Table of Contents
 Front Matter

future beginning with the elections of 1972." In a series of self-addressed questions, he
struggles with a decision that "if truth obliges me, will put at risk the triumph that I believe
the party needs in 1972 for telling truths that may illuminate the more distant future." Faced
with "the burden of this dilenuna," he admits to changing "many years."27

Munoz not only "changed" many years of his life in his re-telling of it, but he also
omitted anecdotes that reveal the depths of his creative imagination, his use of humor, and
affection for comaraderie. In this marvelous recollection from an unpublished version, one
sees him adopting his favorite name:

In New York, I learned to play and to see baseball.
Frequently, I went to the Polo Grounds to see the New
York Giants play. It was the era of Christie (sic) Math-
ewson and also the year in which Marquand, the
pitcher, won 19 straight games which is still a record in
professional baseball. When I returned from the Polo
Grounds every afternoon, a German boy waited for me
whom, not having the money to have invited him to the
game with me, I would tell him about the game, inning
by inning, showing him plays of special interest..
Among the boys on my block, we gave ourselves
names of persons whom we considered eminent. In
general, we considered as eminent those names which
we read in the newspapers who had millions of dollars.
One boy who served meals at the Martinez boarding
house assumed the name of Rockfeller. Another called
himself Edison, who made his money with his inven-
tions. Another we called Vanderbilt. I took for myself
a name closer to my aspirations: Thompson who was
Thompson? The owner of the Coney Island amuse-
ment park, "Luna Park." He also had a lot of money,
but much less than Rockefeller or Edison or Vander-
bilt. But he was the owner of rides, of roller-coasters,
of hot-dog stands, canoe rides through paper-board
scenes of Venice'28

In the jumbled published text, 'Thompson" is overlooked; and with his absence, we
miss a vital key to Munoz's self-identity. So, too, are references to Munoz's unfinished
semi-autobiographical novel of a lonely poet in the urban wilderness based on a "com-
posite" personality of Munoz and the poet Evaristo Ribera Chevremont.29 Munoz tended to
overlook the lean years in New York, moreover, when financial difficulty drove him into a

memory fuse. "At such an early age," he writes, "it is difficult to separate the narrative from
the memory itself" (Memorias).

Memory's impotence functions, paradoxically, as both curse and blessing. As it dis-
places the experiential past, memory reconstructs, in its wake, an artifice that, as Richard
Terdiman reminds us, is "susceptible of the most varied and sometimes of the most guilty

Munoz omitted several important and, often, intimate recollections from his
autobiographical texts23 This may reflect a shift in attitude as he penetrates both past and
present. Just as his oratory created a following his autobiography creates a corpus. Political
exigencies at the time of writing may have led him to conceal thoughts, facts, and feelings.
To create a sense of group destiny, moreover, he may have distorted facts. In at least two
versions of his autobiography, We learn of the important visit of Elizabeth Freeman and her
daughter, the widow of an English miner.

In December, 1920, as socialists, Freeman and her daughter gave lecture about "revolu-
tion, strategies, tactics" and Saint-Simon in Puerto Rico. "Elizabeth Freeman," Munoz
writes in an unpublished autobiography, "opened up for me a pers active of the labor
movement and of revolutionaries in the United States, [in] England. Freeman is barely
drawn, however, and, in the later, more polished versions, she appears not at all. In fact,
women are described only in passing even such vital female politicians of the party as
Felicia Rincon de Gautier.25

We also learn little relatively of Nemesio Canales' friendship with Munoz and his
family nor of the intimate detail, found in other narrative outlines, of Canales' influence
upon his life and art. The poet, Muna Lee, Munoz's first wife, is also given little attention.
Absent from the published text are the adventure of the newlyweds, Luis and Muna, as they
travel on foot, trolley, and riverboat from New York to Washington, D.C., an episode that
appears in at least four of Munoz's previous texts. Moreover, Muna Lee's image was
removed from a family photograph taken in 1934. The altered photograph (sans Lee)
accompanies the published text.26 By focusing on political activity, Munoz protected not
only family and friends from the consequences of self-revelation in a highly-charged
political environment but he also maintained his image as the national Patriarch. The
editors followed suit.

To Munoz, group loyalty was imperative. In a 1970 autobiographical narrative that ran
over 500 pages, Munoz revealed his dilemma in producing a truthful account of his life, one
that might not harm his party's electoral position. "As a citizen, I have my criteria about
what should happen in Puerto Rico for the good of its people in the immediate future," he
writes; "as a commentator on historical events, including my own actions, I can, while
adjusting myself to the ethics of truth, adversely affect my own projection of the immediate

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Full Text

VOLUME 37 NO. 4.



Copyright Reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.


I Trophy and Catastrophe An Address
Gordon Rohlehr

9 Race and Community in Sam Selvon's Fiction
John Rothfork

23 The Memorias of Luiz Munoz Marin:
Consuelo Lopez Springfield

40 Interview with Caryl Phillips
Frank Birbalsingh

47 The Bowl to Apollo: The Indo-Caribbean Imagination in Canada
Cyril Dahydeen


Sometimes in the Middle of a Slory
Edward Baugh
Books Received
Notes on Contributors
Instructions to Authors
Cover photograph by kind permission of Maria La Yacona



Editorial Committee
The Hon. R.M.Nettleford, O.M.., Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor of
Continuing Studies, Mona.(Editor)
G.M. Richards, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Principal, St. Augustine, Trinidad
Roy Augier, Professor of History, Mona, Jamaica
Sir Keith Hunte, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Principal, Cave Hill.
Neville McNorris, Department of Physics, Mona
Veronica Salter, School of Continuing Studies, Mona (Managing Editor)

All correspondence and contributions should be addressed to:
The Editor,
Caribbean Quarterly
School of Continuing Studies,
University of the West Indies,
Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
We invite readers to submit manuscripts or recommend subjects which
they would like to see discussed in Caribbean Quarterly. Articles and book reviews of
relevance to the Caribbean will be gratefully received. Authors should refer to the
guidelines at the end of this issue. Articles submitted are not returned. Contributors arc
asked not to send international postal coupons lor this purpose.
Jamaica J$90.00
Eastern Caribbean J$120
United Kingdom UK15.00
Canada, U.S.A., and other countries US$30.00
Exchanges are conducted by the Gifts and Exchanges Section, Library University of the
West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
Back Issues and Microflhn
Information for back volumes supplied on request. Caribbean Quarterly
is available on microfilm from Xerox University Microfilms and in book form from
Kraus-Thompson Reprint Ltd.
Abstract and Index
1949-90 Author, Keyword and Subject Index now available.
This journal is abstracted by AES and indexed by HAPI
Subscription orders may be forwarded to the Editor or the Resident
Tutor at the University Centre in any West Indian Territory served by this Univer-


1991 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the teaching of West Indian Literature at the
University of the West Indies, happening at a time when few recognized or credited the
contribution of our own artists, it is fitting that this issue of Caribbean Quarterly should
contain several articles and book reviews related to both the West Indian experience and the
writings of the West Indies.

The issue begins with Trophy and Catastrophe in a region where the matter of
'awards' for the creative process can be problematic.

John Rot4lork takes the substance of Selvon's novels human interactions in racial and
communal settings, and analyses the alienation, self hatred and humour (used as a method
of coping) by West Indians in the diaspora, as depicted in the novels. The article ends with
the ephemeral hope, manifested by Tiger, one of the central characters in several of
Selvon's writings.

In The Bowl to Apollo, Cyril Dabydeen takes the search for identify to Canada, and
the experiences of Indo-Caribbean peoples. Dabydeen sees the exercise of the imagination
(usually through language), as the only outlet to cope with conflict. He argues that creative
imagining is integral to nation-building- to the making of a multi-cultural, multi-racial
society in Canada, as anywhere

In the succinct interview with Caryl Phillips, one of the younger generation of
Caribbean writers living abroad, not only is the experience of living outside the region
discussed, from both a personal and professional level, but also gender and familial
relations and their impact on Phillips writing.

Still within the Caribbean region, Consuelo Springlield 'reads' through several
autobiographical texts of Luis Manon, the poet, historian and great statesman of Puerto
Rico, that were not included in his Memorias. With the use of excellent notation, she
shares her enlightenment with the reader, including many other recollections that she
considers to be important, his depth of imagination, his humour and his camaraderie She
ends questioning "whether memories is an autobiography or a collective biography,
justifying not the individual self, but a collective entity".

The issue ends with Edward Baugh's poem Sometimes in the Middle of a Story, a
tribute not only to the drowned Africans of the Middle Passage but also to the oral tradition
of storytelling that survived them in the region.





Mr. Chairman, Your Excellency the President, Ministers of Government, members of
the Diplomatic Corps, friends and fellow-travellers in this vale of tears and laughter: I
would like first of all to say my sincere thanks for the honour which you have conferred on
me by inviting me to address such a gathering on such an occasion.

The establishment of the Guyana prize for literature in such hard times as these is an act
of peculiar grace, equalled only by that first memorable Carifesta of 1972, which was also
a Guyanese initiative. It isn't often with all due respects to the Commonwealth Prize, the
Booker Award or the W. H. Smith Award that the Caribbean writer finds a serious
sponsor. Even in the area of research, it is generally easier to find a sponsor for research
into our chaotic politics or our foundering economies, than into our remarkably vibrant
literature. Thus both creative writer and academic suffer in a situation where it is not
unusual for publication to lag behind creation for ten years or more.

During the 1950's and 1960's Caribbean writing attracted the British publishing houses.
It was new and passionate and signalled the eruption into visibility of the colonial person
who, if he had never quite accepted his servitude, had at the same time never quite
articulated his deepest and most burning necessity in a fiction and language that was
unmistakably his own. Part of the interest of the British publisher no doubt lay in the fact
that a relatively easy market existed for writing that was new and strange. There was, also,
a curious pride and proprietorship; for this new writing was seen as demonstrating the
flexibility of the English language. Despite the astringent satire which it directed at
colonial education, the new literature was taken as proof of the virtues of that education
which, against all odds, had taught inarticulate Caliban to speak.

I (An Address delivered by Gordon Rohlehr at the Awards Ceremony of the Guyana
Prizefor Literature, 8th December, 1987, National Cultural Centre, Guyana.)

One has only to read those inane reviews that used to appear in the West Indian
Committee Circular, the journal of the old Sugar Interest, to realise that our literature was
being promoted as a quaint curiosity, or as a marketable commodity whose meaning did
not, and could not possible matter. At a 1971 conference, I heard more than one of our
writers remark, that it was only the advent of West Indian critics and reviewers such as
Edward Kamau Brathwaite who since 1957, wrote long essays in Bim that they gained a
sense of what their work meant to the community for whom it was intended.

After the novelty of the 1950 to the 1965 period had worn off and Reid, Mittelbolzer,
Lamming, Selvon, Naipaul, Salkey, Hearne, Harris and Walcott had been established as our
most important voices, the willing sponsorship of British publishing houses was, it seems
to me, tacitly reduced. One waited for a second wave of writers to follow in the wake of the
first, but this did not happen for several reasons. Firstly the writers of the fifties had said
most of what it was possible to say about the folk life, politics and landscape of small
impoverished societies. Secondly, the early elation had begun to encounter the hard
realities of self-government and independence, and an already serious vision had darkened
considerably by the mid-sixties. Thirdly and most important, new writers were finding it
increasingly more difficult to get published, the publishers being more concerned with the
easier task of promoting already established voices, than with risking money and energy on
the encouragement of fresh talent.

If we think of the writers who emerged between 1965 and 1970, we would find that
Jean Rhys was a survivor from nearly four decades earlier. Edward Kamau Brathwaite had
been publishing poems in Bim since 1948 and was, like Walcott, only three years younger
than Lamming. Michael Anthony and Earl Lovelace were among the few to be given
exposure and encouragement in the immediate post-Independence period, while poets such
as Dennis Scott and Mervyn Morris who had developed their own styles, would have to
await the emergence of those brave little West Indian publishing houses, New Beacon and
Bogle-L'Ouverture, who in the post-1970 period have borne the brunt of the new publish-
ing. I must have at least at least one hundred poets in slim collections, which have been
either self-published or the results of the efforts of Savacou, Bim, Karia Press or the
Extra-Mural Department of UWI.

While the presence of local and foreign-based Caribbean publishers is a sign of
independence, there is a limit to the exposure which the small publisher can give to a writer.
Sometimes an entire genre suffered from an inadequacy of promotion, as was the case with
drama, which after the series of one act plays published by the UWI Extra-Mural Depart-
ment from the late fifties to the mid-sixties, went into a slump until the seventies, when the
Walcott plays began to appear At present, Walcott's main publisher is not British, but

Relief of a sort came with the short-lived Allison and Busby, who republished Lam-

ming and C.L.R. James, and promoted the novels of Roy Heath. Relief of a sort has also
come from Casa de las Americas, the Cuban publishing house which in 1976 extended their
annual literary competition to include writers from the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyanese
writers such as Noel Williams, Angus Richmond, Harry Naain and John Agard, have won
the Casa prize. Edward Kamau Brathwaite has won it twice, once for Black & Blues a
collection of poems, and in 1986 for Roots, a collection of essays.

Very recently, through the agency mainly of West Indian publishers, we have seen the
healthy and exciting emergence of several women writers such as Merle Collins, Grace
Nicholls, Ema Brodber, Velma Pollard, Olive Senior, Lorna Goodison,Christine Craig,
Pamela Mordecai, Jean Goulboume,Jean Binta Breeze and Opal Palmer, I think, indeed,
that it is safe to predict, that our most significant voices for the next two decades will be
female. There are several reasons for this. First: the time demands it. All over the world
women have been coming into visibility, and edifying in ways as significant as their male
counterparts, the fundamental reality of human existence. Caribbean women are part of
this universal re-definition, this Iransformation of reality. Second: the emergence of
women writers in the Caribbean indicates that the other half of Caribbean sensibility is
seeking fulfillment through self-expression. If the male writers sought their liberation of
spirit in the face of rigid colonial structures, the female writers seek theirs in the face of
equally rigid patriarchal ones.

The third reason why our next wave of writers may well be women, lies in the contempt
for things of the sensibility which our societies have unconsciously bred in the minds of
young men. Young men have absorbed a notion of development based on the idea of
science and technology, to the exclusion of the Arts. It is quite normal in a class of say,
sixty literature students at UWI, to find only three males. While there is no necessary or
inevitable correspondence between studying literature as an academic discipline and be-
coming a creative writer, it is still true to conclude that over the last lifteen years, far more
women have been exposed to a wider range of literature than their male counterparts.
Given this exposure and the already described need for self-definition, the women will be
carrying the major burden of our writing in the near future.

Popular artistic forms such as the Calypso, Reggae and the emerging "Dub" poetry,
are still largely dominated by young men. The Calypso, contrary to some opinions, is
neither dying nor deteriorating. If there are fewer narrative calypsoes, there are more
celebratory ones. The Calypso today also contains a range of political recall as well as an
analytic grasp of the political moment that it is equal to, if not greater than what obtained in
the age of Atilla. It provides us with and index of popular attitudes to an increasingly
bewildering social experience, and has had to wrestle with growing problems of madness
(Terror's "Madness", 1974), drug addiction (Duke, Sparrow, Explainer, Singing Francine,
among others have all sung on this theme) as well as unemployment, corruption and


The darkening social experience since Independence has changed the nature of calypso
laughter which, in the process of adjusting to bewildering paradox, has become a very
complex thing. Chalkdust's "Learn to Laugh" advocates bitter mirth. It disturbs precisely
because it unmasks the source of laughter, revealing it as chaos, bitterness and helplessness;
as well as its function: masking, evasion and dereliction of the intolerable responsibility for
setting the situation right. The language of some calypsoes has returned to the singalong
simplicity of the old-time kalinda chants, while that of those singers who have accepted a
burden of self-definition, has become more metaphorical, more dense, and more capable of
expressing a wider range of feeling.

But calypsonians, like most other creative artists face extreme problems when it comes
to having their records produced. The young singer, like the young writer, may find that
there is no-one who is prepared to invest in an unknown voice,or that an investor may not
offer fair terms..Tales of the exploitation of singers can fill a book. Plagiarism for commer-
cial gain has been a major concern. Also subtle or overt political censorship has existed in
some Caribbean territories; Such censorship places an additional pressure on the singer,
whose revenues are inevitably affected when his songs are not played on the radio. A
paradoxical situation is often created, where one sector of the community blames singers
for composing trivial party songs, while another sector damns them for telling too much
depressing political truth.

It should be clear that all categories of artists need help of some sort. There is pressing
need not only for awards such as the Guyana Prize for Literature, but also for a Caricom
Publishing House, which should belong equally to the public and private sectors in the
Caribbean, and which, utilising the infrastructure that already exists in abundance
throughout these territories, should publish school books, literary, academic and historical
texts, as well as the burgeoning music of the region. There is no reason why, equipped with
skilled panels drawn, as CXC panels are, from all over the region that such a Caricom
Publishing House should not be able to select work that has merit and quality: work that is
vital to our perception of self and possibility; work too, that is informed by that critical
intelligence which will be necessary for our self-knowledge and our location of the
Caribbean self in the world of the cosmos.

Such a Caricom Publishing House can become a means whereby we may ingather our
wandering wits, or, to use Martin Carter's arresting image: 'collect our scattered skeleton.'
No regional cultural policy will emerge without something like it. We need institutions that
are more permanent than Carifesta, which, indeed will give us something to celebrate
whenever Carifesta comes around. A Caricom Publishing House should also serve to stem
the annual outflow from the region of millions of dollars, which is what we as a region pay
foreign publishing houses, by presenting them with our captive primary and high school



The act of writing poetry, prose or drama is, now that we know the extent that science
and technology are controlled by the metropole, one of the most crucial necessities and
possible frontiers for development in the Caribbean. We cannot control the price of oil; we
cannot control, try as we may, the price of bauxite; nor can we control the American quota
for sugar, But we can control our exploration and presentation of ourselves. The Arts are
probably the only area in which sovereignty is possible; though even here the burden of
autonomous statement is exacting as frightening a toll as the region-wide collapse of our
economies, This is not only because of the difficulties artists experience in getting their
work published, but also because of the difficult conditions in which the average citizens of
these territories have been existing for some time.

At times these conditions objectify themselves, crystallize themselves,as it were, into
moments of terrible atrocity, that have wrung from the poet, novelist and playwright outcry
after outcry. Since Independence, we have had guerillas and gundowns, the Malik affair in
Trinidad. We all know the literature that grew out of that catastrophe:Vidia Naipaul's lucid
essay, "The Killings in Trinidad" and his stark best-selling novel, Guerillas, which became
very popular in North America, a country so much engaged in the conversion of fact into
fiction, that many people there can no longer distinguish between the two. Trinidad, which
is very similar to America in this respect, converted the Malik affair into the Carnival Ole

Jamaica has since Independence been conducting its fixed dialectic of gunmen; its
unending, fratricidal conflict between the duppy and the duppy-conqueror. This conflict
has concretised itself in the sacrificial waste of the 1980 elections when well over five
hundred people were killed.

The Jamaican tragedy has given rise to several poems. One has only to read
Brathwaite's Kingston poems as "Spring-blade","Starvation", "Dread", "Wings of a
Dove","Sun Song" and "Kingston in the Kingdom-of this World" to see how this tragedy
has affected the expression of one of the region's leading writers. The Orange Lane lire is
directly alluded to in his "Poem for Walter Rodney" where he makes the connection
between two atrocities, twinning the cities of Kingston and Georgetown. Recognising in
contemporary Jamaica patterns and structures of mind as old as the slave plantation,
Brathwaite has shown in some detail how what he calls "the return of the status crow" has
produced "the resurrection of the dread". The poems of Dennis Scott, Brian Meeks or
Kendel Hippolyte, Scott's play Dog, the reggae songs of Marley and the murdered Peter
Tosh, the Dub poetry of Linton Kwesi Johnson,Mutabaruka, Jean Binta Breeze and Mikey
Smith, the latter who couldn't believe that children were being deliberately thrown into the
Orange Lane fire, but was himself soon to be stoned to death by people who disagreed with
his political views: all provide us with a range of artistic responses to Jamaican atrocity, and

define the bleak spiritual landscape out of which many Caribbean writers operate.

One of the duties of the Caribbean State should be to provide the citizen and artist with
the necessary space within which he can operate, even when the citizen and artist see
through and beyond the structures and devices of the State. Where such space does not
exist, literature creates it through protest, or through the imaginative territory which it
liberates in quest of living-room for the spirit. The creative voice in the Caribbean has
always challenged the political reality or unreality, fostered by ideologues for or against the
prevailing political order. When this happens, the creative voice may find itself confronted
by the ignorant machinery of an oppression which, when it is not fostered directly by the
State, may be tacitly permitted to happen because of the indifference or neglect of the Slate.
The word may then find itself in chains.

