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 Table of Contents
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Caribbean Quarterly
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Table of Contents
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    Front Matter
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    Back Cover
        Back Cover
Full Text

SISSNI 0008-6495
Caribbean Quarterly
Vol. 46. No. 1
[ ^ March 2000

The En 0 .*gish anguageFokTaio m

A Post Moer Colcie Deosrcin Identit

IS .0 50 -K Snf^^^^^^^^^^
and Fait in Roer Anon' D rc
D Krm S 3 00wi

Ditnto an 9 9- giminJmca lb

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What Do55esinMr.STwiniyB Want-B Shaingo electng
An Assessment of Henr Swanzy's Contributio
to thefS Development of Caribbean Literature^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Philip Nanton^^^^^^^^^^

^RBOOK REVIW TheRepeating IsBaB5RnThe aribbean^^^
and the Post-Modem Perspective, by A. Benito-Rojo^
Curdella Forbes^^^^ ^^^


(Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission forbidden.)
En Francais
En Espagnol
The English Language Folk Tradition of Limon Province, Costa Rica 1
Lenry Cohen
[wo Tunes :Jean Rhy's Voyage in the Dark 24
Harald Loendorf
, Post Modern Collective: Deconstruction, Identity and Faith in Robert 37
Antoni's Divina Trace
Jean Karpowicz
Distinction and Dialogism in Jamaica: Myal by Erna Brodber 46
Collette Maximin
What Does Mr Swanzy Want? Shaping or Reflecting? An Assessment of 61
lenry Swanzy's Contribution to the Development of Caribbean Literature
'hilip Nanton
iOOK REVIEW The Repeating Island :The Caribbean and the 73
Post-Modern Perspective, by A. Benito-Rojo
Curdella Forbes
Books Received 81
Notes on Contributors 83
Instructions to Authors 84

VOLUME 46, No.1

MARCH 2000


Editorial Committee
The Hon. R.M. Nettleford, O.M. Deputy Vice Chancellor, Editor
Compton Bourne, Principal, St. Augustine Campus, UWI
Sir Keith Hunte, Principal, Cave Hill Campus, UWI
Sir Roy Augier, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of History, Mona
Neville McMorris, Dept. of Physics, Mona
Veronica Salter, Office of Deputy Vice Chancellor, Mona (Managing Editor)
All correspondence and contributions should be addressed to:
The Editor
Caribbean Quarterly
Office of Deputy Vice Chancellor
University of the West Indies
PO Box 42, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica
Tel. No. 876-977-3580, Tel Fax 876-927-1920
Email: vsalter@uwimona.edn.jm.
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
the issue. Articles submitted are not returned. Contributors are asked not to send interna-
tional postal coupons for this purpose.
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Exchanges are conducted by the Gifts and Exchanges Section, Library, University
of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
Back Issues and Microfilm
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
1949-1990 and Supplemental 1991-1996 Author Keyword and Subject Index available.
The 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 UWI.


