effective:
And now the short man wearing an old jacket and a hat, lifted the shot-gun to
his shoulder, and in the quiet morning with the sunshine like many spears now in
the sky over the hills in the east, and the chilly breeze too slight to shake the
leaves heavy with dew, and the mist lifting, no one said a word... The face of
Francis Assivero was very stiff now, and like in pain, and he had shot many
animals, and was a very good shot. He sighted along the barrel now in the clear
silence, and was very alone and very tall.
Assivero's physical smallness, we notice, is set alongside his tall moral stature. We also
notice that Lovelace has contrasted the calm lambent beauty of awakening Nature
with the dread figure of Assivero, who is utterly, ominously alone.
Like Benn and Assivero, Paulaine Dandrade is fighting the nothingness of his
existence. Father Vincent's solution to Kumaca's educational needs is characteristic-
ally patronizing: one villager can be appointed to write letters and read for the others.
Paulaine's answer is crucial: "there are some things that are better that a man should
do for himself." The priest, we remember, is terrified of the changes that may come to
Kumaca. Sooner or later, however, the road to Valencia will be built, and Kumaca will
have to grow up. Man completely, inevitably alive this is essentially Paulaine's goal
for Kumaca, and it is, surely, of a piece with the urge to overcome the colonial neglect
so characteristic of the West Indian experience.
But growing up is painful. The coming of the schoolmaster, who begins the process
of building the road to Valencia, is the trauma the villagers must meet and successfully
overcome. Sooner or later the serpent must enter Eden. It is necessary.
The Schoolmaster is a brilliant novel which deserves a large, sensitive audience.
Some readers may be disconcerted by the loss of Kumaca's languorous, virgin charm.
At the end of the novel, after a black pall has fallen upon the village, radical change is
imminent. But Lovelace, as if he himself regrets this, leaves the reader with one final -
and for all its terseness emotionally charged picture of the village's compelling
charm: "they rode out of Kumaca in the thick, green, cool silence, and the priest did
not look up to watch the parrots crossing, squawking in the sky over his head. It was
very green, the country. That was because of the high forest and the hills, and the
rainfall these attracted."
Critics on Caribbean Literature, ed. Edward Baugh. George Allen and Unwin, 1978,
pp. 164. Price 2.95.
George Lamming ventured a prediction in The Pleasures of Exile (1960) which may
have appeared premature at the time.
Mittelholzer and Reid and Selvon and Roger Mais are to the new colonial reader
in the West Indies precisely what Fielding and Smollett and the early English
novelists would be to the readers of their own generation ... They are the first
builders of what will become a tradition in West Indian imaginative writing: a
tradition which will be taken for granted or for the purpose of critical analysis
by West Indians of a later generation. (p. 38)
That tradition is not yet taken for granted, but even Lamming might have been
surprised at the rapidity with which West Indian literature has earned recognition
throughout the English-speaking world. With the emergence in the 1960s of novelists
such as V.S. Naipaul and Wilson Harris, poets the calibre of Derek Walcott and Edward
Brathwaite, the West Indies gained a body of literature which justified Lamming's
The quality of criticism in the area has not always kept pace, but that situation is
improving: Louis James's edited volume of essays (The Islands in Between, 1968) and
a few books on key authors are available; a good survey of the novel (Kenneth
Ramchand's The West Indian Novel and Its Background, 1970), and of poetry (Lloyd
W. Brown's West Indian Poetry, 1978) have been published. One problem has been the
scarcity of trained, objective critics another problem is the difficulty of access to
much of the excellent criticism which has already appeared in various places. This is
unfortunate because not only do artists, critics and scholars need one another to keep
abreast of developments, but more general readers and students if they are to obtain
a balanced, informed perspective also need to know how issues are being debated
and what standards are being formed.
An appreciable contribution to this educational process is Dr Edward Baugh's
edited collection of essays Critics on Caribbean Literature (London: Allen and Unwin,
1978). Ten years have passed since Louis James compiled the only other book of a
similar nature. Dr Baugh contends in his introduction that this fact, "is itself indi-
cative not only of the need for more such anthologies, but also of the state of criticism
of West Indian literature" (11). Singling out one particular irony, Baugh underscores
the necessity for reprinting representative examples of the best critical essays from the
region: local writers who might prefer to reach their audience more immediately by
publishing within the region are sometimes forced, because of generally incompetent
printing, inadequate and haphazard distribution at home, to seek out a publisher
abroad. By the same token, there is further irony in the fact that bibliographers and
inquisitive students in the area often find materials "better preserved and easier to
come by if published in the international scholarly journal" (11).
This point made, the rest of the introduction concerns the criteria for selection and
arrangement of the material. The editor wisely avoids a chronological survey the
relevant time span being so brief in favour of essays which act as introductions to
Caribbean writing and at the same time offer substantive analysis of some of the
leading authors' works.
In order to provide a representative sampling of their variety and scope, Baugh
judiciously excerpts short pieces from author-critics George Lamming, Wilson Harris,
Derek Walcott, Edward Brathwaite, and Mervyn Morris. These authoritative voices are
joined by foreign observers such as Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Karl Miller and Gerald Moore
as well as many of the region's prominent critics: Gordon Rohlehr, Kenneth
Ramchand, Lloyd Brown, John Figueroa, David Ormerod, and others. Names of
writers whose works come under detailed study include not only those mentioned
above, but also Samuel Selvon, Roger Mais, Claude McKay, Louise Bennett and V.S.