Edward Kamau Brathwaite's "Kingston in the Kingdom of this World" dramatises the
outcry of the voice against such imprisonment. The poem's voice is simultaneously that of
a Christ figure awaiting trial and crucifixion; that of the artist, whose authority of sunlight,
vision, music, dance and the illuminating power of the imagination is pitted against the
incarceration of the State; and that of the Dogon Nummo, the primal creative word and
voice and spirit of Africa, rotting in a Jamaican jail.

Guyana has matched the rest of the Caribbean in atrocity. We had the mind-blowing
Jim Jones Affair being enacted in the Guyana forest of the night, involving a handful of
white masters of the religious word and nine hundred black slaves to it. This atrocity has
produced about a dozen prose accounts, including one from Shiva Naipaul who, imitating
his elder brother as be usually did, also squeezed a novel out of the catastrophe. There were
also two or three American movies, one of which was significantly entitled The Guyana
Tragedy. Popular response in Guyana was provided by two songs, one by Nicky Porter and
the other by the Trade Winds, who summarized the Jim Jones catastrophe with the couplet:

"He tell them to think and they thinking
So he tell them to drink and they drinking".

What the Caribbean mind cannot comprehend, it converts into a macabre carnival of
humour, behind which still lurks the cadaver of evaded catastrophe. Here the Trade Winds
are, perhaps unconsciously, establishing the link between centralised propaganda, mind-
control and self-destruction, and suggesting a lesson pertinent not only to the Jim Jones
commune, and their ilk, but also to the Guyanese nation as a whole.

Guyana can also boast the death of Walter Rodney which, like the Grenada fiasco
three years later was a devastating body blow to an entire generation; the literal reduction
to ashes of passion, energy, commitment, courage, laughter and intelligence. That death
has evoked an entire anthology of poems, as well as collections of papers from conferences
and seminars on the meaning of life's work of this outstanding Caribbean historian, and

international personality, who could not find a job at the University of Guyana,. That this
could happen under a regime which four years earlier had had the generosity, scope and
vision to inaugurate Carifesta, is perhaps the most astounding paradox to have been
produced in a country of astounding paradoxes.

Moving as all these elegies to Rodney undoubtedly are, I would have preferred other
poems and Rodney alive. I would even have preferred him to have rejected what Linton
Kwesi Johnson termed "History's weight", and obeyed the advice which Wordsworth Mc
Andrew offered him in a 1976 poem, written in reaction to his being denied the job at the
University of Guyana. McAndrew at that time had already intuited a sort of doom, and
advised Rodney to leave a country which could or would not find use for either his
academic excellence or political commitment. McAndrew himself, by far Guyana's best
and most active folklorist, who almost single-handedly provided a forum for scores of new
Guyanese short stories and unearthed the customs, sayings and practises of Guyanese from
all corners of the land, took his own advice and left Guyana. The warehouse manager
where he first sought work in New Jersey, gave him a simple arithmetic test which he
expected him to fail. When Mac returned after a few minutes, the manager exclaimed in
that mixture of amazement and contempt with which Prospero is sometimes grudgingly
forced to acknowledge Caliban as a being capable of intelligence: "Gee: He got them all
right:" Our national talent has been to make the real man into a small man. As the voice in
the Kingdom of this World laments: "He is reduced, he is reduced".

In the sponsoring of Literature by State and School. It is worth reminding both State
and School of the strain under which writers exist, particularly when they are politically
critical of the State. In Trinidad five poets were among the 1970 detainees, and Jack
Kelshall, whom Guyanese of the early sixties might well remember, became a poet after he
was wrongfully imprisoned in the 1970's. Martin Carter had, of course, experienced this
under the British nearly two decades earlier.

Under such stasis, such unchange, some writers have chosen the amnesia of alcohol.
Others; Mittelholzer, Leroy Calliste, Eric Roach, the painter and folklorist Harold S
Simmons, the poet and teacher Neville Robinson, committed suicide. It is a dangerous
thing often a fatal thing, to even possess sensibility in such an age, where there are so
many ways that a person can be destroyed. We live in societies in the Caribbean where the
price of a certain type of commitment is certain arrest; of a certain quality of feeling is
possible self-immolation.

The grimness of the age has affected the styles and modes of functioning of both the
State and the individual. If many individual sensibilities have succumbed to despair or
become fixed in automatic attitudes of protest and resistance, the State has tended to ossify
into rigid authoritarian attitudes which are really the mask of a fundamental impotence.

Surveying West Indian societies since Independence, one is forced to conclude that we
remain colonial in how authority reacts to critical challenge; that certain aspects of our
consciousness have become paralysed in ancient attitudes of crippledom; that sadly, it has
proven easier to mummify entire nations than the individual corpse.

Our neo-colonial situation of simultaneous freedom and mental enchainment is one of
deep and perplexing paradox. In Trinidad in 1986 it was possible for black policemen to
unleash an unprovoked attack on black people demonstrating against the anti-black racism
of South Africa's apartheid State. The same Trinidad moved a vote in the United Nations
to enforce sanctions against South Africa. Faced with such inconsistency, deeply rooted
in our colonial past and blossoming daily in our neo-colonial present, the mind of the artist
and critic alike seeks naturally to express and explore paradox.

I have consequently, named this address "Trophy and Catastrophe." If the catastrophe
refers to these societies in which we now live and breathe and have what remains of our
being, the trophy refers to the Guyana Prize for Literature. I hope the prize is only the
beginning of a new dispensation for writers, and that the graciousness which inspired this
inauguration will also inform the political future of the Guyanese people.


1. Benson was the name of the English woman found murdered in Trinidad, and buried in a gar-




All of Sam Selvon's novels are concerned with race and ethnicity. Often this theme is
worked out in a dialectic process with types of communities ranging from: the unconscious
communal village, where membership is by race or ethnicity; to the creolized town, with
temporary and exigent neighborhoods; to the city, where the sense of community is
abandoned to racial, political, ideological, and monetary competition; to immigration
abroad with subsequent loss of culture and identity. Finally, there is a self-conscious and
psychologically laborious recursion of the process in a quest for the good life. In associa-
tion with the search for values and authentic identity, discipline, exemplified by sexual
continence, and what Michael Fabre calls a "half-formulated mysticism" or sensitivity tot
he elemental, serve as minor chords in Selvon's fiction.

Having identified these as recurrent concerns in Selvon's work, it is interesting that, in
the abstract, they parallel much of Mahatma Gandhi's "experiment with the Truth." For
example, Gandhi was greatly concerned with the evils of caste and communal prejudice. He
scorned urban life2, founding Sevagram as a model community. Gandhi's discipline, which
he also exacted on his followers, was legendary. He called a major form of his discipline,
"brahmacharya," sexual continence. Finally, the mystical motivation in Gandhi's life
eclipses that of any of Selvon's characters. Rather than claim that Selvon was greatly
influenced by Gandhi, I think it more plausible to say that the parallelism in their work
stems from similar concerns about traditional communities and the multiple threats to their
existence posed by modernization. Moreover, because Selvon advocates creolization, he
must mute, if not renounce, the communal identification that championing Gandhi's
principles in the Caribbean would cause.


In Lonely Londoners(1956) each of the West Indian immigrants struggles against the
racism he finds in London. One of them, Galahad, muses on the status of blacks: "Lord,

what it is we people do in this world that we have to suffer so? What it is we want that the
white people and them lind it so hard to give?3. Yet when given an opportunity to speak
"on the colour problem," to give Londoners "the real dope on the question," Galahad funks
the opportunity. Neither an intellectual nor artist, Galahad cannot articulate his suffering.
This is left to Moses, the narrator, whom we find at the end of the novel, "wondering if he
could ever write a book" about his experience'

Selvon's recent novel, Moses Ascending (1975), is presented as Moses' magnuss
opus".5 Moses satirizes Black Power rhetoric, but is also very conscious about "My
People" amid while Londoners" Indeed, his Memoirs are a strategy to hold on lo Ihe
dwindling memory of Caribbean culture and identify. Moses' resolve is also evident in the
rise of his tenants to choice rooms in the aparthient building, while Moses, the landlord,
finally settles in the basement, unable to cross the Jordon and do battle with the Plillistincs.

In An Island is a World (1955), Selvon most directly presents the elements of his
recurrent theme: race and community. The novel concerns two young Trinidadian friends
of different ethnic backgrounds. Andrews, a broad-minded black Trinidadian, hopes to
transcend race and be a citizen of the World. However, after suffering loneliness in London
for some time, he writes of his naivete: "it's lonely feeling, as if you don't really belong
nowhere. I used to think that this had merit...that we wouldn't have prejudices".7 Faced by
implacable prejudice, he realizes "that all those idealistic arguments we used 1o have at
home don't mean a thing," especially when he is thwarted in his love for a woman: "we
can't marry because your skin is white and mine is black"' & 9 Andrews returns to
Trinidad, vaguely looking for a community which will offer direction and purpose to his
life. Learning from his friend that England is a dead-end as a model community for newly
independent West Indians, Foster, an ethnic Indian, considers the attempt to discover
identity and community in the "Back to India" movement, in which "men who had
forgotten their nationality in the cosmopolitan population became aware of themselves as
Indian".to Although this may provide a solution for a few, it falls to offer Trinidad a
mythology similar to that which Jamaica found in Marcus Garvey's "Back to Africa" cry.
Thus Foster admits: "I don't know anything about India. I've never thought of myself as
belonging to any particular race of people. I'm a Trinidadian, whatever dial means". In a
later conversation, when Foster is again cynical about Trinidadian nationalism, Andrews
declares that" "It's up to us to produce such people" who do know what it means to be a
Trinidadian.12 The question is, of course, how to create such a consciousness. II would need
to achieve a delicate balance to preserve ethnic traditions against the ravages of urbaniza-
tion, technology, politics, and money, while, on the other hand, not pennitting ethnic and
communal identity to annul commitment to the larger society.

In this work, Selvon's answer is suggested by the novel's little and articulated by Father
Hope, who is committed, not to saving the world, but perhaps a few souls in a model

village. 3 By looking to England or India for identity and patterns of behaviour, Trinidad
"builds on a rotten foundation"'14 It is significant that Father IHope is self-ordained and
self-appointed to his mission. Thoroughly indigenous, like Gandhi, he is committed to the
project of developing a model village to show the nation how to overcome the problems of
race and the ravages of modernization. He is, as Andrews suggested, producing
Trinidadians; as is Selvon by illustrating in his work what it is to be a Trinidadian. Foster is
chosen to continue Father Hope's work in an ending which, along with Turn Again Tiger,
is the most hopeful of all Selvon's novels.

The Housing Lark (1965) continues to chronicle racial problems faced by West Indian
in London but goes beyond the earlier novel, where each of the characters make his own
"lonely" struggle, by suggesting the formation of a community. Luxuriating in food and
friendship at a community fete, Battersby idly asks an ethnic Indian Trinidadian, "Syl, why
you don't go back to India boy? That is your mother country." Syl responds: "Brit'n is my
country." The claim is absurd as every experience of the immigrants illustrates. However,
the banter continues: "Man, you don't know if you Indian, negro, white, yellow or blue,"
perhaps reminding us of a boast from a few pages earlier, when a character says: "I am a
creole of the first degree.5 & 16 Nonetheless, Battersby speculates on a plan to co-opera-
tively buy a house to avoid predatory landlords and, in effect, create a tiny ethnic village.
When people begin giving him money, the scheme seems too good to be true. Although he
does not recognize it, Battersby has tapped the subliminal hopes and needs of an exiled
people, just as did Marcus Garvey. When it becomes clear that Battersby lacks the
leadership and knowledge to bring the promise to fruition, Jean, his sister, takes him--and
all the other exiled West Indian men--to task: "No ambition, no push. Just full your belly
with rum and food, and you all belge and fart around and look for lime to pass the time,
walk about, catch women, stand up by the market place talking a set of shit day in and day
out. That is what you come to Brit'n to do".17 The obvious implication is that one comes to
Britain to get ahead: to work hard, make money, he a success. One can operate in this urban
culture only after renouncing the island culture. Battersby's housing scheme, a lark to him,
becomes a grim commitment for Jean, who seems more than willing to pay the price of
assimilation: denigration and eventual eradication of her Caribbean roots. Thus it is ironic
that the novel ends with Bats pandering his past, scheming to manage a man he hopes will
be a British calypso star.

In I Hear Thunder (1963) Selvon brings his concern for race back to Trinidad in a
novel which is more cynical than compassionate. None of the characters possess redeeming
qualities, nor is there the ingenuousness of the London novels. The protagonist, Adrian, is
an ethnic Indian who, disgusted by unbiquitous sexual immorality, decides to be chaste for
a year. Without religious theory or foundation, Adrian's "experiment" in discipline none-
theless brings to mind Mahatma Gandhi's experiments with what he called "brah-

Adrian is engaged to Polly, an ethnic Indian whose name suggests how far removed she
is from her Indian heritage. Bored with Adrian's self-absorbed chastity, Polly becomes
pregnant by Randolph, a white and accomplished womanizer. Her father blames her
mother: "You didn't bring that girl up Indian, you know. She too creolised for my liking. If
you did bring she up Indian, that never happen!" He goes on to champion the notion of
racial and ethnic purity, derived from notions of caste: "She let the race down! I don't know
about your family, but none of mine ain't interbreed up with no nigger or chinee of white
man, you hear!" He ends by admonishing caste purity: "Indian got to stick together, we got
to keep we own block and don't mix up".18

Another of Randolph's conquests has a very different idea about racial purity.
Josephine is an ethnic African, "her skin was dusky, not dark, and that made a bell of a
difference in Trinidad".19 In a graphic and nearly offensive image, Selvon writes that
Randolph "was living in an island where the white colour of his skin was more desired than
food and drink and opened a gateway which was like the legs of a woman spread apart".20
So it proved with Josephine. Pregnant by Randolph, with "no hope of a marriage,"
Josephine's mother exults: "It ain't him we want, girl, is the colour! Bastard, lanyard or
mustard, is a white child you going to have! The good Lord smile on you and you ain't
know it".21

Much of the immorality that depresses Adrian is symptomatic, a subliminal legacy of
black slavery and Indian indentureship. Josephine's mother expresses the cynical recogni-
tion of racial power in the legacy of slavery and colonialism. Polly's father acknowledges
the erosion of traditional ethnic communities and their power to dictate morals. Another
character, Mark, suggests the vacuity of the new urban world. Mark is a black Trinidadian
who has fulfilled the colonial dream: he has obtained an English M.D. and a white wife.
Ironically, he spends much of his time trying to recapture his white identity. Rather than
face the future or the tangle of sexual involvements among all the aimless characters, Mark
plunges into the fantasy of Carnival. Adrian comments on the character of contemporary
life in Port of Spain as well as literally answering a question concerning Carnival nonsense
verses, asked Mark's wife, when he says: "I been playing Carnival for years, but to tell you
the truth, I don't know. I hear what everybody singing, and I sing that too. If you want to
play mask, just do and sing as the crowd, and you'll have the time of your life".22

With this irrational abandon to the swirl of life, Adrian, who has slept with Mark's
white wife near the end of his year-long brahmacharya exercise, and who has now recon-
ciled to pregnant Polly, renounces what a Hindu would call the way to salvation by
discipline (kannayoga) and accepts the way of love or compassion (bhakti). Like Walt
Whitman, he reflects that: "he was not only going to be like everybody else, be was going
to be the outcome of all their experiences, and emotions, the symbol of a steady, reliable,
collected man'"23 Both part of the swirl and, as artist or mystic, at the still eye of the

hurricane, Adrian's resolution is distinctly Hindu and requires a text like the Bhagavad Gita
for full explication, where, for example, Krishna explains the he is "outside of beings, and
within themJ Unmoving, and yet moving".24 & 25.

In I hear Thunder Selvon uses Carnival as a symbol for a new monracist society
where: "Black, white, brown and yellow, rich and poor, doctors, lawyers, and Government
officials, all were out on the streets jumping up in the bands." The problem is that Carnival
cannot last. Mark is exhausted, "determined to carry on to the 'Last Lap', even if he had to
play on his hands and knees." Nonetheless, the holiday must end with "straight-laced
Trinidadians, who sniffed at the hoi polloi and their 'disgraceful' behaviour at Carnival
time," back in control.

The Plain of Caroni (1970) is Selvon's bitterest novel. Race is again the focus, the
setting Trinidad. The plot concerns an Indian mother's obsession with insuring that her son,
Romesh,succeeds. Seeta, the mother, is thankful that Romesh "come out more clearskin
than the others." She hopes that he can "squeeze in" to make money and gain power while
whites and blacks are distracted fighting each other. Thus she explains "that racial dis-
crimination is strictly a matter between the white man and the Negro".26 She also explains
that these are Trinidadian whites, "born and living in this country," who thus "have all the
nasty, scheming Trinidad ways on top of their white colour." Seeta counsels that to succeed,
Romesh must adopt their methods: "Them is the sort of people you got to use and exploit.
Same way how they exploiting the common working man, black or Indian"'27 As a tool of
his mother, Romesh succeeds so well that he is called "a white Indian" 28 & 29. Like many
of Selvon's novels, the book ends in ambiguity. Romesh plans to go to England to do
graduate work, but it seems clear that he will

return to marry the white girl, whom his mother chose, and fulfill his father's prophecy:
"All these things what happening in Trinidad making you forget you is an Indian, and all
we customs and religion" Here is no Carnival of racial harmony and prosperity. Romesh
has abandoned his ethnic identity to become a white Indian, a scientific manager, and
urbanite with little family or past. Ironically, the pattern of colonial exile, which George
Lamming explicated so well (Exile, 25-50), has been brought home. Romesh is exiled from
his past and his culture, even though he lives in Port of Spain.

Those Who Eat the Cascadura (1972) is also concerned with race. In the plot an
Englishman visits a Trinidadian plantation where he falls in love with an ethnic Indian,
whom he feels cannot be transplanted from the primitive world which has produced her.
Racism proves more powerful than Garry's love for Sarojini. The theme is echoed in an
uglier and more perverse form when we discover that Roger Franklin, the plantation owner,
surreptitiously "visits" Indian women at night and is consequently the likely father of
Sarojini a practice as old and ugly as slavery. By indulging in the hysteria and clamor of
Carnival, Mark refused to hear the distant thunder. In Those Who Eat the Cascadura the

storm has grown into a hurricane which threatens the entire society of Trinidad.

Selvon's most direct answer to the problems of race and communalism, and the
opposite threat of urban anonymity, is provided by the character of Tiger, developed in the
two novels, A Brighter Sun (1953) and Turn Again Tiger (1958). We first met Tiger on
the occasion of his arranged marriage.Illiterate and accustomed to following his father's
orders as a child, at age sixteen he is married and placed in a village far from his parents, to
live very much on his own. This early independence, at an age before he has formed an
adult ethnic identity, and involvement with a multiracial, creolized set of neighbors in
Barataria, sensitize Tiger, who is by nature reflective and analytic, to become very self-con-
scious, insecure and purposeful in achieving a distinctive identity.