It is axiomatic that the popular culture of a country, its writings, folklore
fables and myths act as a mirror reflecting the attitudes, perceptions, hopes, and
anguish of its people. This is ably demonstrated in the articles comprising Volume
46, number 1 the first Caribbean Quarterly for the year 2000. Each one
provides deep insight to the Caribbean people at a particular time and space the
Caribbean of colonial times, the Caribbean as multi-ethnic, the Caribbean as
dispossessed, the Caribbean as independent and attaining selfhood.
The first article, The English Language Folk Tradition of Limon Province,
Costa Rica, by Henry Cohen, examines the ring games and rhymes of children of
the Costa Rican Atlantic Coast region and determines that these come principally
from the Jamaican tradition. The author surmises that three main factors have
contributed to the conservation of the Anglophone oral tradition in Lim6n
geographical isolation, the cohesiveness of the Afro-Caribbean population and their
profound feeling of 'cultural superiority' vis-a-vis the poor Hispanics, and thirdly
that despite their feelings of superiority they had been the generalized target of
racial discrimination at the hands of the majority The author states that ironically,
one effect of the persistence of ethnic discrimination against blacks is the preserva-
tion of black culture.
Cultural clashes are likewise critiqued in Two Tunes: Jean Rhys Voyage
in the Dark by Harald Loendorf, which follows. Here issues of colonialism,
racism, sexism and the attendant issues of power and powerlessness from the
point of view of Anna Morgan, the first person narrator are examined. The author
takes issue with the usual descriptions of Anna as either weak, or a dispossessed
urban spinster or, finally, as a character mainly based on Jean Rhys own life. He
posits that any of these definitions taken exclusively would fall far short of her
complex personality and that in order to fully understand her motivation and
behaviour, one has to take into account her position as a coloniser in a colonial
environment, her unexpected identification with the colonised, her gender and the
way she is treated as a consequence of all these factors. For Anna is positioned
between two cultures from the very start. He states that when Anna realises that
she cannot fit the two [colonial centre (present ) and colony,(past)] together, she
has almost grasped the central contradiction she has to face: that coming to the
homeland is not the same as coming home, and that moving to the centre of her
colonial culture means leaving the one she has grown up in....He concludes that
coming home in colonial terms means going into exile, means realizing the
oppressive force of colonising powers. The psychological price for this exile still
reverberates around the region.
In the next essay, the complexities of the muti-ethnic Caribbean unfold.
The novel critiqued, Divina Trace, is narrated by seven different voices and
includes perspectives representing three of the major ethno-historic elements of
the West Indies, European, African, and East Indian. As the voices speak to the

primary narrator they allow the reader some way of understanding the cultural
identity of the whole Caribbean. Dean Karpowicz in the essay, A Postmodem
Collective: Deconstruction, Identity, and Faith in Robert Antonis Divina Trace,
states that the cultural Caribbean meaning in this particular text rests in the notion
of a paradox of faith in which the interior [an imagined myth] is incommensurable
with the facts or reality Surely this idea is no different from that of the Cartesian
duality of mind/physical advocated by Western thought which is a notion that is
unsupported by other philosophies and goes against the very grain of either
Africanness or Caribbeanness.
In Collette Maximin's critique of Erna Brodber's work Myal entitled Dis-
tinction and Dialogism in Jamaica Myal by Erna Brodber she states that Myal
exemplifies Brodber's awareness (aided no doubt by her training in social anthro-
pology) of the complex historical and cultural processes, as it highlights Jamaica's
social divisions by interconnecting religion and politics. Myal, is seen by Maximin
as a novel which not only deals with hybridization, but is of itself a hybrid novel.
This is a critique of a novel of hope for in it the barriers that modem Europe has
created between taught and popular art are transcended, and the novel goes
beyond Divina Trace critiqued earlier and asserts and enriches a Caribbean
which heals the breach between various heritages. A theatrical text in the guise of
a novel, Myal reconciles voice with writing a truly Caribbean approach in this very
oral society The final essay examines the contribution of a critic,the host of the
BBC Broadcast Caribbean Voices (who himself could be regarded as a colonial) to
Caribbean Literature. The essay entitled What Does Mr Swanzy Want? Shaping
or Reflecting? An assessment of Henry Swanzy's contribution to the development
of Caribbean Literature, by Philip Nanton, provides an exploration of the scope of
Swanzy's achievement. He states that the first important outcome of Swanzy's
intervention was that he stirred a debate about relevance and standards in Carib-
bean literature which continues to reverberate even to this day A second outcome
was the provision of a clearing of space in which Caribbean writers could establish
a legitimate claim for attention even though he accepted that any intervention of
the type that he directed from outside the Caribbean could only be temporary, and
that the real work remained to be carried out in the Caribbean itself. A third
outcome was his influence on the nature of the audience for Caribbean literature.
The author concludes that by championing the local and specific ways of saying
and writing, Swanzy made a major contribution to the development and accessibil-
ity of regional writing from the English speaking Caribbean to a wider audience and
that it is this process of shaping in all its dimensions which deserves recognition.
It is fitting that the Book Review by Curdella Forbes that completes the
issue is a review of The Repeating Island:The Caribbean and the Post-Modern
Perspective by the Cuban-American theorist Benitez-Rojo