Wielding his editorial scapel with care, Baugh has managed to encompass a great
deal in this anthology, without sacrificing unity. The book is arranged under four
general headings. Part one, appropriately the broadest in approach, functions as an
introduction by providing background information and raising essential theoretical
questions about the nature of West Indian literature. The first provocative entry, by
Sylvia Wynter, exposes one of the primary issues that divide her fellow critics. She
singles out Louis James as a type of "acquiescent critic" who attempts to write in
detachment, outside the historical process. His opposite is exemplified in George
Lamming, whom she respects for speaking directly to "his own audience" and for
being involved in revolutionary change. Nationality and party affiliation are para-
mount here, social considerations taking precedence over questions of artistic accom-
plishment and critical competence.
A second common issue, over which critics are prone to argue with as much passion
as reason, is the place of "the folk." Passages quoted from Lamming's The Pleasures of
Exile praise the earthiness of West Indian novelists and suggest that their unique
contribution to English letters has been the peasant theme. Gordon Rohlehr, in the
following article, offers a modification of Lamming's concept of the peasant: "... the
problem in West Indian literature is one of understanding and expressing the flow
between rural 'folk' sensibility and experiences of semi- or total urbanisation" (28).
Wilson Harris refers to rich native traditions which he finds woven together in the
mythical melting-pot of the Americas. Then in the essay concluding the first section,
Derek Walcott makes his case on behalf of the frequently maligned assimilator in West
Indian society who masters his colonial heritage and thereby "subtilises an arrogance
which is tougher than violent rejection" (38).
Part two, entitled "From Colonialism to Independence," brings together five
working examples of how some of these general concerns appear in specific criticism.
According to Ngugi, In the Castle of My Skin traces the evolution of a stable rural
village (symbolic of any colonial society) as dawning independence brings alienation
and disorder. Lloyd Brown interprets Dream on Monkey Mountain in terms of a
revolution in self-perception; Rohlehr reads Rights of Passage in terms of a racial epic;
Karl Miller sees The Mimic Men as a complex political novel that has more to do with
the corruption of private lives than with social movements.
Miller's article closes part two, but his thesis points the way to section three and
David Ormerod's treatise on Naipaul's "unaccommodated" heroes, B. Wordsworth and
Mr Biswas. The four selections in this section centre on the personal, communal, and
larger human relationships that are portrayed in specific works of Naipaul, McKay,
Mais and Harris. McKay's heroine in Banana Bottom finally realizes her "sustaining
community" in the village of her birth. The violence occurring in Mais's Brother Man is
seen by Edward Brathwaite as a general form of purgation which, like improvisational
jazz, affords release for the individual whereby members of an audience achieve a sense
of common wholeness. Joyce Adler examines the far-reaching symbolism of Harris's
Tumatumari, and the representative characters who bear his extensive anthropological
The concluding section extends the consideration of themes to the vital question of
the language itself of West Indian literature. The choices faced by an author are, of
course, compounded for the colonial writer who may find only a limited audience in
his natural dialect, but who may have reservations about adopting the rich, established
language of England. R.B. LePage argues convincingly that a "Caribbean English" with
the power to transcend national and cultural boundaries is possible: a "compromise
between an accurate representation of one particular dialect and a widely recognizable
representation of something general in the West Indies" (128). Other essays deal with
specific writers and their uses of language. Mervyn Morris examines the dimension of
Louise Bennett's success within the confines of dialect poetry. Gordon Rohlehr points
up the subtle nuances of linguistic change which accompany character development in
Selvon's A Brighter Sun. From his comparison of two poems by Evan Jones and
Derek Walcott John Figueroa concludes that Walcott's verbal practice is "not a
matter of verisimilitude or local colour, but of essential and rich meaning ... through,
and by, the full resources of the West Indian language continuum" (151).
Touching as it does on the important themes and modes of West Indian expression,
Critics on Caribbean Literature is a useful and convenient resource tool. Its value
would have been increased if Dr Baugh had provide a more extensive overview of the
contents of these diverse articles. The material speaks well enough for itself, but it
cannot speak of its overall implications. Some guidelines would have been helpful,
considering that the book is intended partially as an introduction to the literature and
criticism of the region. Much excellent critical and creative work has been done since
the most currently dated article in the volume (1974). It is the "bane-blessing" of
researchers who contend with flourishing, contemporary artists that their work is
never completely finished. For this reason, Dr Baugh's anthology is necessary and
ROBERT D. HAMNER
Selwyn R. Cudjoe
Sheila Yvonne Carter
Robert D. Hammer
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
is Assistant Professor in the Department of Afro-American
Studies at Harvard University.
is Coordinator of Undergraduate English in the Department of
English at the University of New Orleans.
is lecturer in the Department of Spanish at the University of
the West Indies, Mona.
edits the Caribbean Journal of Education from the School of
Education, UWI, Mona.
Belizean poet, breaks a long silence witfi this poem, written
after the death of his brother, Douglas, in 1978.
was lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Mona in the
Department of Management Studies.
is Senior Lecturer in the Department of French and German at
the University of the West Indies, Mona.
is Associate Professor of English at the College of Cape Breton,
in Nova Scotia.
is Associate Professor of English at the Hardin-Simmons
The Black Protagonist in the Cuban Novel by Pedro Barreda, published by the Univer-
sity of Massachusetts Press, Warehouse/University Library, Amherst, Mass. 1979. Pp
179. Cloth Price: US$12.50.
Organisational Psychology by Bass/Ryeterband (2nd ed.) published by European Book
Service, c/o Allyn & Bacon, Bedford Road, London N2 9BD. 1979. Pp 562. Price:
Nueva Sociedad, Volume 42 (May/June, 1979) edited by Diana Maggiolo, Daniel
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Santiago No. 33 edited by Griselda Simon and Enrique Lopez published by Revista
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Microstate Studies, Vol II edited by Norwell Harrigan, University Presses of Florida,
Gainesville, June 1979. Pp 84. Price: US$4.50.
Mester Volume 8 No. 1, (January, 1979) published by the Department of Spanish and
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