Beyond the influence of Babolal, his father, Tiger fortuitously becomes involved with
his next door neighbor, Joe Martin, a black man who becomes a surrogate father to Tiger.
Perhaps the most essential bit of wisdom Joe imparts to Tiger concerns community.
Although Joe and his wife, Rita, have no children of their own, they become parents to
Henry, their nephew. The lesson suggested by the Martins is that a family is the product of
love and decision, not biology. Analogously, Tiger will learn that a desirable community,
symbolized by creolized Baralaria, is based on commitment, concern, and dedication, not
race. A rough character spawned by an urban slum, Joe is no philosopher. In fact, like many
male characters in Selvon's work, Joe is saved or, at least, improved by his wife. Thus when
Rita loans Urmilla a bed on which to have her baby, Joe asks: "Who de arse tell yuh to
interfere in de coolie people business?" Rita tersely replies: "Is yuh neighbour!"
Meanwhile, Urmilla is telling Tiger: "They really good to we, and look how they is creole
and we is Indian!"32

When Urmilla has a daughter, Tiger's disappointment causes him to become more
self-conscious about his Indian heritage and to move a step closer to the creolized com-
munity. When his and Umiilla's parents come to see the baby, Tiger invites the Martins:
come over, neighbour, and meet we family".33 The Martins are met by frowns while "an
atmosphere of strain crept in: only Tiger and Unnilla seemed at ease".3 After the Martins
have been driven out. Babolal tells Tiger: "you must look for Indian friend.... Indian must
keep together." Urmilla is quick to speak for both her and Tiger: "these people good to us;
we is friends35 That night, by himself, Tiger recollects "the big thought he had
postponed.... Why I should only look for indian friend? What wrong with Hoe and Rita...
Ain't a man is a man, don't mind if he skin not white, or if he hair curl?" 36 Unable to
articulate this idea, which cuts at root of Indian tradition by rejecting the notion of caste,
Tiger symbolically rejects the constraints of his ethnic heritage by adopting a spontaneous
and non-traditional attitude towards his wife, who is struggling for a similar liberation: "she
knew that Indian women just kept the house and saw after the children and didn't worry

their men. But she wanted it to different with them, that they could talk and laugh together,
and share worries"38

Rejecting the example of his father and the implicit wisdom of the Iraditional communal
village, Tiger relies on a friend, Boysie, to explore the urban world of Port of Spain.
"Boysie was mixed up good and proper with the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the city," but
craves even more excitement than he finds in Port of Spain' Planning to go abroad after
the war, he marks time by parading the streets with his black girlfriend, delighted to see "the
stares of deep-rooted Indians," shocked by his disaffiliation of ethnic loyalty.40

Instead of seizing new opportunities and freedom in the city, Tiger's exploration centers
on a racial incident in which a black girl, employed as a retail clerk in a department store,
snubs him to attend to an abnoxious white woman, perceiving the futility of asserting his
claim to be served first, Tiger walks away while the clerk apologies: "Ah sorry, madam, but
yuh know how dese people rude." What is interesting is that the girl is not alluding to racial
prejudice, but inviting the white woman to collude in a feeling of urban superiority: "He
look as if he just come from de country".41 In this incident, Tiger receives no respect, not
so much because of race, but because of a lack of money and position in the urban world.
Nonetheless, Boysie interprets is as racism, telling Tiger: "is one ting yuh have to learn
quick, and dat is dat wite people is God in dis country."When Tiger protests, "1 ain't black.
I is a Indian," Boysie informs him: "Don't mind! As long as yuh ain't white, dey does call
yuh black, wedder yuh coolie or nigger chinee"'42 Boysie's wisdom parallels that of a
character in George Lamming's In the Castle of My Skin (1953), who, returning to Trinidad
from America, says: "If there be one thing I thank America for, she teach me who my race
was''43 Selvon, who is so concerned with race, might have pressed this point to argue for a
creole solidarity and a movement parallel to the emerging black American consciousness
described by Lamming in 1953: "Now there ain't a black man in all America who won't get
up an' say I'm a Negro an' I'm proud of it. We all are proud of it. I'm going to fight for the
rights o' the Negroes, and I'll die fighting. That's what any black man in the States will
say."4 Instead of using this scene to argue for a millitant, urban, and abstract politics of
race (creole in the sense of a self-conscious identification with every other Trinidadian),
Selvon uses it to foreshadow what might be called, an anthropology or creolization: the
spontaneous, natural, and subliminally occurring community affiliations fostered among
the three races in villages like Barataria after communal prejudice and custom are relaxed,
relations which have no ideological origins nor goals.

Tiger's world is never abstract. He has no interest in the impersonal city with its
competition for money, politics, and prestige gained from arcane careers. However, he has
rejected the ethnic Indian community: "I never grow up in too much Indian custom. All
different kinds of people in Trinidad, you have to mix up with all of them".45 In his search
for an alternative community, Tiger considers not only Port of Spain, where he could see

"representatives of all the races under the sun," but also the world beyond Trinidad.46
Having obtained a job with the American forces in Trinidad, Tiger invites two of them
home for supper. Although the thought never becomes conscious in Tiger's mind, it is
clear that he does not have the ambition to succeed in the American's world. For example,
Tiger both directly and indirectly expresses his loyally to his superiors, declining a promo-
tion because heasays: "I wouldn't like to stop working with you." Instead of appreciating
such loyalty to himself and enjoying the pleasure of communal security, the American
brusquely dismisses the sentiments, saying "Oh, never mind that!

It's a better job, and you'll make more money. You want to make money, don't
you?."49 The question is a virtual loyalty oath to American values, to which Tiger
niminally assents. The American then goes on to lecture "John,"as he calls Tiger on the
necessity of being involved in politics: "I've already seen you're an easy going people,"
that is to say, not politically contentious, It's politics that builds a country, John, don't ever
forget that. Don't sit back and let things happen to you" Ironically, Tiger takes the advice.
He unconsciously rebels at the American attempts to make a success out of him by being
peripatetic about his job and finally preferring manual labor. Although Tiger cannot
articulate it, he feels that success in money, politics, and technical expertise is ac-
complished at the expense of family and community

Near the end of a A Brighter Sun, Tiger struggles to articulate his hard-won and still
developing sense of what is important, both for himself and his society When Joe suggests
that he return to India, Tiger's responds, asking: "What I would go back there for Joe? I
bom in this country, Trinidad is may land." He goes on to develop the idea of creolization,
of Trinidad as a "melting pot": "it look to me as if everybody is the same. It have so many
different kinds of people in Trinidad,boy! You think I should start to wear dhoti? Or I
should dress as everybody else, and don't worry about Indian so much, but think of all of
we as a whole, living in one country, fighting for we rights?" Joe responds with another
rhetorical question, suggesting that Tiger's dilemma is contrived: "Ain't yul is all
Trinidadian? Ain't yuh is ah Trinidadian? Ain't yuh creolize?"47

Finally, readers should not be mislead by the talk about "rights to be fought for,"
adopted from the American civil fights struggle. Selvon makes it clear that be has his own
Trinidadian understanding of this struggle. Thus, Tiger, thinking of national unity and
the obstacles of communalism and race, acknowledges: "Is always wile man for wile man,
coolie for coolie, nigger for nigger."4R By referring to three races, Selvon suggests that the
problems of Trinidad, the Caribbean and perhaps much of the third world, are not ex-
clusively due to while colonialisms; nor will political independence miraculously solve all
the problems. Of course, this is a truism today, after the Iragic tribal wars in newly
independent African nations, bu it was an astute prediction in 1952.


As the novel, Turn Aging Tiger (1958) begins, Tiger is committed to a unique direction
of development. The usual colonial pattern, illustrated by Selvon's London novels as well
as by Naipaul in such books ad Mimic Men runs in this direction: from a primitive
settlement like Chaguanas or Five Rivers to a village like Barataria to a capitol city like Port
of Spain and from there to destinations abroad, such as London. In the beginning of the
novel, Tiger "remembered his early years in Chaguanas. In those day he never thought
about what he did".49 Illiterate, isolated, and ignorant of the world beyond immediate
experience, life was familiar, like drifting :along the stream, nothing much happens." But,
even from the minimal distance provided by Barataria and hard-won literacy, Tiger is able
to disassociate himself from the immediacy of living, to consider the quality and direction
of his life. Thus, he reflects that despite the opportunities after World War Two, to become
involved in the world-wide industrial economy, "He had done nothing. He hadn't even
gone into Port of Spain to work." Whereas many of the people he knew, "must have gone
ahead and done what they wanted to do".50

The crucial question is, what does Tiger want to do? Unresponsive to money, politics,
and involvement in the technical world, we are told that: "Tiger could read and write but lie
didn't know how to live". Selvon risks the plausibility of his peasant character, Tiger, on
this essential issue of values. For Tiger is preoccupied about the quality of pleasant life,
even though he seems to have had little opportunity to achieve the necessary distance, by
living in a city or abroad, to recognize its value. Once again, Lamming's character makes
the relevant point when, concerning the recognition of race, he says: "you can't understand'
it here. Not here. But the day you leave an' perhaps if you go further than Trinidad you'll
learn".52 On the other hand, one might argue that this lack of distance contributes to Tiger's
confused and emotional struggle for identity and that Tiger's position-straddling two
worlds is essential for a resolution that, in Sandra Paquet's words, affirms a "faith in the
creative thrust of a peasant life" (xix). More distance would irrevocably take Tiger too far
away to recover a peasant life, a tragedy illustrated by Selvon's London novels and The
Plains of Caroni.

When Tiger returns to a primitive settlement, like that in which he grew up, he reflects
on the loss of the amenities in Barataria, differences which a more sophisticated urbanite
might not be able to discern: "What a fool he had been to leave the security he had worked
so hard for".53 Tiger's bathos is especially humorous when compared to the pitiful loss of
culture and identity experienced by Selvon's London exiles. Even though he is not con-
scious of what he hopes to find in Five Rivers, Tiger resolves not "to drift around and get
lost in direction".54 However, Tiger does not return to live with his father in an isolated
settlement because he has failed in the urban world. Nor is he dedicated to an ideological
course of action, like Father Hope. He returns, in part, in order to analyze the quality of the

life in a peasant village, such as thai of his youth, to know exactly what he has given up and
what he has gained by moving to Barataria and making the concomitant cultural move from
primary identification with the ethnic Indian community to the creolized Trinidadian

Before leaving Barataria, Tiger begins to discern the desirability of a creolized com-
munily by recognizing the stultifying nature of communalism. Tiger is given a fare-fare
well to which Tall Boy, the Chinese grocer, is uninvited: "Nobody ever though of asking
Tall Boy to come, and this hurt him, though he kept it to himself. But the idea just never
occurred to anybody." When Tall Boy is audacious enough to show up, no one thinks
anything of it. In fact, Joe Martin congratulates Tall Boy on his liberality, saying: "You is a
real creolise Chinee".55 Delighted by Tall Boy's sociability, but also regretful about the
earlier social exclusion of the Chinese, Tiger muses: "Why it is that we hide things from
one another? The way how we really think...why it is, that when we get together, we don't
talk about that at all?"56 A large part of the answer is that each ethnic community is
ethnocentric. Patterns of discourse, subliminally communicated in the process of acquiring
a native culture, are not easily recognized, nor easily shared with those inhabiting another
culture. Moreover, it takes someone as sensitive and reflective as Tiger, or as artistic as
Selvon, to recognize and express the dynamics of the dialectic between communalism and

Tiger's developing consciousness of the value of a culturally diverse but nonetheless
authentic community, is aided by the counter-example of an artificial community, a legacy
of colonial imperialism. When the white supervisor comes to distribute the workers'
salaries, Babolal patemalistically tells them how to act: "What you want the supervisor to
think, that we so dirty and careless in Five Rivers?" lie advises them: "We have to give a
good impression. I hope everybody sweep their yard, and dress the children in clean
clothes." Finally, he comes to the essence of his lecture: "show some respect in front of the
supervisor".7 Tiger makes a political resolve to rebel against such groveling and demean-
ing behaviour, but he is psychologically undone by the supervisor's alluring while wife,
whose disturbing presence demonstrates to Tiger the superficiality of his pose. To adopt the
manner and pose of the white master is to continue to be controlled by nonindigenous
values and ultimately uncontrollable psychological forces, It is aneurotic style of life. The
example, in this regard, is Romesh, the "white Indian," who successfully "gels" the white
girl. Tiger deplores his loss of self-possession in sexually reacting to Mrs. Robinson, but he
is saved by his peasant values. Beyond the easily exhausted pornographic stereotype, he has
no use for the white woman, much less her world. Thus it is important when, after the
Robinson's have left, a cane worker says: "You is one of we, Tiger.... You just like one of
we, don't mind you could read and write".58

On closer examination, the sentence implies a recognition of Tiger's difference from

the others, making him "like one of we." Tiger's self-consciousness and conception of
himself as a totally free agent, whose future can be decided entirely by rational analysis and
decision, characterizes him as an heir of the Western philosophic tradition. Indeed, among
the books he has read are those by Plato, Aristotle, and Shakespeare. 5 He nearly abandons
allegiance to peasant tradition, and almost paraphrases Socrates' adage concerning the
unexamined life, when he resolves to be cautiously analytic: "Now not like long time, to do
things hastily and regret afterwards".0 But after achieving this rational freedom, Tiger is
disappointed because it destroys community and leaves the individual radically isolated to,
at best, enter into a self-interested social contract with other similarly independent and
isolated individuals. Thus, Tiger reflects that: "Each man was occupied in a little world of
his own, unconcerned with the rest".6 Knowing that he cannot be satisfied with such a
formal and loveless society, just as he has not been satisfied with ethnically formal roles in
marriage, Tiger makes the vain attempt to abandon reason and plunge back into the life of
the peasant: "But I done with them damn books. They only make me worry. Instead, I just
going to go on living like everybody else" Hoping to be distracted.by stories told by
More Lazy, the peasant artist, Tiger and Sam Selvon recognize how they are irrecoverably
alienated from the ingenuous peasant stock and tradition, which, ironically, they have
partially lost in the very process of recognition and affirmation: "'The ling is,' Tiger spoke
as if to himself, 'you not conscious of how you are. ...You just naturally tat way'".

Near the end of the novel, Tiger is criticized by one of the cane workers for his lack of
community involvement: "When you first come you had a lot of grandcharge about how
you could read and write, but you ain't help out anybody" It should be remembered that
the occasion which brought Tiger has been involved with his own psychological experi-
ment, which required isolation and privacy. Five Rivers is more his father's community
than Tiger's. When he is accused that, "This whole year you spend in Five Rivers was a
waste of time," Tiger softly respond: "I feel more like a man than when I first come".69
Having experimented with three or even four words the ethnic tradition-ridden village; the
casteless creolized community of Barataria; the urbanscape of Port of Spain; and the world
beyond, London and America- there is no more adolescent hesitation, indecision, nor hope
for paternal guidance, when Tiger announces that he is going "back to Barataria...where I
have my own house and garden".5

Finally, because he knows that most of his readers live in the cities of America and
Britain, Selvon emphasizes how differ Barataria is from the ethnic villages of Five Rivers
or Chaguanas. When Tiger confides to Joe Martin, "You know I bum all my books and I
turn my back on all them things," Joe tells him: "Well, turn again.' Joe said that like an
order. 'You can't change, boy. If you is a thinker, you slay a thinker all you life'"'.6 iger
has successfully renounced the worst elements of the illiterate, stultifying, and brutalizing
communal village, life, without becoming a victim of modernization: a lonely exile,
wandering in an urban wilderness with the ironically named Moses, in search of a life they

have forgotten. Tiger has found freedom, dignity, and community in Barataria, which, like
Gandhi's Sevagram for India, is Selvon's model for Trinidad and, with local adaption, for
the Caribbean. Because it is a community of choice and dedication, Barataria is a home for
all castes and races.


!.. Fabre, Michael. "Samuel Selvon," in West Indian Literature, ed Bruce King. Hamden, Conn.: Ar-
chon Books, 1979, 0. 113.
2.Jones, E. Stanley. Gandhi. Portrayal of a Friend. Nashville: Abington Press, 1948, p. 124.
3. The Lonely Londoners. London: Alan Wingate, 1956, p. 96.
4. P. 171.
5. Moses Ascending. London: Heinemann, 1975, p. 103, p. 125.
6. P. 125.
7.Selvon, Sam. An Island is a World. London: Alan Wingate, 1955, p. 131.
8. P. 132.
9. P. 188.
10. P. 196.
11. P 219.
12. P.258.
13. .P. 90.
14.. P. 92.
15. The Housing Lark. London: Mac Gibbon & Kee, 1965, p. 126.
16. P. 122.
17. P. 145.
18. .P. 145.
19. P. 152.
20. P. 153
21. P. 154.
22. P. 179.
23. P. 192.
24.Bhagavad Gita. Trans. Franklin Edgerton. New York: Harper, 1944, p. 18.
25. 1 lear Thunder: New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965, p. 15.
26. The Plains of Caroni. London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1970, p. 14.
27. P. 35
28. P. 152.

29. P. 159.
30. P.22.
31. .The Pleasure of Exile. London: Michael Joseph, 1960, p. 26-50.
32. A Brighter Sun. London: Alan Wingate, 1952, p. 39.
33. .P. 40.
34. P. 45.
35. P. 46.
36. P. 47.
37. P. 46.
38. P. 49.
39. P. 78.
40. P. 79.
41. P. 93.
42. P. 95.
43. P. 304.
44. P. 306.
45. P. 117.
46. P. 90.
47. P. 170.
48. P. 173.
49. P. 195.
50. P. 196.
51. Turn Again Tiger. London: Heinemann, 1958, p. 2.
52. P. 7.
53. P. 38,
54. P. 305.
55.Paquet, Sandra. Foreword to Turn Again Tiger. Sam Selvon, London: Heinemann, 1979, p.19.
56. .P. 48
57. P. 43.
58. P. 15.
59. P. 18.
60. P. 57.
61. P. 62.
62. P.112.
63. P. 89.


64. P. Ill.
65. . 115.
66. P. 113.
67. P. 150.
68. P. 169.




Luis Munoz Marin, statesman, poet and journalist, remains an enigmatic presence in the
annals of Puerto Rico's modem history. He was a masterful persuader, the creator of a
powerful political party, a humanist and a lover of democratic liberty. In his early years,
living in two competing cultures, he dedicated endless hours to poetry, prose, and political
activism. Island politics captured his soul as well as his imagination and in a relatively short
period of time, he focused his energy on mobilizing the island's dispossessed into a
powerful social movement. In 1947, he emerged as Puerto Rico's first elected Governor, a
position he would hold until his retirement from office in 1964.

Munoz was bom in 1898 into a distinguished family of poets, orators, journalists, and
politicians. The son of Luis Munoz Rivera, the only Puerto Rican statesman to have
assumed, for a brief period of months, the leadership of an autonomous island nation,
Munoz inherited many of his father's ideals. During his active political career, he used the
power of his charisma to persuade Washington politicians and people at home to establish
a semi-autonomous political state. A darling of Roosevelt's New Dealers, Munoz soon
became a legend in the Caribbean, praised for his agrarian reforms and industrial programs.
A charismatic counterpart to Fidel Castro in the 1960s, he was a key supporter of
Kennedy's Alliance for Progress, demonstrating the possibilities of capitalist development
in the Caribbean region. To radical advocates of independence, however, he was a ven-
depatria, one whose economic miracles turned the "poor-house" of the Caribbean into a
"gilded cage." Beyond Puerto Rico's boundaries, he is largely forgotten today, overlooked
by the Latin American historians and ignored by literary critics. Yet, his legacy remains not
only in the social changes that transpired under his leadership but also in the literature he
produced: poetry, essays, lectures, and a political memoir. Concerned with the effects of
time on the very fabric of social memory, Munoz sought to leave a written legacy of his
distinguished career. From the mid 1960s until his death in 1980, he spent endless hours
writing, dictating, and rewriting his life history. His autobiographical writing encompasses
dozens of drafts, thousands of pages of narrative and dozens of scattered notes, each

reflecting on his role as the orator-leader of a dynamic popular movement. His
autobiographies are works of self-affirmation, political testaments aimed at present and
future audiences.

The Orator-Autobiographer

While addressing audiences in the language of messianic utopianism, Luis Munoz
Marin (1898-1980) popularized the myth of the Puerto Rican "spirit" embodied in his
father and bequeathed to him.1 After his death in 1980, the Munoz heirs, with the help of
colleagues, hurriedly pieced together an autobiographical text for island publication. The
!consummate politician, Munoz had prepared earlier versions of his autobiography, includ-
ing the ghosted "Rosskham" text, often for political purposes. The earliest version appears
in the unfinished La Historia del partido popular democratic, written in 1942, while
facing mutiny among independentistas within his party, and published by the Foundation's
Editorial Batey in 1984. In mellifluous prose, Munoz celebrates the 1940 electoral victory
by recalling the "determining factors" of his life that led him to organize and to lead a
successful populist movement. To his questions, "who am I? How am I? Where did I come
from?" he answers, "the product of a civilization with two cultural democratic forces, the
Spanish sense of human equality and the American genius for organizing human
equality.'A To provide an activating image of a leader incarnating the good, the just, and the
true, Munoz assumes a distant, third-person narrative presence, one that he would use again
in 1973 text.5 As Jean Starobinski explains, the third-person narrative often "makes com-
patible events glorifying the hero who refuses to speak in his first name."

In its archives, the Luis Munoz Marin Foundation houses at least a dozen
autobiographies by Munoz. Most are unfinished drafts; they attempt to reconstruct his rise
among the poor, rural jibaros and to reconcile his past political actions with his ideology. It
was left to Munoz's widow, Dona Ines, to face the enormous task of preparing his
autobiography for publication. She encountered polished texts, rough drafts, outlines,
revisions, interviews, notations and ruminations, speeches, instructions, and letters, each
intending to give shape and form to the magnus opus of his life.

During the summer of 1980, Ines Mendoza and her crew of editors revamped parts of
four borradores (or drafts) to piece together a "final" text. Original chapters were shor-
tened; phrases were re-written, words were eliminated or inserted. Chronologies were
altered, transitions between paragraphs and chapters added. Victoria "Melo" Munoz, a
populist Senator within the Popular Democratic Party (P.D.P.) and Munoz's daughter,
admitted that they worked largely from three texts which included the "Rome" and "Letter
to Rina" versions, selecting what they considered to be the "best narrative pieces." From
the various altered versions, a new text emerged which, like many of the originals, offered
little self-disclosure.

In all of its formats, Memorias is and should be treated as rhetoric, for it aims at
producing effects on an audience. Its purpose is to garnish assurances, gain self-legitimiza-
tion, and inspire ideological growth.9 Memorias upholds virtues, beliefs and ideas while
attempting to transform the Self into a universal symbol of the Democratic Leader. It is a
"public" narrative replete with political battles, conspiracies and intrigue. By consciously
following autobiographical conventions, Munoz takes his readers on a chronological
voyage to an euphoric climax.