II y a un axiome selon lequel la culture populaire 'dun pays, ses ecrits, ses
traditions, ses fables et ses mythes constituent un miroir reflechissant les attitudes,
les conceptions, les espoirs et les angoisses de son people. Les articles de
contenus dans ce numero 1 du Volume 46 (premier numero de Caribbean
Quarterly pour lannee 2000) en font la demonstration avec beaucoup de com-
petence. Chacun offre un apercu detaille du people carafbeen pris a un moment
donne, dans le temps et dans lespace Caraibe de lepoque colonial, Caraibe
multiracial, Carafbe depossedee, CaraTbe independante et parvenant a la con-
science de soi
Le premier article, The English Language Folk Tradition of Lim6n Province,
Costa Rica (La tradition populaire de langue anglaise dans la province de Lim6n,
au Costa-Rica), par Henry Cohen, etudie les comptines et les rondes d'enfants de
la region cotiere atlantique costaricaine. Celui-ci determine que ces dernieres
viennent principalement de la tradition jamaicaine. L'auteur emet I'hypothese que
trois facteurs principaux ont pu contribuer a la conservation des traditions orales
anglophones a Limon lisolement geographique, la cohesion de la population
afro-carafbeenne et son sentiment profound de superiorityte>> culturelle a legard des
hispaniques pauvres, et troisiemement, le fait que, malgre son sentiment de
superiority, cette population soit la cible d'une discrimination racial de la part de la
majority. Lauteur fait remarquer que, ironiquement, I'un des consequences d'une
discrimination racial persistante, c'est de preserver la culture noire.
De meme, articlee suivant 'dHarald Loendorf present une etude critique
des conflicts culturels dans Two Tunes Jean Rhys Voyage in the Dark (Deux
melodies Le voyage dans lombre de Jean Rhys). Dans cet article, les problems
du colonialisme, du racism et du sexisme, et leurs corollaires du pouvoir et de
I'impuissance sont studies du point de vue d'Anna Morgan, la narratrice parlant a
la premiere personnel. L'auteur remet en question les descriptions habituelles
presentant Anna comme un etre faible ou une vieille fille de la ville, depossedee, ou
enfin comme un personnage en grande parties autobiographique. II postule que
chacune de ces definitions prise isolement n'arrive pas a rendre compete de la
complexity de sa personnalite. Selon lui, pour bien comprendre ses motivations et
son comportement, il faut prendre en compete sa situation de colonisee dans un
milieu colonial, et considered le fait que, centre toute attente, elle s'identifie aux
colonises, son sexe et la fagon don't on la traite, comme une consequence de tous
ces elements. En effet, Anna est place entire deux cultures des le depart.
Lauteur declare que, lorsque Anna se rend compete quelle ne peut pas faire les
deux (le centre colonial [present] et la colonie [passe]) aller ensemble, elle a
presque compris la contradiction principal a I'aquelle elle doit faire face cest-a-
dire qu'arriver au pays natal signifie autre chose que rentrer chez soi. Que se
rendre au centre de sa culture colonial signifie renoncer a celle dans laquelle elle
a grand. . L'auteur conclut que rentrer chez soi, en terms coloniaux, signifie