The narrative begins with events surrounding the protagonist's birth in 1898, "the exact
moment of the greatest turning point in the history of Puerto Rico since the date of its
discovery."l Munoz experiences the rites of passage as a young Socialist who breaks away
from his father's circle of friends to advance the cause of the dispossessed. He attends
tertulias as a young bohemian poet while enjoying the camaraderie of the island's major
writers. Later, he rides the circuit with Santiago Iglesias, the Socialist labor leader and an
important mentor in developing his persuasive skills. The narrator recalls the main course
of his life as a bilingual "butterfly" fluttering between mainland and Puerto Rican political
circles, persuading Washington politicians and people at home to establish social and
economic reforms. Along the way, he marries, has children, takes a mistress and, with her,
has more children. He builds a populist party, makes speeches, and defies the huge sugar
estates' hold on the local electorate. The story culminates with the 1940 campaign victory
of the Popular Democratic Party, one that "became legendary, a model exercise in the
political mobilization of a semi-literate electorate on a shoe-string budget."''

In Munoz's vision of the past, history is identified largely with public address. The
hero of Memorias is nothing less than the incarnation of the "people's voice," his tale, one
of messianic proportions. In the minds of both audience and author, memories of a national
campaign for social justice are rekindled. The campaign becomes the central metaphor for
a vocation, a life's work of service to his people. The orator-autobiographer, in effect,
transforms his protagonist into a fictional representative of an era. One doubts that it could
have been drawn otherwise. It was Munoz's ability to mobilize the masses and to persuade
the politicians of the dominant, external power, after all, that ushered in a period of major
social changes in Puerto Rican history.

Munoz oratorical skills found their greatest expression in addressing complex issues in
a language most people understood. For nearly thirty years, populist oratory helped to keep
him in the power while he transformed the agrarian culture of Puerto Rico into the
Caribbean's most technological society. As the orator-autobiographer of Memorias, Munoz
is the annointed leader, the master rhetorician "thoroughly versed in the art of persuasion or
argument and capable of any logical maneuver that serves his purpose." As William H.
Hogarth explains, the orator-autobiographer is "a pastoral figure, closely attentive to his
listening flock, speaking aloud for the benefit of others."12

To heighten his narrative and to reaffirm his historicist approach to autobiography,
Munoz consistently integrates sections of popular speech texts into his narratives. "I am
aware of the incidental changes that take place as oratory (the ethics of responsibility)
transmits history into action," he states in a 1970 version of his autobiography; "the
speeches and writings that are herein reproduced relate how a significant part of historical
action was produced."'

Many of his speeches present a vision of Puerto Rican history as divided into stages
and dependent on the personalities of Munoz Rivera and son. In La Historia del partio
popular democratic, for instance, he upholds the myth of Munoz Rivera's ongoing
resurrection. A radio speech, first delivered in 1944, becomes a vital part of the central text.
"The epoch of Munoz Rivera was the epoch of patriots," he announces in this text within a
text. "The epoch since his death has been one of political managers." He links past and
present to the Popular Party which, like a fertile womb, carries the revitalized seed of the
Father. By employing repetition, parallelism, and amplification, Munoz enhances his
appeal to action:

The epoch that this Partido Popular Democratico
initiates at your service is your own epoch, the epoch
in which you, the suffering people, are going to estab-
lish your own government in the name of your hope, in
the surety of your own justice, for the creation of a full
future for your children. Now you yourselves are
going to be Munoz Rivera.14

As would any astute political theorist, Munoz understood that a nation requires social
myth to give unity and legitimacy to social movements. Political discussions in his early
bohemian days with Latin American revolutionaries residing in New York may have
awakened in him an understanding of the potency of a mythical persona as an activating
symbol in national struggle. Perhaps, his translations of the "democratic" poets-Markham,
Lindsay, and Sandburg strengthened his penchant for articulating, at close range, revolu-
tionary symbols that challenge the hegemonic power of official institutions. certainly, in
1919, Munoz had translated Vachel Lindsay's celebratory poem of William Jennings
Bryan's 1896 campaign where the body orator captures the hearts of the North American
hearthland through his "Cross of Gold" speech' The "popular" political aristocracy of
Munoz, father and son, provided not only legitimacy for Munoz Marin's political ambitions
but equally, and more importantly, a rhetorical myth for establishing both public and
private identity.

As early as 1923, in order to preserve his father's fame, Munoz had edited Munoz
Riveria's manuscripts for publication by enlisting a group of under-employed young
writers in Puerto Rico to join his efforts. In 1925, he published Munoz Rivera's "Political

Campaigns"; these were taken from his father's writings, correspondence, and speeches.
Later, as editor of La democracia, he sustained the newspaper's by-line, "founded by Luis
Munoz Rivera." Throughout his long political career, Munoz delivered his most significant
speeches annually on July 17, at his father's graveside in the small mountain town of
Barranguitas. Ostensibly, the event served to commemorate Munoz Rivera's birth; but it
also served as a touchstone, an annual oratorical ritual which set forth central themes in an
ongoing political narrative.

During his later years, as autobiographer re-inventing his life, Munoz would espouse an
historical vision that places his father at a pivotal position in the cultural development of
Puerto Rico. The idealized statesman appears as a moral and political ideal, a martyr "who
in death transcended party lines to become the Puerto Rican Man" (Memorias, 40). As a
mobilizing symbol, "M.R." enhances his theme of historical continuity. Significant inter-
textual allusions also reveal psychological intentions: to offer a "life" as justification to the
father. Even though Munoz was more his "mother's child," protected and guided by her
while his patriarchal father, always perambulate, sought political goals, we are led to see his
father's legacy as Munoz's razon de ser.16

Myth and Intertextuality

The ambitious objective of bequeathing a political testament, describing and justifying
a life, recreating and re-interpreting an elusive past leaves Munoz uneasy, uncertain and
unable to merge what he was with what he has become. As a result, experience and
reflection become blurred in the moment of recollection. Recall becomes an agony, a task
shared with friends, colleagues, and paid staff. Memories alter as experience becomes
dependent on public speeches and historical studies, on interviews, articles, and on the
scattered resources of published texts. What we find in Memorias, consequently, are texts
within texts: interviews, speeches, details from correspondence and books, the recollec-
tions of others, the tidbits of different pasts. And if we consider the editorial choices of
using and pasting together different pieces of various texts, we will also find, like
mysterious Chinese boxes, texts within texts within texts. Autobiography, the epis-
temological genre for recapturing time, for transforming inner image into a picture image
for others, becomes a curse, what Karl Weintraub succinctly calls "a devotion to nota-

In the process of justification, moreover, the narrative self emerges as a larger-than-life
Leader, a mythic figure made for inspiration. Lacking intimate self-exploration, the pub-
lished text fails to heed the warning of Edwin Rosskham, ghost-writer of the 1876 English
version, who pleaded with Munoz to reveal his "inner" sources, "lest the whole thing
become a platitude, another of those self-congratulatory reminiscences that have little
honest meat to offer the hungry young."1

Munoz's attempt to transform his life story into a testament to be read by generations
of Puerto Ricans brings his autobiography closer to propaganda than to the realm of art. He
was well aware of the dichotomy between autobiography as an aesthetic literary genre and
autobiography as a persuasive myth, a form of self-propaganda. "Writing a book is an art,"
Munoz states in the 1973 preface. "Living a life is, superficially, a task, profoundly, a
destiny." As autobiographer, he strives for historical verisimilitude: as a "leader," he seeks
justification for past errors. This is the very root of his inertia, his inability to transform the
messianic vision into a more profound, lasting, and honest self-portrait. In a prologue to a
revised version of the "Rosskham book," Munoz avoids intimate disclosure, settling for the
rhetoric of the Puerto Rican Leader

This book, so often intended as a chronological
narration, futilely intends to be a history of the civil
war in my conscience...It will discuss among other
things my personal life, politics, incidents and anec-
dotes...but this will be the principle theme: the civil
war in the heart of a man who loved his pueblo affec-
tionately and finds it divided in contradictions be-
tween the nation that is united and the plurality of
individuals who comprise it.

The prologue captures, nonetheless, Munoz's preoccupation with his abandonment of
socialism and independence for commonwealth status and massive infusions of federal aid.
"For Puerto Rico, patria, the collective dignity consists in independence or in enlarged
autonomy," he writes, "but it hasn't turned out that way."9

The internal "civil war" over ideology aggravated competing impulses in
autobiographical intentionality. To be a writer is one thing," Munoz writes, "to be a leader
is another." He sought historical chronology, palimpsest memory, a narrative bound to a
single perspective on a set of facts. "A writer writing about a leader can do an excellent
job," he states; "when the writer and the leader are the same person, they encounter
difficulties.'20 The "civil war" extended far beyond the boundaries of narrative style. In
re-telling his past, Munoz faces the difficult burden of revealing betrayals and errors of
judgment."The leader would not like to have defects, but he has them; he would like not to
have made errors, but being human, he has committed them," the narrator confesses. "And
having committed them, his human nature has to justify them. The writer shouldn't do
this." To this he adds, "that's why I've taken so long in finishing this book."21

In the process of self-disclosure, Munoz bemoans memory's limited power to recreate
experience. He recognizes that just as memory creates narrative, narrative structure im-
poses order and sequence on events. As lie reflects on his youth, he notes that he was
propelled into events without comprehending them and questions whether imagination and

memory fuse. "At such an early age," he writes, "it is difficult to separate the narrative from
the memory itself" (Memorias).

Memory's impotence functions, paradoxically, as both curse and blessing. As it dis-
places the experiential past, memory reconstructs, in its wake, an artifice that, as Richard
Terdiman reminds us, is "susceptible of the most varied and sometimes of the most guilty

Munoz omitted several important and, often, intimate recollections from his
autobiographical texts23 This may reflect a shift in attitude as he penetrates both past and
present. Just as his oratory created a following his autobiography creates a corpus. Political
exigencies at the time of writing may have led him to conceal thoughts, facts, and feelings.
To create a sense of group destiny, moreover, he may have distorted facts. In at least two
versions of his autobiography, We learn of the important visit of Elizabeth Freeman and her
daughter, the widow of an English miner.

In December, 1920, as socialists, Freeman and her daughter gave lecture about "revolu-
tion, strategies, tactics" and Saint-Simon in Puerto Rico. "Elizabeth Freeman," Munoz
writes in an unpublished autobiography, "opened up for me a pers active of the labor
movement and of revolutionaries in the United States, [in] England. Freeman is barely
drawn, however, and, in the later, more polished versions, she appears not at all. In fact,
women are described only in passing even such vital female politicians of the party as
Felicia Rincon de Gautier.25

We also learn little relatively of Nemesio Canales' friendship with Munoz and his
family nor of the intimate detail, found in other narrative outlines, of Canales' influence
upon his life and art. The poet, Muna Lee, Munoz's first wife, is also given little attention.
Absent from the published text are the adventure of the newlyweds, Luis and Muna, as they
travel on foot, trolley, and riverboat from New York to Washington, D.C., an episode that
appears in at least four of Munoz's previous texts. Moreover, Muna Lee's image was
removed from a family photograph taken in 1934. The altered photograph (sans Lee)
accompanies the published text.26 By focusing on political activity, Munoz protected not
only family and friends from the consequences of self-revelation in a highly-charged
political environment but he also maintained his image as the national Patriarch. The
editors followed suit.

To Munoz, group loyalty was imperative. In a 1970 autobiographical narrative that ran
over 500 pages, Munoz revealed his dilemma in producing a truthful account of his life, one
that might not harm his party's electoral position. "As a citizen, I have my criteria about
what should happen in Puerto Rico for the good of its people in the immediate future," he
writes; "as a commentator on historical events, including my own actions, I can, while
adjusting myself to the ethics of truth, adversely affect my own projection of the immediate

future beginning with the elections of 1972." In a series of self-addressed questions, he
struggles with a decision that "if truth obliges me, will put at risk the triumph that I believe
the party needs in 1972 for telling truths that may illuminate the more distant future." Faced
with "the burden of this dilenuna," he admits to changing "many years."27

Munoz not only "changed" many years of his life in his re-telling of it, but he also
omitted anecdotes that reveal the depths of his creative imagination, his use of humor, and
affection for comaraderie. In this marvelous recollection from an unpublished version, one
sees him adopting his favorite name:

In New York, I learned to play and to see baseball.
Frequently, I went to the Polo Grounds to see the New
York Giants play. It was the era of Christie (sic) Math-
ewson and also the year in which Marquand, the
pitcher, won 19 straight games which is still a record in
professional baseball. When I returned from the Polo
Grounds every afternoon, a German boy waited for me
whom, not having the money to have invited him to the
game with me, I would tell him about the game, inning
by inning, showing him plays of special interest..
Among the boys on my block, we gave ourselves
names of persons whom we considered eminent. In
general, we considered as eminent those names which
we read in the newspapers who had millions of dollars.
One boy who served meals at the Martinez boarding
house assumed the name of Rockfeller. Another called
himself Edison, who made his money with his inven-
tions. Another we called Vanderbilt. I took for myself
a name closer to my aspirations: Thompson who was
Thompson? The owner of the Coney Island amuse-
ment park, "Luna Park." He also had a lot of money,
but much less than Rockefeller or Edison or Vander-
bilt. But he was the owner of rides, of roller-coasters,
of hot-dog stands, canoe rides through paper-board
scenes of Venice'28

In the jumbled published text, 'Thompson" is overlooked; and with his absence, we
miss a vital key to Munoz's self-identity. So, too, are references to Munoz's unfinished
semi-autobiographical novel of a lonely poet in the urban wilderness based on a "com-
posite" personality of Munoz and the poet Evaristo Ribera Chevremont.29 Munoz tended to
overlook the lean years in New York, moreover, when financial difficulty drove him into a

sales job as agent for a school book about government. In unpublished autobiographies, we
learn that in 1922, he visited poor neighborhoods in New York to sell the book on an
installment plan and that in February, 1923, he travelled to Puerto Rico with samples that
he intended to sell to the Department of Public Instruction.3' As far as Munoz biographers
are concerned, this trip marked his intentions to publish his father's works.3

Editorial carelessness created occasional distortions in the published text. In several
versions of his autobiography, Munoz tells of his mother's warning to the young
protagonist not to cross the trolley tracks that marked the boundaries of their communal
world. The "Rosskham" text, for instance, reads:

My world in New York had very narrow limits. My
mother told me that I must never cross the trolley
tracks on 8th Avenue. The trolley tracks were my

In the published text, my father supplants my mother.33 Moreover, many colorful and
revealing reminiscences of Munoz's childhood days were overlooked in the editing
process. From the "final" text, this carefully rendered description of the young child's sense
of wonder is lost; and with it, we lose insight into Munoz's formation as a bicultural person,
a nuyorriquen of sorts:

It was in New York where I...began to internalize
the world's panorama. From there came my earliest
memories that gave shape to my life. I made friends
with Santa Claus before knowing who the Three Kings
were. Several times, I penetrated into the incredible
paradise of Coney Island-Luna Park and Dreamland,
a world of lights, music, candies colors, games,
voyages, mysteries, tricks, of complete happiness. The
elevated train was also marvelous with its enormous
locomotives speeding along on the level of roof-tops-
tops .......Central Park, smelling of grass and animals
in the area of its small zoo, a dramatic drawing in black
and while in the winter, a place of vertiginous

In the autobiographical sketch within the text of Historical del partido popular
democratic, Munoz went to great lengths to describe his biculturalism, expressed primari-
ly through language. "As I began to give names to things-this daily unshakeable baptism
in which the boy begins shaping his spiritual lodge-there were two names for each
existing thing," he writes. "This goes far beyond a mere translation of syllables whose

equivalent meaning can be found in any dictionary," be continues. "To be sure, it is more
like a parallel series of connotations that dictionaries translate, but which meaning con-
tinues to distinguish..connotations which carry with it all of a history, all of a way of seeing,
all of a spiritual altitude."35 Such penetrating reflections on the inter-relationship between
language and early identity formation, aimed at explaining the author's bi-cultural vision,
are absent from many of the later texts.36 Munoz's three hundred and sixty-two page
autobiographical Letter to Rina ,written to his wife's niece in 1973, for instance, reveals a
narrator less intent on displaying his biculturalism than on affirming his native roots. As an
aging Leader, he writes primarily of his development within political ranks.

In a few of his autobiographical sketches, Munoz recalls past events which, neverthe-
less, gave form and substance to his bicultural development. They form intertextual pieces
of a continuous narrative thread. Robert R. Wilson refers to narrative "intertexts" as
"untold," allusive stories, the "flecks of carbon shadowing from within the crystallization
of narrative, shadows of an incompletely actualized matrix."37 Some are uneasy recollec-
tions, jotted down and passed over quickly. Other entries relate experiences of awe,
anxiety, and guilt. Many of the autobiographical "outlines" begin as lists of events.
Gradually, Munoz adds details, drawing out, in some instances, his emotional reactions to

In a 1969 handwritten, fifty-six page manuscript, for example, Munoz jotted down
important experiences, "to let my mind and thoughts roam and to see what they will tell me
about how my life relates to Puerto Rico, to the ideas, controversies, purposes, ideals that
have affected and can affect the future of Puerto Rico."38 As he roanss" through the
passageways of time and memory, details emerge from the page; soon, one-word entries
extend to phrases and to sentences. Several emerge in paragraph length.39 To an inves-
tigator of psycho-history, the memories of 1911 are intensely revealing:

Mass every morning at 6 I took communion
without knowing that I shouldn't have. I realized: wor-
risome situation, without a way out. I had received the
body of God when I should not have, the lack of
remedy was suffocating. I was worried over the ir-
remediable violation more than that which could be
investigated, but that bothered me, too. Finally, I think
I remember, I confessed in the confessional and I felt
an extraordinary relief

We prayed every night before the evening bell
would ring, each on his knees before the door of his
room, the prayer was led by a "mister" (that was an
official title) there were fathers, "misters" and

brothers. The "misters" were teachers who would be-
come priests the brothers worked in the stores, the
hospital, the kitchen and cleaning departments."

While he spent summer vacations, Christmas and Easter in New York with his mother,
Munoz saw his father on Sundays and on one "week day." They would sit, he tells us, in the
"sombre, somewhat medieval" visiting room in Georgetown's "main" building.41 Between
1912-14, at "good" restaurants and in the company of his father and his father's friends, he
began to conceive an "ordered" view of the world and of appropriate interpersonal be-
haviour. "I began to smoke," he writes, "and my father placed a flower vase on the table
between him and me, to, symbolically, not see me.'42

Each fragment of the past, recollected decades later, form a story-matrix incorporating
various modes of self-perception. From these "false starts" a pattern emerges, nonetheless,
of a self continuously undergoing change, still revising his life story to meet the demands
of the current moment. As Bakhtin remarks, "differences in plot follow from differences in
values."3 Munoz's earlier epic accounts, celebrating electoral victories, express an enor-
mous need for self-aggrandizement; later accounts, although celebratory, apologize for past
errors while indicating the route to future success. Munoz, the autobiographer, also faced
the obvious constraint of multiple audiences. Various drafts owe their uncertain tone to a
broad readership that included indulgent friends, family members, disciples and political
rivals, international politicians, stateside and overseas audiences, the elusive electorate, and
the always ephemeral future reader.

Concerned with events that foreshadow his later convictions, Munoz gives in to con-
tradictory currents: autobiographical apologetics and polemics. The conscious polemical
intentions of the autobiographer operate, moreover, within what Roy Pascal terms "the
unconscious polemics of memory" which are revealed in selection, discrimination and

As autobiography is an intricate, evolving process of self-creation, the self can neither
be fixed nor static. It is fragmented, fluid, and as Paul John Eakin reminds us, "necessarily
a fictive structure.'5 The changing nature of the self is one of the reasons for the omissions
and revisions in what one might call, to borrow a phrase from Roland Barthes, Munoz's
"obsessive monologue.'46

In a prologue, written in long-hand on a lined notepad in 1975, Munoz writes that the
life he "intends to narrate (really to synthesize) is long, from 1889 until 1975." This brief
history of a "long life and a profound vision of a good future" speaks of autobiography as
an ongoing process. The unfinished nature of that process is apparent in the long, con-
voluted sentences used to describe it:

It has been ten years since I first tried to write it.

Between penned, dictated, taped recordings and con-
versations, they must take up thousands of pages. They
don't satisfy me, although without a doubt they have a
value that a miner in history and literature could dig up
and refine. But why? I don't know exactly. Perhaps,
for a lack of access to data or a resignation to become
submerged in the careful handling of papers and scur-
rilous writings or haste in arriving at the moment of
transferring experiences or memories (that at times are
not the same experiences) of the past to the projections
of the future-which is the most that should be of
interest-or possibly that which gives certainty to my
suspicion that even the most dramatic political life one
discovers, while narrating, it, a certain vulgarity (this
is not the word, it can denote snobbery that is not
intended) that appears strange to the most pure and
sincere intentions to which this life could have been

The Ghosted Text as 'Subtext'

The "Rosskham text" illuminates a wide range of issues in intertextual debate. Written
in English in 1975-76, it was revised by Munoz, translated by an aide, edited and inserted
into the published text by Ines Men4oza. Based on conversations between Rosskham and
Munoz, Rosskham attempted to divide "Don Luis' lifetime into manageable chunks" while
feeling "free to cut out stumbles and useless repetitions and to condense things when it
seemed right." Rosskham explains that he left "as much of the intimate and impromptu
feelings of conversation as I could.'A' It appears that Munoz was largely satisfied with the
first twelve chapters of the ghosted text but saw chapters covering the period since 1964 as
demanding major revision.4

Rosskham was aware that as he shaped the narrative, trying to "make the flow and
growth" of Munoz's ideas "the guiding principle for his selection of material included or
excluded." His personality, no doubt infiltrated the text, forming a sub-text in an otherwise
untold story. Rosskham's sub-text, a form of secondary narrative, comments on the story.
"Edwin Rosskham...during the process of creation quite often felt presumptuous for brashly
imposing his editorial judgment on the natural product of 'too fully documented' public
life," he writes to Munoz; "I make no apologies for this book."50

Autobiography or Collective Biography?

The question remains of whether Memorias is an auto-biography oral collective biog-

raphy, justifying not the individual self but a collective entity. If autobiography is, as
George Gusdorf writes, "the attempt and the drama of a man struggling to reassemble
himself in his own likeness at certain moments of his history,"51 what can one say when
faced with an altered chronology, of patterns made posthumously?

In La Historia del partido popular, Munoz juxtaposes author and protagonist, the
autobiographer and the biographer. "I believe that 1 have learned more of my contem-
porary," he writes of his protagonist, "for the simple reason that doesn't merit much on my
part: I've spent a lot of time observing his growth, while he...scarcely has had time or
interest to observe himself." He continues, "autobiography invades, without great satisfac-
tion on my part, a field that really corresponds best to biography. But it so happens that
biography, in order to be good, has to 'post mortem.' Autobiography also, if you could
write it after death, would be better. Right now, one can't." Tongue in cheek, he adds,
"please excuse the limitations that accompany the act, pitiable without doubt for some that
I provisionally continue living."52 Ironically, the "limitations" of life prevented Munoz
from completing his task. Subsequently, his autobiography underwent biographical
surgery. Under the acute application of editorial scalpels, it emerged as a distinct 'post
mortem' narrative, the stillborn child of memory and circumvention. Birthed by others and
adopted by the party, it was welcomed by a devoted public.

Memorias focuses on Munoz as an annointed Leader, towering over this time. It fails to
capture, however, the essence of the man, the complex nature of his bi-culturalism, and the
spirit of the common folk who helped to tum a man of substance and great character into a
political myth. As a "ghostly image" of that life, "already for distant, and doubtless
incomplete,"53 Memorias serves Munoz's main intention, nonetheless, of providing an
activating image aimed at present and future audiences.


1. Among the recent dissertations on Munoz, Joseph Figueroa Delgado's The Metaphorical Con-
struction of Political Reality: Luis Munoz Marin's Public Persona and the Exodus Fantasy of
the Commonwealth Rhetoric Vision deserves attention. Figueroa argues that Munoz developed a
public persona of a leader "in an archetypal exodus theme within the Puerto rican autonomist fan-
tasy type and in line with traditional Latin American Edenic, demonic and utopian myths." Univer-
sity of Minnesota, 1985.
2.Edwin Rosskham, who directed Education para la comunidad, was a professional writer and
photographer who first came to Puerto Rico to cover the Hays Commission hearings for Life
magazine. He and his wife, Louise, remained close friends of the Munoz family; and in 1975,
Munoz paid Edwin to help him to write his autobiography. Much of Rosskham's text, translated
into Spanish, I believe, by Antonio Colorado, appears in the published version. No acknow-
ledgements are made by its editors. Correspondence between Rosskham and Mr. and Mrs. Munoz
reveals Rosskham's deep concern, bordering on distress, that the manuscript would be rushed into
publication before the election of 1976.

I have decided to quote at length from Rosskham's letter of May 14, 1976, where he discusses pub-
lication pressures. Abel Plenn, it should be mentioned, was a small publisher who ran Troutman
Press. The letter begins, "Dear Friends," and continues:
"Ever since Abel Plenn phoned me a couple of evenings ago and told me of what you and he talked
about in Puerto Rico, I have been trying to decide whether to write to you or not.
On the one hand, I said to myself, 'by next week, the captions and the last of the photographs will
be on their way to Puerto Rico, and my job will be finished. One year is enough. It is time to bow
On the other hand, Iput up an energetic counter-argument: 'This book didn't start a year ago,' I
told myself.' It started in 1938, when Munoz Marin and I first met in the apartment above the
Democracia over a bottle of rum (or was it Spanish brandy?) I can't close off a big chunk of
lifetime as if it were just an ordinary job...What worries me is Plenn's report that you tentatively
agreed to an early deadline. I worry, first of all, because meeting any deadline is bound to be a
strain, and at this stage may prove harmful to your recovery, don Luis. Secondly, the contents of the
book will be fundamentally affected by the decision to rush into print a month before elec-
tion....Please do not think me impertinent when I say that the book will not be very effective in the
coming election. I don't believe that any book-rushed through, inadequately proofread and sloppily
manufactured, as it will have to be under such conditions-can be properly distributed and read in
time to be really understood. This is no BATEY, no Catecismo del pueblo. This book-no matter
how you modify it-will take time to digest, especially since it will be directed to an audience more
addicted to TV than reading matter. Under these circumstances it will be easy for the papers to pick
portions out of context to bend them to their purposes and prejudices."
In the possession of the Fundacion Luis Munoz Marin, Caja AAA.
3.La historla del partido popular, 84. There are eight completed chapters. Editor Luis Agrait and
staff preface the edition by stating that "it is difficult to edit Munoz Marin. His prose is precise, con-
cise, and compact. The repetition...is didactic." All translations by the author.
4.Ibld., 29-33. Perhaps Munoz's friendship with Elmer Ellsworth, a "Continental" who helped him
to organize the party and to mobilize the poor rural countryside, played a significant role then in
Munoz's identification with bicultural values. Ellsworth appears in most of Munoz's
5."Libro," Borrador C, September, 1973.
6."The Style of Autobiography," Essays Theoretical and Critical, 77.
7.Although Ines Mendoza de Munoz was the most prominent among the editors of Memorias (who
also included "Melo" (Victoria) Munoz, Gustavo Agrait, Antonio Colorado, Jaime Benitez and,
possibly, Ricardo Alegria), in an interview with the author, she claimed that the autobiography
"didn't interest him much." She added that he wanted it to serve as a "lesson" on how a leader was
made. One of the reason for writing it, she said, was his continuea angustia" to "bregar con el
capitalismo" Interview with the author, 27 June 1989.
8.lnterview with the author, June, 10989.
9.Ideology, according to Stephen Zelnick is "a way of telling a story". He warns, appropriately, that
"so long as ideology is conceived of as separate from the strategies of narrative, the ideological
workings of literature will be misunderstood." See "Ideology as Narrative: A Critical Approach to
Robinson Crusoe" in Literature and Ideology, edited by Harry R. Garvin (Lewisburg: Bucknell
University Press, 1982), 81.
10.Memorlas: Autoblograria Publica, 1898-1940. (San Juan: Interamerican University Press or
Puerto Rico, 1982), 1. All translations are by the author.
11.Raymond Carr, Puerto Rico: A Colonial Experiment (New York: Vintage Books, 1984) 114.

12."Some Principles of Autobiography, Essays Theoretical and Critical, 93.
13."Prologue," handwritten, small notepad, undated and uncatalogued. In Munoz's office at the
Fundacion Luis Munoz Marin.
14.See Memorlas, 208-209 for another, similar rendition of the historical stages of Puerto Rico.
See also Consuelo Lopez Springfield, "Caribbean Autobiography: The Voice of Caliban,"
SECOLAS Annals, 21 (March, 1990), 52-58.
15.See "Poetas de la democracia," Cuasimodo, l (December, 1919). Reprinted in "Dos Articulos
de 'Cuasimodo.'" Pamphlet. (Trujillo Alto: Fundacion Luis Munoz Marin, n.d.).
16.The uncatalogued 1970 autobiography, housed at the Fundacion Luis Munoz Marin is the most
personal and revealing. Originally dictated and later edited by Munoz, it tells of close friends, fami-
ly, and decisions. We find reference, for instance, to his father's two daughters born of wedlock
who, at the time of Munoz Ricera's death, were taken care of by the very friends who helped him
and Dona Malo with their financial difficulties.
17."The Dark Continent of Literature: Autobiography," Comparative Literature Studies, v. 4
(1968), 432.
18.See letter from Edwin Rosskham to Luis and Ines Munoz, 14 May, 1976. Caja AAA.
19."Redictado Libro Rosskham, 3 May, 1976, p. 1. Caja EE.
20.An apparent prologue to an autobiography dated September 1973. Borrador C, Banda 1.
21.Prologue marked "Libro." Borrador C, September, 1973, banda 1.
22."Deconstructing Memory: On Presenting the Past and Theorizing Culture in France Since the
Revolution," Diacritics (Winter, 1985), 19.
23.Munoz (or his editors) omitted several allusions to Munoz Rivera's self-righteousness. Absent
from the published text are humorous anecdotes such as Munoz's story of his father's indignant
reprimand of a man on the streets of old San Juan. Munoz Rivera's self-righteousness serve as the
butt of this ironic joke:
At night, Munoz Rivera had the habit of going to the Plaza de Armas (now the plaza facing the
Municipal Building), at a block and a half from Hotel Inglaterra. Here, one could rent chairs that
were placed in long lines for families to sit and take some fresh air and, as may be the case, to hear
the band rehearse at night. It was a provincial and familial environment. I remember a man calling
out to his friend one night who screamed his friend's name out at the top of his lungs. My father
called to him and severely admonished him not to shout obscene words in public and in from of
women. The man who was calling out to his friend very timidly explained, 'Don Luis, I was calling
my friend, 'Verdejo.'
The story deals with a play on words. See "Cinta #1 of ms. "Voy a dictar agora en la pagina 11 del
libro (nuevo enfoque)" Agosto 14, 1967. The anecdote also appears in the 1970 autobiography than
runs over 500 pages. Mss. in the collectionhoused by the Fundacion.
24.This very revealing manuscript is titled, "primer borrador" para el libro. Libreta #1, n.d., n.p. In
Caja "M."
25.Felicia Rincon De Gautier, mayor of San Juan, told the author "they never talk to the women of
this epoch wo were extraordinary, full of human warmth. I belonged to a group of women who had
to work three times harder than the men to gain recognition. Now I am beginning to speak out., She
described donaa Malo" (Amalia Munoz) as "extraordinary" adding that "she spoke out strongly at
Liberal Party meetings all over the island with Don Antonio Barcelo. Munoz wasn't there. We went
out every night. She was a fabulous companion. Very active." Interview with he author, June 28,
1989 in El Condafo.

out every night. She was a fabulous companion. Very active." Interview with he author, June 28,
1989 in El Condafo.
26.The photograph appeared on the front page of IMundo on 23 January, 1934. The caption reads,
"El sanador Luis Munoz Marin en compania de sus familiares y del senor Barcelo moments
despues de haber desembarcado. Sentados, de izquierda a derecha: Muna Lee de Munoz Marin, don
Antonio Barcelo: don Luis Munoz Marin, y dona Amalia Main viuda de Munoz Rivera. De pie, de
izqierda a derecha, Luis Munoz Lee, don Jose Munoz Rivera y Muna Munoz Lee." In the published
text, the date is given as 1931. I have no idea of the how and why of this distortion.
27.Handwritten prologue on a small notepad, undated, uncatalogued and in the manuscript collec-
tion of the Fundacion Luis Munoz Marin.
28."Cinta#1, Agostos 14, 1967.
29.One might surmise that omissions may conceal the driving force of Munoz's career: the need for
a steady job and a secure income. As the son of a statesman and respected poet, Munoz enjoyed
easy as=ccess to the inner circles of power in Puerto Rican society. Social prominence lay before
him like clear, open seas; and Munoz, a proficient journalist, astute thinker, and brilliant orator,
swam through political currents with olypian grace to achieve the country's brightest laurels. al-
though Memorias admits to economic pressure as cause of anxiety, politics is not presented as the
30.Munoz writes of selling a book first in 1916. "I avoid home and finance myself for a few days
by selling (which is alsy symbolic) a textbook about private property. Lipsky." Unpublished
autobiographical outline, p. 27. Four pages later, he adds, "selling the book with Chevremonl." On
page 49, he gives details of his job selling the government text. "Sales agent of a school book about
government he writes, "visit poor neighborhood to sell the book, on installments....At the begin-
ning of 1923, trip to P.R.sale of samples to the Dept. Instruccion." Handwritten, subsequently
photocopied ms. in possession of the author as it was sent by Luis Agrait; original in the archives of
the Fundacion Luis Munoz Marin. Also see Borrador 2, banda #44 (Manes, 10 Marzo, 1970) in the
uncatalogued section of the Fundacion's archives.
31.Ibid. Carmelo Rosario Nadal does mention that, at this time, Munoz and Muna Lee encountered
matrimonial problems.
32.Emphasis added. "Rosskham text," p. 14. Caja AAA.
33.Emphasis added. In other "autobiographies," including the "Rosskham" text, Munoz's early
recollection of shouting "Death to Barbosa!" from the balcony of his home does not end with his
bold cry. The anecdote is longer and ends with a reprimand by his father to cry out immediately,
"Long Live Barbosa!" Munoz wanted his readers to know that his father demanded that he follow
his own moral "code" that upheld refraining from criticizing one's opponents forcefully in public.
There is no doubt that Munoz wanted this anecdote to reflect his early training and to help the
reader to understand, through other examples in his narratives, that he internalized his father's
"code" of behavior. Perhaps, the omission of the "correct" ending to the "long live Barbosa!" inci-
dent reflects editorial carelessness.
34.This is one of the most revealing version which relates Munoz's intimate thoughts and actions.
In Capa 10, #10. It was handwritten on blue-lined, perforated notepads, one small, the other, large.
We pick up on page five as Munoz gives background information ont he political activity of the
autonomous movement.
35.bid., 85.
36.It should be noted that in essays written for both mainland and Puerto Rican publications,
Munoz opposed the "americanization" of Puerto Rico. See Carmelo Rosario Natal's La juventud
de Luis Munoz Marin (San Juan: published by the author, 1976), 145.

37.The concept of intertextuality was first formulated by Kristeva in 1969. Wilson offers a simple
analogy to explain it: "narrative is to its story-matrix as an itinerary is to a trip. An itinerary might
be said to crystallize the possibilities of a trip (this way, not that way, via this place, not that, and so
forth) but unactualized aspects of the trip may continue to haunt the traveller's imagination (signs
in an airport, distances to other spots indicated at different points along the itinerary, ads an other
images of places one has missed, overheard gossip from other travellers concerning the missed
places, say.) A traveller can recognize the trip, or the possibilities of the trip, as a number of col-
ligatory motifs, through the particular disposition of his actual itinerary." Roberts R. Wilson, "Nar-
rative Allusiveness: The Interplay of Stories in Two Renaissance Writers, Spenser and Cervantes,"
English Studies in Canada, XII, 2, June, 1986, 145.
38.January 20, 1969. 1 would like to thank Dr. Luis Agrait, Executive Director of the Luis Munoz
Foundation for his help and for sending me a copy of this "outline." Translation are by the author.
39.One entry reads, "the American doctor, bearded and frocked who had two daughters and one
was named Clara, we went horseback riding, a frustrated seduction even with the help of an infan-
tile go-between, revelation of class attitudes."
41.Cinta #1. Document begins, "voy a dictar ahora en la pagina 11 del libro (nuevo enfoque)."
August 14, 1967. Ms. in the collection of the Fundacion Luis Munoz Marin.
42."Libro en 20-69," handwritten manuscript in possession of the author,23.
43.The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship: A Critical Introduction to Sociological
Poetics, AAlbert J. Wehrle (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), 17.
44.Design and Truth in Autobiography. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960), 19.
45.Fictions in Autobiography: Studies In the Art of Self Invention. (Princeton: Princeton Univer-
sity Press, 1985), 3.
46.New Critical Essays. (New York: Hill and Wang, 1980), 3.
47."Historia breve de una vida larga y una vision entranable de un porvenir de bien," El Nuevo
Dia, February 16, 1986, pp. 9-10. Changes had been made in pharasing, punctuation, and para-
graphing on a minor scale by the editors. Translation is by the author.
48.Letter from Rosskham to "Dear Ines", April 2, 1975.
49.A second volume of the autobiography, according to fundacion Munoz marin Director, Luis
Agrait, is being prepared for publication. It should be remembered that it was the editros who
decided to end the first volume with events leading up to 1940.
50.Letter from "Ed and Louise" to "My dear don Luis," February 21, 1986. Rosskham was paid
$5,000 for the book. Caja AAA.
51."Conditions and Limits of Autobiography," in Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical,
James Olney, ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 41.
52.1bid., 84.
53.Georges Gusdorf, "Conditions and Limits of Autobiography," Essays Theoretical and Critical,
James Olney, ed, (Princeton University Press, 1980),38




Birbalsingh : Some West Indian writers like Wilson Harris, V.S. Naipaul and Roy
Heath have been living in Britain since the 1950s. You represent the younger generation of
Mustapha Matura, Linton Kwesi Johnson, David Dabydeen and David Simon. Is the
writing of Harris, Naipaul and others of their generation important to you?

Phillips: The writers who were important to me initially were Black American writers.
I think that's largely because Ralph Ellison's work was available in Penguin Modem
Classics, and James Baldwin was an international figure. The fact that Lamming, Selvon
and Harris actually existed was more important to me than what they were writing. The
only works of their generation with which I had any real empathy were those which related
to England, like The Emigrants, and The Lonely Londoners. Works which were rooted
in the Caribbean meant nothhig to me. I felt much more in tune with the urban jungle that
Ralph Ellison or Richard Wright would describe, because I lived in an urban jungle myself.

Dirbalsingh: One of my first impressions of your work was that it didn't fit in with my
experience in the West Indies. but it did fit in with the black Americans, that is to say with
the experience of black people who had been westernized in a metropolitan,
Euro/American context. It seems to me that your writing deals with black people who have
been westernized in a similar context.

Phillips : Actually a novel which I now recognize as great, but which didn't mean
anything to me at first was In the Castle of My Skin. Richard Wright's Black Boy was
phenomenally important to me because I could understand the pain and the kind of despair
of actually growing up in the South, and having to deal with white society. Lamming's
book about a Caribbean childhood was remote from me. Richard Wright's book was closer,
since it was about being young and feeling utterly out of tune with the society around you.
What you had in In the Castle of My Skin was somebody growing up and feeling more or
less in tune with his society. Lamming was describing the process of growing and feeling
more or less in tune with his society. Lamming was describing the process of growing up in
the bosom of that society with the rich smells, outdoor nature and so on that was very

remote from my experience.

Birbalsingh : Lamming and Selvon wrote about West Indian immigrants arriving in
Britain with false expectations and attitudes. These immigrants encountered discrimina-
tion. Their warm, sunny temperament and flexible Caribbean attitudes came into conflict
with more rigid, metropolitan, cultural habits. The result of the conflict was very negative.
But at least there was hope that things might change later on. Your books give me a sense
of what has happened later on, after your characters have lived in Britain for twenty years.
They still think about going back home to the West Indies. There is still the same, bitterness
and dissatisfaction with Britain. Have twenty years made no difference?

Phillips: In terms of the British attitude towards black people and towards West Indians
in particular, I would say it has changed since Lamming's day when there was curiosity,
then hostility. In my day, I think it's almost hostility distilled. There is no longer any
curiosity about black or West Indian faces. I think part of the anger or hurt which may
permeate my work comes from the fact that when I look at the life of my parents, and
people of my parents' generation, I feel they have been given a terrible deal by Britain. I
also feel that it would be very difficult for me to see a future for myself in England if I was
a married man with children. Looking ahead now, I feel slightly angry and upset at the fact
that I won't be comfortable bringing up another generation of West Indians who, because
of intractable British attitudes, will have to go through the same problems I went through.
These are the same problems that were depicted in The Lonely Londoners, thirty years

Birbalsingh : In "Where There is Darkness", Albert is preparing to return home. In
"Strange Fruit" Alvin goes home, and in "The Final Passage", Lelia is set to go back to
the West Indies.

Phillips: My novel A State of Independence concerns a man who has spent 20 years
in England, and also decides to go back to the Caribbean. The novel actually begins with
him on a plane circling over an island. It's about the first three days he lands back there, and
his reflections on how he's spent 20 years in England. He's not kept in touch with anybody.
He feels some bitterness about England, and a kind of romantic love towards the Caribbean.
In him I have pulled together all the strands in my plays, and really tried to examine that
question of what happens to the man who tries to go back. I have never really felt that it is
possible to go back. I think that the bleakness perhaps in some of my work comes from the
fact that if you do reconcile yourself to the fact that it is not possible to go back, then you
are there, and the situation that you are in is, unfortunately, an unhappy one. That's the
experience of my generation in Britain. If you look at the work of any of my contem-
poraries, it's all to do with a struggle to be accepted, which, in 1986, and given the
pioneering work of those writers who came over in the 50s and 60s, and given the
pioneering work of my parents and other parents like them, makes it all seemfutile. The

question leaps out; "When will it end?"

Birbalsingh : No responsible person could suggest emigration from Britain as a
solution "repatriation" as Enoch Powell calls it. But, in an artistic way, you could
dramatize a situation which encourages people to consider the implications of "repatria-

Phillips : West Indians in Britain who have a memory of the Caribbean, most West
Indians, anyway have the idea at the back of their minds that perhaps one day they can go
back. The problem is when you don't have any memory of the Caribbean, and you have
been told that's where you are from. That's why Alvin in Strange Fruit" goes back to the
Caribbean, returns to England, and actually discovers that the Caribbean is not for him. So
it's a real problem to have no memory of the Caribbean, and it's problem to have a memory
of the Caribbean. If you seek to discover the Caribbean as somebody growing up in North
America or Britain, then nine times out of ten you will be disappointed.

Birbalsingh: I seemed to detect parallels between your work and Paule Marshall's. Did
reading "Brown Girl Brown Stones" have any effect on you?

Phillips: I don't really think it did have an effect on me because, I wasn't aware of
Paule Marshall in the context of West Indians in the States. I am now aware of her perhaps
because Brown Girl has been issued again, but also because of people like Jamaica
Kincaid who are beginning, from an American point of view, to look at the West Indian

Birbalsingh : You seem particularly hard on women in your books, for instance, the
mother, and the girl Shelly in "Strange Fruit". I feel a little uncomfortable about the
intensity of victimisation which the women seem to suffer in general both black and white.
In the case of Shelly, she seems so utterly hopeless. Nobody wants her: her parents don't
want her. I agree the boy's mother offers her something and gives her the key to her house.
But Shelly's situation is one of a real desperation.

Phillips : I am glad you mentioned giving her the key. The mother could never convince
her two sons of how much she loved them. Somehow, by giving Shelly the key, I wanted
to show her capacity for love. The second thing is that I wanted to examine the whole
question of a mixed relationship. the third thing I attempted to depict was the situation of
being desperate. I wanted to throw into relief the idea that all black people are directionless,
and all white people have a sense of purpose and direction; because you know as well as I
do, that there are white people who are more screwed up than black people. Those three
factors contributed towards my presentation of the mother and Shelly.

Birbalsingh: Don't West Indian women take an excess of blows, both emotionally and
physically in their relationships with men?

Phillips : I don't know enough about West Indians domestically in the islands. In
the case of West Indians in Britain, it seems to me that the women have taken more blows
than the men. In the Caribbean it is a matriarchial society. When you come to Europe it is a
patriarchal society. I think that that quite vicious shift from one form of behaviour between
men and women to a different form in Europe produced, in a lot of West Indian minds, an
irresponsibility which no generation could afford to endure. After all, when you are going
through problems of adjusting to a society which in many ways and forms is rejecting you,
it doesn't really help if your father, for whatever reasons, decides to leave the family.

Birbalsingh: This happens quite often, doesn't it?

Phillips : Well, it happened in my family. But that's not why I am concerned with
examining it. I am concerned because there are very few of my West Indian contemporaries
in England, who actually grew up in a stable family background.

Birbalsingh : Another first impression I had of your work was that you knew the
metropolitan situation of the black minority and white majority very well. The relation-
ships, the language, dialogue, and tensions, were exactly right. Then I noticed that in
writing about people in the West Indies, there was the same authenticity. Your control of
two contrasting milieux really impressed me. I suppose the fact that you have deliberately
gone back regularly to visit the Caribbean might help to explain it.

Phillips : When I sat down to write a novel set totally in the Caribbean, "A State of
Independence", I felt that, as a contemporary Caribbean novel, a sizeable proportion of it
must be related to the politics of colonial independence. I think my publishers and perhaps
people who read it were very surprised, because they assumed I would go on from "The
Final Passage" to pick up the story of what happens ten years later, not necessarily with the
same characters, but that I would bring my sensibility further and further into England. In
fact, the reverse has happened. I do feel, for a number of reasons, that I desperately want to
address the Caribbean situation, as much as I do the British one, and for me it is a matter of
research quite frankly. It is a matter of exposing myself to it.

Birbalsingh : I would think there is a difference between experience that is learnt or
researched and experience that is lived, that you grow up in. I wonder that I don't detect a
difference in authenticity between your rendering of these two types of experience.

Phillips: I don't think the two types of experience are considered by my contem-
poraries in Britain. It is not in David Simons' work, or Linton Kwesi Johnson's, or the work
of any of the younger playwrights. Nobody addresses the Caribbean at all. It's difficult to
explain to people that I was bom in the Caribbean, whereas three of my younger brothers
weren't. But 1 always felt that that got me through nasty times at school and some of the
prejudice. I have always clung to the fact that even though I hadn't visited the Caribbean as
a mature person, I did have somewhere else. Maybe if I had been born in Britain, and not

had to go through my childhood with the knowledge that I was bom in the Caribbean I may
now be addressing the British situation with more vigour. But for me it has always been a
safety valve against the "rivers of blood" type of speeches, against social pressure. It has
always been something which has kept me sane, the fact that I was born in the Caribbean. I
will always pay my dues towards that.

Birbalsingh : If you were bom in England and wrote the type of literature which largely
addresses the problems of minorities and so on, how limiting would you find that? What
exactly would be the limitations? Authors who write like that are performing a social
function of setting injustice right, or expressing protest against injustice.

Phillips : I suspect it would be totally limiting. I think it would be possible or, at the
very best, extremely difficult for me to address the situation in Britain only. To limit myself
to Britain only for my subject matter would mean that I would be seen as a protest writer,
merely as an extension of the university sociology faculty. I don't think it would be possible
for me to be seen as a writer "per se". Linton is a very good example of this. He feels very
much as though he hasn't even begun writing, despite another reason why, I am not
prepared to limit myself to the British situation because, eventually, there will come a time
when the idea of rage which is what Baldwin was talking about when he criticized Richard
Wright the idea of rage would become my theme.

Birbalsingh : That itself would be limiting?

Phillips : That, in the end, would probably stifle whatever talent I have.

Birbalsingh : Since you mentioned this question of rage. I want to bring in Naipaul
who has also studiously avoided rage as his main theme. This has made him greatly hated
or at least controversial. But I don't see in you that emotional hostility towards Naipual that
I detect in many West Indians and West Indian writers?

Phillips : No, because I think Naipaul's talent is unquestionable. But he made a
decision or perhaps he didn't make a decision perhaps he didn't have a choice of how he
wanted to be. But he's been consistent in it. He's never actually strayed into the territory of
becoming a spokesperson. He's never jumped on a convenient platform. He has remained
detached, and you have to respect the man for his consistency. I don't particularly like
Naipaul's view of Africa. I certainly don't like his views on the Caribbean; but I do respect
his talent and his consistency. But he doesn't bring out any bile in me, because I don't feel
he's interested in the areas I am interested in. Writers are very territorial animals, and I
think I could understand why a Lamming or a Selvon might feel very bitter about a man of
their own generation achieving the stature that Naipaul has. Economically, he must be
comfortable for the rest of his life. When people hold a festival, for example, and they need
someone who has written from the West Indies, they are more likely to pick up the phone
to Naipaul than they are to Lamming. After a while, it would piss me off if I was Lamming.

But Naipaul is not a competitor in my area

Birbalsingh : From the beginning of"Where there is Darkness", there is a flashback,
with constant interchanges between contemporary and past action, throughout the play.
Where does that technique come frdm? Are you following a particular trend in contem-
porary drama?

Phillips : The play was inspired structurally by "Death of a Salesman", in which
Arthur Miller tried to examine the life of a man who is dangling by a string, and the string
is about to break. That's the dramatic situation, and the only way you can textualize the
man's life is by seeing what happened before. It is a very convenient dramatic structure,
theatrically, from a West Indian point of view, because it looks great when you first see the
kind of gloomy, cold English lighting, then the sets and stage revolve, and suddenly it's
bright, Caribbean sunshine. Dramatically, the technique is much more powerful when you
are given two cultures and two different types of sunlighting. Of course the very term
"flashback" comes from the cinema. Arthur Miller's career was deeply involved in the
cinema as well.

Birbalsingh :It's all right to say you were born in St. Kilts grew up in England and that
now you are recovering the Kittican experience so that you can consider both your British
residence and St. Kitts origin in your work. But the fact is that you live in Britain; you
publish in Britain. People will call you a British writer. You will be compared with the
people writing in Britain today. How do you see your position vis a vis native British

Phillips: As I said, writing is very competitive. My development as a writer runs
parallel with the development of younger British writers. I look at what they publish and I
think I'd better make sure my next book is up to scratch. So I do feel an advantage to be
liberated from some of the nonsense and parochialism produced not only by living in
Britain, but by British incestuous publishing itself. I feel I have territory or subject matter
which is more international than that of my British contemporaries.

Birbalsingh : Your British/Caribbean perspective gives you an advantage over them?

Phillips : A huge advantage. But this affinity for black subjects and writing is only one
thing that distinguishes me from my British contemporaries. The other thing is a group of
novels which affected me when I was growing up. These were novels by David Storey,
Alan Sillitoe and John Braine who dealt with the problems of growing up in the working
class. Those novels affected me because they portray class and cultural dislocation that I
could relate to very easily. When I look at the work of my British contemporaries people
like Ian McEwan and Graham Swift, who are still in their thirties and who are fine writers
- their subject matter doesn't engage me in the same way as the subject matter of novelists
who came a generation before them. So it's not simply because they are British; it is also


their subject matter that distinguishes me from them.

Birbalsingh :Your position is unique in that you can write with equal conviction from
within British as well as Caribbean society. When Naipaul tried to write from a British
perspective in "M Stone and the Knights Companion", I don't think he was nearly as
successful as in his West Indian novels.

Phillips: Yes, but my uniqueness places a special responsibility on me. Both Caribbean
and British societies have many things wrong with them that need to be examined and
exposed. I can see historical connections between the two societies, and I can see contem-
porary reverberations between them. I also feel very comfortable, culturally, in both
societies. I can build bridges, and help to cross-fertilize the two. Given the history of
slavery, of colonialism, and of modem day neo-colonialism, there's a whole range of
explosive, political and social subjects which I think I am probably in a good position to





"Apollo" in the title is taken from Greek and Roman lore and alludes to the state of the
imagination. Apollo is well-known as the god of creativity, and to the Romans he was the
patron of poetry and music; he was also prominent as a god of oracles and prophecy. If
poets are indeed like prophets (as Irving Layton, among others, loudly proclaims), then it is
not surprising that they are apt to go to the mountain from time to time. More than the
proverbial, the Rockies and Roraima are two apt choices of mountains, the latter in Guyana
(note well) and truly in the Americas. Indeed, for the Indo-Caribbean writer or artist, the
sense of place is very significant. Did not the novelist Sam Selvon say that his reason for
leaving the U.K. to come to Canada was that he wanted to be in the Americas, closer to his
native home? Christopher Columbus, of course, in searching for India (or the Indies)
spotted the mountains of Selvon's native island and named the latter Trinidad. In short,
place of birth or origins become truly significant.

The American writer Tom Wolfe uttered a truism in the oft-repeated "You can't go
home again." In the case of Selvon and others, one could say undoubtedly that Canada or
North America is now indeed home: for Selvon, "the lonely Londoner," never wanted to
become an Englishman, he never took British citizenship, but he did Canadian. But
mountains also have a way of superimposing themselves, alienating and striking terror, not
unlike Wordsworth's in the Lake District, and perhaps Neil Bissoondath had more than an
intuitive sense of this while engaging in the imaginatively cataclysmic act of "digging up
mountains" in writing his first collection of short stories. In this essay I will be looking at
the unfolding and reshaping of the Indo-Caribbean sensibility in Canada in the context of
the search for roots and identity, and how the process of adapting is occurring as the
imagination expresses itself through both the immediacy of personal experience and the
collective voice.

At the outset one would be hard put to describe what is essentially the Ind-Caribbean
imagination; it is not readily homogeneous as a concept but may seem to combine the

"alphabet with the volatile elements of the soul" (as Eldridge Cleaver describes literary
experience). It may also embrace the angst of settlement in a new country and the
consequent sense of forlornness and nostalgia as one yearns for the old tropic place, leading
to the poetic or fanciful. It is also changeable, intuitive, and absolutely irrational in its many
selves and manifestations. Simultaneously it is that which transcends the ordinary and
mundane and transmutes the quotidian into higher acts and events apprehended at the
moment of illumination. And, not least, it may be in the numinous reaction to the prevailing
myths of Canada as a cold, virtually hostile land which, in the words of Irving Layton,
suggests the "double book," inspiring beauty and terror.

All the great literary theorists have spoken of the transforming power of the imagina-
tion. I believe that the imagination of Indo-Caribbean immigrants in Canada is no different
from any other, despite identifiable differences stemming from unique and singular tradi-
tions and experiences relating to history, geography, and identity: for the Indo-Caribbean -
collectively or individually are expressing the intellectual and artistic acts of a people
whose forebears were first brought to the Caribbean from the Indian subcontinent in 1838
under circumstances perhaps unlike any other. In this context it is not surprising that the
sense of an overall angst continues to be felt, vague as it might be, but crucial to the
depiction olone's self and the life lived and felt in Canada. Or, of true, positive feelings
such as the sense of celebration, though tinged with the nagging nostalgia of a past seen in
romanticized terms, this latter nevertheless being valid as imaginative experience. And
divergent as it all is, it is also absolute truth, for as I think Robert Graves once said -
imaginative truth is unarguable.

My own feelings stem from the polarities of there and here in the context of the verities
of place, spirit, and identity. The metaphor of the pendulum which I am alluding to may not
be absolutely unique in view of the corresponding experiences of other South Asian, Black,
or Third World peoples in Canada, for all are familiar with the sense of dislocation and
separation in the quest to find a common place or home in the Great White North. And as
the pendulum swings wider one could say that these are also attempts at denying the past,
especially if the Caribbean experience has indeed been a fractious one to which the self
finds it does not truly belong, thereby adumbrating the spirit's sense of placelessness. But
the Caribbean might appear in dreams or in the uncomfortable unconscious with vivid
memories of one's ancestors being brought to the regions as indentured labourers to fill a
gap left by the abolition of slavery, a place at best seen merely as an unhappy stopover.

The imaginative may also lead one into pragmatic directions so that the individual
searches for himself and a new identity in the here, and therefore hopes for the emotional
and psychic security in Canada. The activist persona might therefore espouse, for example
- multiculturalism, an official government policy purporting to extoll one's ethnic origins
and place of birth in a mosaic of races and cultural identities, albeit fraught with competing

interests and expectations. This in itself becomes a quest, the struggle for acceptance, and
not unnaturally one's feelings and emotions become topsy-turvy. Thus the imagination is
seen as the only outlet (often through language) in the search for an enduring harmony to
cope with the angst of conflict in a country which, as the late poet Gwendolyn MacEwen
said of Canada,Toronto "[is] every bit as lush, mystical and mysterious as an island in
Greece ... first of all because of its multicultural nature." Interestingly, for a younger
generation of writers, such as Bissoondath, the outward conflict in terms of Canada being
seen essentially as a white society is not altogether relevant; he argues that he is living in a
"cosmopolitan" society exemplified in the Bloor-Bathurst area of Toronto and asserts
categorically that he is is a Canadian writer" in contradistinction to the much older Sam
Selvon who, firmly rooted in the Caribbean, declares that he is "a Caribbean writer" though
now living in Calgary.2 One can reconcile these divergences; with language or the alphabet
being all, the poem, play or story dramatizes the struggle to contain the chameleon of place
and experience, and inevitably language in its creative form becomes the chameleon itself.
In my poem "Rehearsal," which first appeared in Canadian Literature and later in The
Penguin Anthology of Caribbean Verse, I refer to "this reptilean self / breaking out without
warning- / changeable again, across the barrier... / a life gone rampant / in dreams; the
insane among us presenting / emblems from the scuttled sea."

In A Shapely Fire, the anthology of Caribbean-Canadian writers that I edited, I dwelt on
the concepts of here and there, and it is heartening that the Canadian critic Rosemary
Sullivan clearly understands my intention when commenting that "the there and here are
interlocked; the work is continually shaping and being shaped by the need to view here as
a possibility."3 Naturally I was referring to a re-definition of Canada in terms of the
landscape of the mind, and I may add that for me Canada is more than a possibility;
however, Sullivan also correctly refers to my seeking through the imagination "a re-defini-
tion of the conventional understanding of nationhood: from one viewed solely in terms of
physical place to that which is based on a concept of the landscape of the mind wherein
place and psyche become intertwined." This goading of the spirit, if such, may often lead
ultimately to the search for a permanent identity in one's self, where language becomes all,
and finally to what novelist Bharati Mukherjee calls "the portable home of the imagina-

Let me return to the there, which in a sense is akin to going back to the mountain to find
the original source of one's inspiration. In a poem I wrote some years ago, which I entitled
"Apollo," the speaker says:

You gathered the leaves one by one
to round your laurel off,
you held a vestige of sun
where eye meets the eye

(Heart's Frame, 12)

In a brief exegesis, I will argue that for us coming from the Caribbean, the notion of the
sun as shaping myth is paramount. Note that Apollo himself is identified with the powerful
image of the sun, though to North Americans this image is juxtaposed with Dionysus and
Eros because the Caribbean is viewed as the place where the vacationer abandons himself
to uninhibited fulfillment. But the "vestige of sun" is also associated with elemental acts
and experiences, and in the short story, "Canine Sun" (first published in The Canadian
Forum), I went further in depicting a hawk, a symbol of the sun itself, as a compelling force
spinning in the air, really magnificent and beautiful, yet coming down with dive-bomber
speed upon a defenceless lamb (symbol of the earth) to wreak havoc and death (Thanatos).

The further image of the bowl in my title, a contrived one, suggests sacrifice, as much
as the lamb in my short story is also a symbol of sacrifice. In the wider historical context,
one sees the arrival of the first set of East Indians in the Caribbean (Guyana and Trinidad
mainly) in 1838, the forebears of the character Apu in my story, and much later the flow of
immigrants to North America (mainly to New York City and Toronto) as part of the overall
sacrifice, here one should point out the same feelings of nostalgia experienced by the first
generation of indentured Indians expressed in the desire to return to India and manifested
in sentimentally extolling all things Indian: lore, customs, religio-heroic figures, which to
some extent continues to be felt by many Indo-Caribbeans who have come to Canada. In
addition, the "dream of El Dorado," a more indigenous but fanciful experience which many
of our poets and writers have considered as significant motif {El Dorado alleged to be in
Guyana and Trinidad (or the entire Caribbean)] could easily be seen as symbolizing the
longed-for wish or quest for Shangrila. But no doubt events have a way of becoming
circular, for with the Elizabethan Sir Walter Raleigh hacking his way through impenetrable
brush while unfortuitously discovering Guyana (in his search for El Dorado), the dream is
transformed into nightmare because Raleigh was soon after incarcerated int he Tower of
London where he would write the Historie of the Worlds. The conjuring up of these events
by the poets no doubt is seen as an act of the imagination, the symbolism rooted in historical
or collective memory. Not unnaturally, for us here, "the last pioneers" (as some have called
us), El Dorado is now placed in Canada amid the glitter of high-tech goods, the videos and
synthesizers that fill our homes, avid consumerists that many of us have become. While the
pendulum swings wider it could be also that though seemingly given over to materialism,
there is simultaneously the angst of lack of acceptance, leading to a condition equivalent to
what Ralph Ellison said of the life of blacks in Harlem, that the "major energy of the
imagination goes not in creating works of art, but to overcome the frustration of discrimina-

If "memory is the mother of the muses," then my artistic impulse is inspired by what is

authentic, for I have often thought of the past, imagining it vividly more than once. All my
early schooling in Guyana sought to remind me of the indentured experience, about my
forebears having come from India to become part of "a land of six races" and engaging in
the daunting task of building a nation after over two hundred years of colonial rule. The
sense of ineluctable transience among our forebears and their indecipherable place in
history somehow seems driven into me. But the subcontinent was also a dark blot in the
imagination, though a place of sentimentality and providing outlets for romanticizing one's
parents. The knowledge of a continually changing India, which, according to novelist Anita
Desai changes virtually "every six months," never occurred to us. Disappointment in India
because she had allowed her children to be taken from her across the kala pani (black
water) without one being aware of the hardships and famine ravaging the subcontinent
would come later. But importantly for me in reflecting on the past (and on India), it was the
sense of a link with a bigger place. It was not just England, the colonizer, that we were
aware of and to whom we looked at with awe, admiration, or hate: this latter because our
values were not derived from the sense of our own potentialities or pride in the place we
were living in.

And continuing to think about India in vague, indecipherable terms I started reflecting
on what state or district my forebears actually came from, if it was really Bihar or Uttar
Pradesh or even Goa (the latter I believed to be the most westerly). But these moments of
envisioning were replaces by the image of endless toil, the immediacy of the harsh life on
the sugar estates. The Rose Hall estate in the Canje district dominated all else, and as a boy
watching the East Indian sugar cane workers, bent, exhausted, gnarled as they came home,
their faces smeared with the ash from the burnt sugar cane fields the image drove home to
me the almost unimaginable toil our forebears endured just after slavery was abolished.

In Canada I have often conjured up the memory of my grandfather who was a "Driver"
at the Rose Hall sugar estate, he being one of the more able-bodied locals chosen by the
white overseers to assist in getting the most out of the cheap labour all around. I knew little
of him really because I was very young when he died. He ailed for many years, bed-ridden
after being felled by a stroke my real memory of him was seeing him collapsing in the
"bottom house." This memory I would sustain with other aspects of the insecure, topsy-
turvy world of tropical impermanence: of an arid place really inhabited by a hodge-podge
of isolated and perhaps fundamentally alienated people somehow loosely mixing together
and characterized by a network of frayed nerves, competing political and social interests in
an awkward heterogeneity while searching for a singular identity in the context of an
unpromising nationhood.

In other parts of the Caribbean it seemed no different. The sense of placelessness and an
underlying forlornness seemed all, often masked in urban centers by calypso, reggae and
other forms of popular culture and lore in a maddening creolization that left the subcon-

scious untouched, that kept us all individually alienated. Not unnaturally, we looked
overseas to fulfill the deeper yearnings of the spirit and the imagination, the Caribbean
shores no longer keeping us there, unwitting wanderers as we might have truly become,
exiled by post-colonial regimes that inflicted emasculation, disenfranchisement, and cor-
ruption in an overall chaos. And in the midst of this upheaval, the economic pains and the
social loss, mothers and fathers in rural villages in the Corentyne or Caroni found themsel-
ves grappling with overseas telephone calls as they awkwardly responded to their sons and
daughters who had fled to New York or Toronto. These same Caribbean and South
American villages sustained the image of whole pockets of India transplanted into
Guyanese or Trinidadian contexts, all seemingly arrested in time as sects celebrated
Kali-mai puja in gory sacrificial rituals of beheading a goat, the blood spurting etched in
my childhood memory in more than potent religious symbolism, adding to the overall
chaos and "mimicry," as V.S. Naipaul calls it.

The tenor of post-independence experience accentuated the fractured nature of all that
we longed for, sought to escape from. the myths we dreamt about from our youth came
crashing down around us in the sway of political ideologies, internecine racial upsurges,
and the brutal jostling for control in the vain attempt to homogenize a society through failed
policies and stratagems often verging on totalitarianism. As the insecurities exacerbated in
Guyana, for instance, thousands lined up to leave soon after to experience further
bewilderment at the Toronto International Airport as they supinely or aggressively faced
the cold, impersonal Canadian immigration officials and presented themselves as refugees,
a term that ten or fifteen years earlier was virtually unheard of in Guyana. But it was a way
out, and in Canada, lumped under the umbrella of South Asians or visible minorities, they
uncomfortably joined the many others who came in the sixties and seventies, those from the
educated middle class others who came in the sixties and seventies, those from the educated
middle class who were making their way in the professions and were already asserting
themselves in a purportedly multicultural and bilingual society. The community in Canada
was now a changed one, and in the immigration debate and the concern over the "baby
bust," East Indians were still on the lowest rung of the ladder of social esteem, despite the
best efforts of a variety of race relations and multiculturalism programs and policies at
federal, provincial and municipal levels to promulgate equality for all. Despite Sections 15
and 17 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and a variety of national studies
such as the Equality Now! and the Abella Commission reports, discrimination in employ-
ment, housing, recreational and social services continued to be experienced, plaguing those
of us with a social conscience who were writing, who wrestled continually with ourselves
to forge a serious art. And as we remained longer in Canada and faced one cold winter after
another, the Caribbean and Guyana began to be seen far away, through a romanticizing
tendency sometimes gripped the spirit. Now, those early imagines of India were in the far
past as we saw ourselves distinct and perhaps different from other south Asians because of

the lack of a common language or accent, or even of common values, customs and beliefs,
though to the mainstream white population we were all the same. And we continued to see
others coming grandparents, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers facing modem
Western technology: escalators at airports that seemed ready to devour one's legs; elevators
in highrise monstrosities that now and again jammed shut and caused nerve wracking

Here now was none of the simplicities of village life found in the Essequibo or
Chaguanas, the pervasive smells of mollusc, shrimp, paddy or molasses; or of people who
naturally warmed to each other, "highly contexted" as we were compared to the less
personal and distant Canadians one saw mainly in shopping plazas or supermarkets often
the extent of our "socializing." Our elders, mothers mainly, would be confined to remaining
at home in small living room space as baby-sitters and to watching soap operas on TV
where unbashed sensuality shocked their conservative, religion-bound sensibilities, leaving
them mute, physically exhausted, or spiritually moribund; and the longer they lived here the
more their neuroses deepened and were expressed in abject nostalgia. Only for the young
would Apollo in the guise of the Indo-Caribbean immigrant face the pythian monster of
Canada and wrest out a Delphi as they cultivated the work ethic in shop or factory, many
working even harder at night schools despite no longer being called "Pakis" to their faces
(as in the seventies). The longing for equality in Canada began to assert itself as they started
claiming their political rights or sought appointments to boards and commissions, all partly
in assertive reaction to the indignities of marginalization.

I have heard it said that those of us who have come here, immigrants and refugees who
are really the last pioneers, will only hold our heads up high through acts of the imagina-
tion. Our songs, dances, all folkloric and effete as these might be, and the plays, poems
novels, sculptures and paintings that we would create would, as the Italian-Canadian poet
Antonino Mazza tells me, ensure us being heard "one thousand years from now"; like
Susannah Moodie or Margaret Atwood we will have prevailed in the collective Canadian
consciousness and yet maintained our distinctive identity.

I have argued for creativity all those acts of the imagination, all those positive psychic
manifestations that combine with the ideal and noble in the human spirit as being integral
with nation-building, with the evolution of a Canada with all its diverse peoples that we all
want. It would be a Canada, manifestly multicultural and multiracial, that is unique as
nowhere else: which too would be what those who have been here longest, the aboriginal
peoples, would want since it would accord with their expansiveness of spirit and mind and
the way they view the rivers, lakes, mountains indeed all of the land that the Great Spirit
watches over.5

Currently, the main ways of responding to the acts of the imagination of Caribbean-
born artists and writers in Canada seem to be associated with the sense of foreignness and
exotica; for the Indo-Caribbean, in particular, this would be a continual challenge despite a
fear or continuing xenophobia; and we might hope that the food-fairs, songs and dances
(not least Caribana), all quintessentially rehearsed and performed, all absolutely folkloric,
very popular will make their ethnic impact felt, stemming as they do from the non-elitist,
wide-range imagination acting as a bridge or conduit to those more permanent creations,
the literature and art which we hope will be admired for their own sake by everyone.

In order to truly appreciate the extent and future of the Indo-Caribbean imagination in
Canada, one must also briefly understand the legacy, if only the literary one. The depica-
tions of the Naipaul clan writers, for instance: the apparent quirks of behaviour masking the
real tragedy of the character Biswas placed in Trinidad (as example) may be seen as acts of
mimicry in the quest for permanence; or, in the further depications by Edgar Mittlholzer in
his A Morning at the Office (to a lesser extent in Corentyne Thunder), which re-acquaint us
with the immediacies of real life and warn us not to gloss over significant vital experiences,
no matter how outwardly unattractive, with sentimentality and romanticism. If our writers
are seen to be concerned mainly with a form of social realism or naturalism, this should be
seen in the context of the impact of the literature deriving from significant experiences
which has made, as Sam Selvon has commented -Caribbean literature as a whole caught
world attention quicker than Canadian literature. The latter as is well known only
seriously got under way in the 1960s with the beginnings of Margaret Atwood, Dennis Lee,
Robertson Davies, Michael Ondaatie and others-while Caribbean writers were getting
international attention since the 1950's.

In the sixties and seventies a period of confusion accompanied the energy of creative
activity in Canada-tinged with pervasive nationalism -just at the time when most of us were
arriving here. In Canlit. courses on campuses across the country we heard about poetry of
the wide, empty spaces of the land, and the heroic confrontation with the physical barren-
ness and the fierce cold, the double hook of beauty and terror in the words of E. J .Pratt and
A .M .Klien-though already the socialist Montreal poet F.R. Scott was berating Pratt for the
absence of coolies in his "The Last Spike", or, even of Earle Birney going to the Caribbean
and writing a poem "To George Lamming" as he probed his identity with thoughts on the
castle of his skin. But we were here, bringing the entirety of the sunny tropics with us, the
god Appollo really open-minded to accept all that Canada has to offer. At a Northern
Ontario university I listened for the first time to the Canadian sound poet B.P.Nichol
(perhaps the best sound poet in the world) and becoming enthralled with his verbal
dexterity :and I felt that my own writing began to undergo a quiet change as I sought to get
my work published in the small literary magazines while striving to retain my distinctive-
ness; and unconsciously I began taming the beast of all those early influences of Derek
Walcott, A.J. Seymour, and Martin Carter in my writing as I aimed for a naturalness of my

own, trimming all the dense metaphors associated with the complexity of identity of a
Third World consciousness in me... I began to see myself Canadian in the real sense and
became overly conscious of physical place as if this was all without truly realizing as
D.G.Jones later reminded me -that "English Canadian poetry never got its feet on the

In the stories I wrote and sought to get published in the small magazines, I quietly
intermingled my Guyaneese and Caribbean sensibility-though not necessarily East Indian-
for such was my own state of creolization, one that I felt now included Canada: for you see,
I started writing poems about rum-running in the Maritimes: about Sir James Douglas, the
father of British Columbia (Douglas was born in Guyana and was half-black); and about
visiting Sir John A Macdonald's grave in Kingston. Other poets and writers were also
doing the same I was convinced, though Harold Sonny Ladoo in a somewhat different
light-be wrote naturalistically about the flogging feats of a Canadian school mistress
operating under the guise of the altruistic Canadian Mission system in Trinidad. Ladoo
came to attention partly because of the Canadian litterateurs who sponsored him, and one
such Dennis Lee -would pen a moving poem after his unfortunate murder in the island of
his birth. Neil Bissoondath's "Insecurity" in his Digging up mountains is another which
comes closest to reflecting the there and here in significant terms, though symbolically
different. The other Trinidad-born Clyde Hosein also tends to veer in this direction with a
virtuosity all his own. With other writers, including Sam Selvon (who came to Canada in
1978), there is not much of this interplay of present place and Canada (London is still at one
end of Selvon's pendulum), though in the poets one sees aspects of the continuing angst of
dissociation of the spirit, as in Arnold Itwaru's "wounded consciousness" or "shattered

It seems important to recognize that beyond the descriptions given above, the fun-
damental questions of the life of the East Indian or Caribbean immigrant to Canada as
central to imaginative experience rests on the evolving dynamic of who we are and how we
are viewed by others. Additionally, this is seen in the assertion of the self towards
reflecting universal values through the shared feelings of communitas. If one concedes that
the interior world of consciousness is what the imagination encompasses, then much more
is in store as we continue to analyze deeply the "bottomless pool of origins" as seen through
the lens of India, indenture, and the Caribbean in our vision of Canada. In this context,
language as the chameleon or as the "portable home" will be what we carry everywhere
with us like inescapable memory. For the immediate present though, the imagination
compels us to write about fractured or marginalized experiences in both the Caribbean and
Canada with the impulse to meld here and there and to achieve the illumination in the
universal. Would this still be so despite the immediate realities, the social concerns faced
by immigrants, which may prevent our writers from indulging in "pure" or escapist art
reflective of magic realism or experimentation?

The social concerns alluded to in this paper inevitably affect the process of creation
itself. The English-born Canadian short story writer and anthologist John Metcalf-perhaps
the most vocal of the current writers on the scene-asserts that there is a "colourbar" at work,
and writers bom outside of Canada are viewed by the establishment as "foreign, other or
irrelevant.'' He adds that the literary theorists who call the shots foster this attitude, as they
pigeon-hole some writers simply as "ethnic" or refer to "the endless hyphenation" in
responding to the works of writers who are outside the so-called mainstream. The example
of Rienzi Crusz (born in SriLanka) who has been living in Canada since the sixties is
instructive: established poet John Newlove observes to him that "because you are not
white you will be patronized."9

But all is not bleak, and the social and economic problems faced by the community as a
whole may be put to good use, for not only can all the genuine Caribbean and Indian lore
and motifs that we bring with us make our experiences and creativity individualistic or
unique, but also, as Bharati Mukherjee (who now lives in New York) argues-her being a
"visibly minority...the immigrant experience feeds her work".l thus positive use can be
made of the conflicts and tensions in the society to give vital energy to our work. This is
not to suggest that the writer necessarily has to be an activist in a profession which is fed by
reflectiveness, or that he/she must represent an ideology or a position of advocacy par-
ticualrly when writers are famously individualist and subjective.

Naturally, this may lead to questions about the role of the Indo-Caribbean writer or
artist, not excluding the greater commitment to form and the wrestle with language,
altogether in aiming to "purify the dialect of the tribe" (as T.S.Eliot describes it). All the
personal mythologies of the host country (as Mukherjee argues, for instance) the Indo-
Caribbean sensibility must come to grips with, must be flexible and expansive enough to
embrace if Apollo is to find a permanent home in an elusive Delphi, the sun god or
archetypal sun-man carving out a niche in the iridescent snow in the evolving Canada,
transforming it because of the new and exiling idioms that we bring with us and which are
here to stay.


1.Quoted in "journey to 'Afterworlds': A Tribute to Gwerrdolyn MacEwan" by Beryl Baigent, The
Canadian Poetry Association Newsletter,Vol.4, No.1 Jan. 1988, p.1
2.Mentioned at the Indo-Caribbean Studies Conference's panel of writers, July 8, 1988
3 Rsemary Sullivan, "The Multicultural Divide," This Magazine, Vol 22, No.1 march-April
4 Ralph Ellison, "Harlem is Nowhere," Active Voice: An anthology of Canadian American and
Commonwealth Prose, eds. W.H. New and W.E. Mwssenger(Scarborough:Prentice-Hall). 1980.


5 See my short story "Methselah," published in Northward Journal, No.42, 1987: 16-19 where I at-
tempted to integrate the Ojibway legendary figure of Nanabijou with a tropical Methuselah repre-
senting symbolic time.
6 Mentioned by Sam Selvon at "Other Voices," A Multicultural Panel Discussion-National Library
(Ottawa), April 20, 1988.
7 Letterfrom D.G. Jones to the author dated May 30, 1979.
8 Mentioned by John Metcalf at "Other Voices," op.cit.
9 Letter from John Newlove to Rienzi Cruscz dated June 4, 1981.
Mentioned by Bharati Mukherjee at "Other Voices," op cit.


UNSTAGGERING CONSIDERATIONS Velma Pollard. Considering Woman, Lon-
don: The Women's Press. 1989. 77 pp. 3-95.Velma Pollard. Crown Point and Other
Poems, Leeds: Peepal Tree Press. 1988. 82 pp. 3.95.

"When man drunk, him walk and stagger When woman drunk, she
sit down and consider" Jamaican Proverb

In 1990s Jamaica the term "woman writer" is somewhat of a tautology: most of the
significant writers are women. It is no longer surprising that women write, and that they
write well. Velma Pollard's recent collection of poetry, Crown Point and Other Poems, and
her short stories, Considering Woman, unceremoniously confirm her place in that company
of "women writers" who work in Jamaica and draw their substance from its difficult earth:
Ema Brodber, Loma Goodison, Olive Senior, Jean Binta Breeze, Pamela Mordecai, Chris-
tine Craig, Elean Thomas-Gifford, to name only some of those who have had individual
collections of their work published.

Pollard has been writing for a number of years and has been published in several
Caribbean journals Arts Review, Bim, Caribbean Quarterly, Focus, Kyk-over-al, Path-
ways, Trinidad and Tobago Review; she is represented in the Heinemann Jamaica Woman
collection (1980), but, somewhat surprisingly, not in the later Institute of Jamaica anthol-
ogy, From Our Yard: Jamaican Poetry Since Independence (1987). With the publication of
the present individual collections of Pollard's work, we celebrate not only her years of
sustained creativity but also the commitment of enterprising small presses, like Peepal
Tree, to continue to publish poetry at a time when many multinational publishing houses
have given up on the product as a non-marketable commodity. We also recognize the value
of the specialist presses, like the Women's Press, that persist in publishing new writing by
women and "ethnic" women at that especially when such literary productivity can no
longer be seen as the fashionable cause of the moment, but rather the making of an often
subversive tradition.

The gender-specific response to drunkenness that is wittily expressed in the Jamaican
proverb cited above may be metaphorically extended to suggest differences of sensibility
that predispose more women than men to the contemplative process of writing: unstagger-
ing considerations. Admittedly, there is often a numbing disparity between the predisposi-
tion and the act. Indeed, the proverb can be decoded even more problematically to suggest
that much of the writing that is done by women is essentially a therapeutic attempt to
recover form the hang-overs of patriarchy: to sleep it off in Rhysian terms. This is the
theme of several of the stories in Considering Woman.

The subtly ambiguous title of the collection foregrounds Pollard's womanist preoc-
cupations, yet manages to convey as well a cautious detachment from overtly feminist

polemics. A considered appraisal of woman's condition as maddeningly marginalized,
emotionally frustrated, dependent with a child-like trust on the vagaries of dis-approving
masculine attentions, does not necessarily lead to an unambiguous engagement with upper
case Feminist Politics. For a generation of Caribbean women, of whom Pollard is repre-
sentative, it was more than enough to recognize the proverbial wisdom that "marriage have
teeth and bile hot" a recurring motif in the stories. Leaving a bad marriage took the kind
of courage then that many younger feminists today simply take for granted. The fact that
such courageous women may not now wish to be defined as "feminist" seems less a refusal
to acknowledge kinship with their younger, more cavalier sisters, and more an assertion of
their right to a difference that has been earned the hard way; that conveys the irreducible
truth of their own experience: once bitten, twice shy of all orthodoxies, as in "Hindsight II":

so leaving youl took the ringsavoured its smoothnesslingering its
faceuntil my frightened nailreleased its secret catchsnapped wide
its circletherea cloverFIVE leafedperfectsprangmirabile. I crossed
myselfand whispering trembling thanks snapped it close.

But the subject- woman who considers the writer cannot be made identical with her
fictions the object-woman considered. The personae of Pollard's stories assume a fictional
authority independent of the author's own biography. Indeed, even an unequivocally
autobiographical piece like "Gran," in which a character named "Vel" appears, maintains a
delicate balance between the authority of the writer's personal history and the fluid fictions
of its reshaping. Further, woman's story is not only the individual woman's story; it is a
collective story, a kind of communal narrative that assumes the generalizing proportions of
myth. So that "parable" becomes a primary narrative trope, and "cage" a metaphor for
marriage as the locus of entrapment: those outside want to get in it; those inside want to gel
out. The tedium of desire fulfilled and frustrated ad infinitum.

In Crown Point and Other Poems the considering authorial "I" assumes variable voices
to rework many of the themes that recur in the stories. The title poem, another evocation of
Gran, distills the essential poetry of that extended narrative:

On the shelf her pan a miniature suitcase black and redwith stamps
and old receipts and dustthere too her bible large and blackits file
of leaves in redtumed to us kneelingthis bible full.. .God's words
and other wordsbirth dates and marriagesand deaths
Perhaps the clutter of my lifeobscures her voicePerhaps the clutter
of my mindfrustrates herstreaming to my consciousnessPerhaps
her mystic to mewaits my silencewaits my tomorrows' spaces.

Pollard's choice of "mystic," above, illustrates one of the strengths of both the poetry
and the prose her command of a broad repertoire of Jamaican/English linguistic registers
and ideological systems. "Mystic" compresses both conventional, Standard English mean-

ing contemplative spirituality and enigmatic rastafarian "dread talk" locutions as in Bob
Marley's "natural mystic blowing in the air." The "clutter" of a persona's life/mind be-
comes emblematic of a whole intellectual tradition that obscures the luminous truth of
origins folk, rural, spiritual values represented by the ancestor figure, Gran, who
"dreams" the speaker. "Mystic," then, includes that range of afro-centric folk practices in
Jamaica that affirm the continuity of the life of the ancestors in death their ability to
communicate with the living as dream presence.

"Fly" transposes the metaphor of marriage as trap into the culturally specific Jamaican
idiom of Anansi the spider the male as trickster. The web of entrapping domesticity
seduces the naive woman into the illusion of security:

Ephemeral and lightly rested my lifeand dazzledl watchedyou
wove me insideand dazzled sleptmy crysalis sleep ...

The rhythm of the lines, evoking the language of children's play, underscores the false
gaiety of the woman's predicament:

ef a ketch ima mash imef a ketch ima mash im

The image of the cry to Anansi reverberating on itself is reminiscent of Ema Brodber's
use of that very motif in Jane and Louisa Will Soon Come Home:

ANANSI I cryANANSI-SI-SI I hearthe sky is too vasthow it scal-
ters my cry

Pollard's sensibility, like that of her sister, Erna, is formed in a rural Jamaica that is
both oral and scribal, "folk" and "intellectual." That ambiguous Jamaican Creole "im" in the
refrain above, both male and female, suggests the reversible roles of victim/predator. You
really can't blame Anansi if you set yourself up to be trapped. In "Anansa" the spider
becomes a woman a type of Penelope, cunningly weaving figures around an impercipient

Anansa's threads are thinand strongso thin I cant perceive (nor
he)until I feel my house begin to movepulled off, destabilzedby
threads of magic web...

Empire fragmentsin marble as in men.the marble reconnectsbut
humpty dumpty'sfragments cannot hold.

"Screws Loose" brings together several of the themes in both Considering Woman and
Crown Point and Other Poems. It explores the issue of women and madness, the artist as
genius with a few loose screws, winding and unwinding threads:

I do not wish to sit and smiletoo sweetly where the pavement
endsnor set small windy fires at Papinenor scrupulously cleanse

myself in streamsguttering too slowlygathering stench on stench
and so my love my seraph dear go homemade women whisper sane
men's namesand not in jestleave me my dreams of growing calmly
oldtuming thin pages in moth-ridden booksrocking my evening
boneswatching each sun go down

Processing words is the considered alternative to walking and staggering.


Errol. Miller, Men at Risk, Jamaica: Jamaica Publishing House Ltd, 1991, 290 pp.

Men at Risk, clearly is not about gender relationships but about power struggles and
possible choices that the powerless can make. Who are the men at risk? one interpreta-
tion is that men with power that are at risk from the ranks of powerless males who challenge
them from below, or is it that the powerless males are at risk from the females who are
identified as making inroads in some occupations previously regarded as part of the male
enclave? The author does not clarify this for the reader but maybe the cover symbolically
gives us a clue as it depicts a well- defined white male (a powerful patriarch by Miller's
own definition) manipulating an ill-defined non-white figure .

Men at Risk contains like any good meal, the substance in the middle, with "case
studies" to whet the appetite and help the digestion.The coinage of the term "case-study"
to describe the author's carefully selected examples of his personal observations could be
misconstrued as there is no indication that these examples resulted from the systematic
observation of behaviour over time so that generalizations about the typicality of an
individual's behaviour can be made. This is a basic requirement in social research that
involves the use of case- studies. Because of the phenomena of selective attention, the
examples chosen naturally told the reader more about the operational stereotypes employed
by the author however they also serve to make the readers' take stock of their own pre-
judgements, indeed some may share Miller's view that a patriarch has the following
unmistakable characteristics: physical prowess, maleness and whiteness, others may hold
more catholic opinions with regard to race, but still maintain that a patriarch has charac-
teristics of maleness and maturity. Images of African chieftains, Moses, Hollywoods' King
of Siam, all spring to mind as possible contenders.

Chapters 5-8 contain Miller's most interesting ideas, that although patriarchy is
about the sexual division of power, men are at risk because essentially what is taking place
is a power struggle. Chapter 6 discusses the immediate and long term effects of the shift in
patriarchal authority (power) from the family to the public sphere, but still controlled by a
few males. The author hypothesizes that males who did not have power in the society were

also undermined in their own homes, thus leading to the use of "naked power' (read abuse)
within their home on a personal crude basis. In the society, Miller argues forcefully, that
the men who wield the power conceal their coercion of the powerless by giving the
impression of greater freedom (the granting of rights and privileges previously denied to
which the individual was entitled) whereas behind the scenes greater control is taking
place. Miller uses chapter 7 to illustrate this argument closer to home, citing the Jamican
situation especially with regards to upward mobility and the 'so- called liberation of
women (which really is not a liberation of but merely a relaxation of policy that allows
women to enter the non traditional labour market at lower salaries than men, and unwitting-
ly cause powerless males to be marginalized.

Men at Risk focuses the reader's attention on other little known strategies used by
the powerful to eliminate competition. Not only did powerful males slaughter their op-
ponents but also they resorted to castration. In this way they could benefit from the skills
of their opponents at the same time eliminating the possibility of kinship threats from their
powerful descendants. Some of these men became so influential (but not threatening) that
it was not unknown for males to voluntarily opt to become eunuchs in order to achieve
upward mobility. These men were no threat to the powerful having no heirs to inherit from
them. Parallels could be found in modem society where men with no previous access to
power can acquire it by choosing not to have heirs. The power (perceived or real ) of celibate
religious leaders or 'confirmed bachelors' in the corporate and political arenas. Such
men seen are seen as dedicating themselves to their work. These individuals often do not
wield the power but because of their talent, combined with the primordial lack of threat
walk with the privileged in the corridors of power often posing only a threat to the
marginalised male who discerns them as 'homosexual'. This entrenched homophobia, so
common in the Caribbean could be regarded as a consequence of the emasculated state of
the powerless males. This point raised by Miller lends itself to more in depth analysis of
power and gives particular credence to the link between power and kinship and the
necessity of patriarchy to ensure that power is transferred only along recognized lines of
kinship ( likewise safeguarding the virginity of females until marriage has far less to do
with virtue but rather the ensures the transference of power to the rightful heir).

Miller's relaxed style makes for effortless reading which combined with the use of
the case studies allows the author to titillate with sexual imagery and provocative ver-
nacular not usually found in books written by academics. However what the text offers by
way of readability, it lacks in terms of accountability. One serious omission is that the book
lacks a bibliography, this poses problems for the serious scholar. The references cited in
the text are for the most part scant- Chapter 4. on the Creation of Patriarchy allocates less
than two pages to no less than nine theories of patriarchy, and although most of the readers
have heard of Freud, the reader is left wondering if Mary O'Brien is indeed the novellist
who wrote 'Country Girls' and if she is, why is she being given the same prominence as

authorities on patriarchy such as Engels, Freud, Levi-Strauss and Weber. There are serious
flaws in all the other viewpoints presented by the author, so it is with a sigh of relief one
accepts Miller's alternative a view of patriarchy which appears to be a variant of that
propounded by Ortner, to whom the author makes no reference the idea that because
women give life, it would be unthinkable of them to destroy it even if it becomes necessary
- this task is apportioned to men who over lime become powerful because of their ability
(and propensity) to kill.

The final chapter makes a plea for the abandonment of patriarchy as the basis for
societal organisation as it is obsolete. The author is quick to point out however that merely
abandoning patriarchy will do nothing to empower the marginalized members of society.
The position posited is that marginalised males may predictably react with either violence
or escape into substance-abuse, cullism and fanaticism. Women might also react in a
similar fashion after the frustration of having a ceiling placed on their progress, or they may
choose to join ranks with the males to seize power for themselves. As Miller states either
way, women would hold most of the positions of power with men as their lieutenants'. He
sees this as unequivocally good. To the sceptic it might be more a case of swoppingg black
dog for monkey'. Although not elucidated, the author's argument seems to be that each
gender must experience power before striving for "personarchy" an awkward term used to
describe the pleasant state of being where the distribution of power is determined by the
qualities of the individual. A noble ideal! Are those with the power ready to relinquish it,
and at what cost for the attainment of Utopia?

This book will certainly generate interest, relationships between the sexes always
does. Hopefully interest will stimulate others to venture into writing and debate including
some written from the female perspective as I believe that this opening up will lead us
further on the road to personarchy than any swing of the pendulum which leads to the
control of power by females.


Review of Popular Democracy and the Creative Imagination; The Writings of
CLR James 1950-53 by Anna Grimshaw and CLR James and the Struggle for Happi-
ness, by Anna Grimshaw and Keith Hart- Published by CLR James Institute and Cultural
Correspondence, New York, January 1991

The death of CLR James in 1989 has triggered interest in the work of perhaps the
most significant West Indian intellectual of the 20th Century. Novelist, political theorist
and activist, cultural critic, historian, cricket writer and philosopher, CLR James work
spans two- thirds of this century. As is usual with such a vast body of work, two things
happen. First, there is a vast quantity of unpublished manuscripts and essays. This is made
more likely since for at least twenty years of his life, James worked as a political activist in
left circles under different names. Secondly, as interest in his works develops and new
material comes to light, then debate rages about the real meaning of his political and
intellectual legacy.

The cynic amongst us would argue that many pseudo- intellectual activities to attract
funding would now gather momentum. However, as James would say, all proof, like the
pudding, is in the eating, and while one should discern the different elements of his legacy,
it is perhaps important to note what he himself considered to be his most. important
contribution.In a series of interviews conducted in 1980 and 1981, James, in response to the
question of what he thinks has been his greatest contributions states:

"My contributions have been number one, to
clarify and extend the heritage of Marx and Lenin.
And number two, to explain and expand the idea of
what constitutes the new society."

James' work, therefore, in whatever sphere should be both understood and judged
from the methodology which he followed and extended Marxism. To do otherwise, that is
to judge his work from only the standpoint of the particular discipline or the traditional
contours of the particular endeavor is to reduce him, to James the historian, James the
political theorist, James the cultural critic or James the whatever. It is to miss the totality of
James and his central themes how to unleash the capacity of the ordinary person and to
make that energy the dominant social force in human society.

As more of James' writings become accessible, attention is being focused on his
work published and unpublished of the 1950's and 1960's. Ken Worcester has recently
argued in a paper CLR James and the American Century that works like The Struggle
for Happiness mark a departure from James work, not only in the Trotskyist movement,
but the concerns of traditional Revolutionary left politics. Worcester states;

"with the Struggle for Happiness and Mariners, Renegades and Castaways, James
seemed to be saying that he was ready to incorporate the theoretical and political lessons of
his years as a Trotskist and as a Johnsonite in a way that would allow him to move on to a
whole new array of concerns.....I would argue to be ultimately, a far more consequential set
of explorations of the politics of art, society and culture".

Grimshaw and Hart's two recent pamphlets seek to elaborate that view.

CLR James and the Struggle for Happiness is a pamphlet which serves two
purposes. First, it is an introduction to a yet unpublished text written by James in the 1950's
on American Civilization. Secondly, it seeks to locate the work within the framework of
James' life and work.

It is difficult to interpret analysis of any text without the text itself and even though
this reviewer has subsequently read the unpublished manuscript, the average reader of the
pamphlet would not have access to this material. The publication of the introductory text to
the manuscript can only serve the purpose of stimulating the reader.

As introduction to the text, the essay reveals the range of James' interests and desire
to produce an integrated whole, and his preoccupation with the life of the ordinary person.
The discussion on James' analysis of the early years of the American entertainment
industry is sound when it states:-

"James believed that the denial of personality to ordinary people, and their determina-
tion to realize some form of individuality, however vicarious, gave rise to the dominance of
the star system".

In relation to the structure of the text, the pamphlet identifies the "tension" between
the preoccupation with literary ideas, to the observation of contemporary social life. A
distinctive feature of James' methodology. The pamphlet locates the manuscript in this

"In The Struggle for Happiness James moved
beyond the European model of intellectual leader-
ship,party politics and cultural ("Old bourgeois
civilization") and situated himself firmly in the New
World with an original conception of political life. It
was rooted in the unique conditions of American
Society and its people; and at its centre lay his recogni-
tion of the power and developed consciousness of or-
dinary men and women".

While identifying the central theme of James' work, the pamphlet fails to identify,
that, while deeply influenced by American Society, James, by the time he had written the

text, had fundamentally broken with traditional notions of political praxis. In Notes on
Dialectics written in 1948, James systematically destroys all previous notions of revolu-
tionary politics in relation to party, class and conceptions of socialism. Indeed The Strug-
gle for Happiness is the first integrated major work written by James utilizing the new
concepts by him and the Johnson/Forest Tendency. It was written in the context of the
development of the political organization Correspondence. The work was an attempt to
recognize the "invading socialist society" and to lay bare its forces. Written in simple
language and in a direct manner, the manuscript followed the pattern which James and his
associates sought to develop to write for the ordinary parson and to eschew the pseudo-
complexities of "intellectual" life. Viewed from this perspective, The Struggle for Happi-
ness does not mark a break for James, but the reassertion of a direction already formed.
While adding new insights in James' perspectives on the integrative nature of modem life,
the pamphlet seeks to separate James from his revolutionary heritage. It forgets what he
himself says was his second major contribution to identify the new for the purpose of
revolutionary transformation.

The second pamphlet Popular Democracy and the Creative Imagination: The
Writings of CLR James 1950-63 seeks again to locate James' work in the period as
distinctive and making breaks with the traditional themes and concerns of James. It states
in part:

"The year 1950 was a watershed for James.
Having worked exhaustively to establish an historical
method and having clarified, thereby, the philosophi-
cal foundations of this future political activity, he
began to explore new questions questions on art,
culture and aesthetics".

Again the integrative whole is missing. James' explorations in the 1920's, 30's and
40's, while preoccupied with questions of political theory was never divorced from his
view on how human society was an integrative whole. It is true that he states that fiction
writing was replaced by Trotskyist politics, but he continued to write on cricket and was
preoccupied with the "questions of art, culture and aesthetics". What is new about the
writings of the 1950's is that he broke from the intellectual tradition of literary ideas, the
examination of great artists, and sought to find out the contours and nature of the popular
art forms and literary taste of the ordinary people. In this, his perspective was strengthened
by his central theme the capacity of ordinary people for the transformation of society.

Perhaps the most perceptive essay in this pamphlet is Preface to Criticism. Al-
though still seeking to delink James from the Jahnson/Forest collective and not recognizing
the tremendous factor that this collective was in his work, the essay suggests key elements
of James' aesthetics. It states in part:-

"James believed that the achievement of the great
artist was the integration of two axes, the horizontal,
covering the known world, and the vertical, what Mel-
ville called "strange stuff' imaginative conceptions
opening a window on the whole, the whole of history,
the whole of civilization".

From this perspective, James recognized that a feature also of the great artist was
her/his audience. This logically led to the major question of "popular democracy and the
expansion of the creative imagination".

It is in this domain that James most distinctive contribution lies a conception of
society in which direct and popular democracy was a prerequisite for personalities to
develop and for the creative imagination to chart boundaries hither unknown. It is a view
found in Marx's early work (no wonder James' group was the first to translate Marx's early
economic and philosophical manuscripts). It is a view developed by James in Tunapuna,
Trinidad, as he watched the ne'er do well Matthew Bondsman play cricket.

To break James' work into periodic themes is to miss the whole. His was about
bringing the new to a dominant position. Like the tradition he followed, civilization was the
canvas of study. That today we can debate his contributions to "different" disciplines is
testimony to his success. The pamphlets by Grimshaw and Hart are useful in that they point
to little known aspects of James' work. However, in identifying the "new" we must
recognize the process. Leaps never happen into a vacuous dark, but are the culminations of
understandings. As James' states in Notes on Dialetics:-

"The truth is what you examine, and what you
examine it with, both are in the process of constant

It is James' ability to discern the changes which gives him his social thought today.

The two pamphlets reviewed, point to areas of James' work which have been
overlooked. They should also be read alongside a major political and philosophical text of
James, in particular Notes on Dialetics and Facing Reality and must be regarded as
incomplete if one has not read The Struggle for Happiness.


(for the drowned Africans of the Middle Passage)

Sometimes in the middle of the story something
move outside the house, like
it could be the wind, but is not the wind
and the story-teller hesitate so slight
you hardly notice it, and the children
hold their breath and look at one another.
The old people say is Toussaint passing
on his grey horse Bel-Argent, moving
faster than backra-massa timepiece
know to measure, briefing the captains
setting science and strategy to trap the emperor.
But also that sound had something in it
of deep water, salt water, had ocean
the sleep-sigh of a drowned African
turning in his sleep on the ocean floor
and Toussaint horse was coming from far
his tail trailing the swish of the sea
from secret rendezvous, from councils of war
with those who never completed the journey,
and we below deck heard only the muffled
thud of scuffling feet, could only
guess the quick, fierce tussle, the
stifled gasp, the barrel-chests bursting
the bubbles rising and breaking, the blue
closing over. But their souls shuttle
still the forest paths of ocean
connecting us still the current unbroken
the circuits kept open, the tireless messengers
the ebony princes of your lost Atlantis
a power of black men rising from the sea.



(Reviews of these books are invited. Interested persons should write the Editor quoting
the titles) of the books) concerned prior to reviewing them.)

Integration and Participatory Development :Selected Papers and proceedings of the
Second Conference of Caribbean EconomistsEd. J. Wedderburn Friedrick Ebert Stiftung
F.E.S. in collaboration with the Association of Caribbean Economists. (ACE) Nov. 1990
I.S.B.N. 976. 8096. 07.X

Under the Storyteller's Spell. Folk Tales from the Caribbean Editor Faustin Charles
Puffin Books

Adult Education Basic Shills Culture Development and Culture Roger Van 't Rood
CESCO $12.50 Paperback.. pp. 130 ISBN. 90 6443 60 8

North South Collaborative Proceeding of the International Symposium on 'Educa-
tion,Culture and Productive Life in Developing Countries The Hague ISBN 90 6443 711 -
4 &8.75 Paperback pp 138

CESCO Innovation in Tertiary Education in the Caribbean: distance teaching in the
Faculty of Education at U.W.I. by Z Jennings Hague. CESCO Paper No.44 ( Report) $2.75
pp. 20

Wilson Harris: The uncompromising Imagination Author Heron Macs Jeluncti Editor
March 1991. L14.95 paperback L24.95 casedlSBN 1.87 1049 37 7 Dangerous Press
Denmark or U.K. pp 277

The Tropic of Baseball Baseball in the Dominican Republic Rob.Ruck Feb. 1991 pp
206 Meckler Publishing Westport Conn. U.SISBN O 88736 707 0 Price $37.50

Central Banking in a Developing Economy, Terrence Farrell, ISBN 976 40 0032 0 pp.
150 Price US$14.50 Ja$82.00, I.S.E.R. UWI (Mona)

The World Market Factory, Cecilia Green, pp.220,ISBN 976-800001- 80-1
CARIPEDA,SLVincent, US$20.00,EC$@).00

Central Banking in a Developing Economy, A Study of Trinidad and Tobago 1964-89,
Terrence Farrell, pp.150, ISBN 976-40-0032-0 ISER,UWl(Mona)

Supplement to a Guide to Source Materials for the Study of Barbados History, 1627-
1834, Jerome S.Handler, pp.89 ISBN 0- 916617-35-1 The John Carter Brown Library and
the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, Rhode Island 1991


Companion to Senya, by Senya Darklight and Companions, Ed. Marty Campbell,
pp.160. ISBN 0-929749-01-4

Panama- Made in the U.S.A., John Weeks and Phil Gunson, pp.129, ISBN 0-906156-
55-6 US$8.00 Latin American Bureau,Special Brief.

Treasures of Barbados, Henry Fraser, pp.88, ISBN 0-333-53369-0 Macmillan Carib-
bean $14.95.

Nedjma by Kaleb Yacine, (Translated by Richard Howard, pp. 344,0- 8139-1312-6,
US$35.00 (paper US$14.95) CARAF Series, University of Virginia

Forging Identities and Patterns of Development in Latin America, Diaz, Rummens and
Taylor, York University

In the Castle of My Skin, George Lamming, pp.344, Paper, US$13.95, Ann Arbor
Paperback Series, University of Michigan Press.

Storm Signals: Structural Adjustment and Development Alternatives in the Caribbean,
McAfee, Zed Books, London, U.K.


Edward Baugh

Frank Birbalsingh

Cyril Dabydeen

Gordon Rohlehr

John Rothfork

Consuelo Lopez

is Professor of English at the University of the West Indies,
Mona Campus.

teaches at York University, Ontario, Canada

is a writer living in Canada.

is a writer.

teaches in the Humanities Department, New Mexico Tech.

teaches comparative Literature at the University of Illinois.


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