partir en exil, signifie egalement, se rendre compete de la force opprimante des
pouvoirs colonisateurs. Le coOt psychologique de cet exil se repercute encore
dans la region.
L'essai suivant d6voile la complexity de la Caraibe multiracial. Le roman
etudie, Divina Trace, est raconte par sept voix differentes et inclut des perspectives
representant trois des principaux elements historiques et ethniques des Antilles
I'Europeen, I'Africain et I'lndien des Indes. Tandis que ces voix s'adressent au
narrateur principal, elles permettent au lecteur de comprendre I'identite culturelle
de toute la Caraibe. Dans c'et essai, A Postmodern Collective Deconstruction,
Identity and Faith in Robert Antonis Divina Trace, (Un ensemble postmoderne
Deconstruction, identity et foi dans Divina Trace de Robert Antony), Dean Kar-
powicz declare que la signification culturelle de la CaraTbe dans ce texte particulier
repose sur un paradoxe de la foi dans lequel I'interieur (un mythe imagine) ne peut
se mesurer aux faits ou a la reality. II est sOr que cette idee ne differe pas de celle
de la duality cartesienne de I'esprit et du corps preconisee par la pensee occiden-
tale, laquelle nest pas soutenue par les autres philosophies et va a I'encontre de la
nature meme de I'africanite ou de I'antillanite.
Dans son article critique sur 'louvrage 'dErna Brodber, Myal, intitule Dis-
tinction and Dialogism in Jamaica Myal by Erna Brodber (Distinction et dialogisme
en Jamaique Myal d'Erna Brodber) Colette Maximin affirme que Myal illustre la
sensibility de Brodber sensibilitye stimulee sans aucun doute par sa formation de
sociologue) aux processus historiques et culturels complexes. Maximin consider
Myal comme un roman qui non seulement traite de I'hybridation mais qui a
lui-meme une forme hybride. II sagit d'une critique sur un roman porteur despoir
car les barrieres creees par I'Europe entire art populaire et art enseigne y sont
transcendees. Ce roman va plus loin que Divina Trace, critique dans I'article
precedent, car il affirme et enrichit une Caraibe qui comble les breches existant
entire divers heritages. Texte de theatre sous le couvert d'un roman, Myal recon-
cilie I'oral et I'ecrit, soit une approche vraiment caraibeenne dans cette society si
Le dernier article etudie la contribution 'dun critique, animateur 'dune
emission de la BBC, Caribbean Voices (qu'on pourrait considered comme un
colonialiste), a la literature caraibeenne. L'essai de Philip Nanton, intitule What
does Mr. Swanzy want ? Shaping or Reflecting ? An Assessment of Henry
Swanzys Contribution to the Development of Caribbean Literature (Que veut donc
M. Swanzy ? Modeler ou Refleter ? Evaluation de I'apport d'Henry Swanzy au
developpement de la literature de la Caraibe), invite 6 explorer I'etendue des
r6alisations de Swanzy II declare que le premier resultat important des interven-
tions de Swanzy a ete de soulever un debate sur la pertinence et les normes de la
litterature caraibeenne. Debat qui continue de resonner encore aujourd'hui. Le
deuxieme resultat a ete de fournir un space degage ou les ecrivains caraibeens
pouvaient legitiment r6clamer I'attention. Meme s'il acceptait que toute intervention

de lordre de celle qu'il menait de I'exterieur de la region ne pouvait qu'etre tempo-
raire et qu'il restait un vrai travail a faire dans la region elle-meme. Le troisieme
resultat a ete son influence sur la nature du public s'interessant a la literature de
la Carafbe. L'auteur conclut quen pregnant la defense des particularismes locaux
ecrits et parles, Swanzy a joue un rOle tries important dans le developpement et
I'accessibilite des ecrits regionaux emanant de la Caraibe anglophone a un pub-
lic plus large. C'est ce processus de formation dans toutes ses dimensions qui
merite d'etre reconnu.

Enfin, et cela ne pouvait mieux tomber, le compte-rendu de lecture
cl6turant ce numero est un compte-rendu critique par Curdella Forbes de I'ouvrage
du theoricien americain d'origine cubaine, Benitez-Rojo, The Repeating Island
The Caribbean and the Post-Modern Perspective ('Lile qui se replete Une per-
spective postmoderne sur la Carafbe).
Redacteur en chef

Es axiomatico que la cultural popular de un pais, sus escrituras, su folclor,
sus fabulas y sus mitos reflejen las actitudes, las percepciones, las esperanzas y
la angustia de su pueblo. Esto se ve claramente en los articulos del Numero I del
volume 46, la primera edici6n del Caribbean Quarterly para el aio 2000. Cada
uno de estos articulos suministra un profundo conocimiento del pueblo Caribeho
en un determinado moment y espacio: el Caribe de tiempos coloniales, el Caribe
multi etnico, el Caribe desposeido y el Caribe independiente en camino a la
En el primer articulo, The English Language Folk Tradition of Limon
Province, Costa Rica (La tradicion del pueblo de habla inglesa de la Provincia de
Lim6n en Costa Rica) por Henry Cohen, se examinan los juegos de rueda y las
rimas de los ninos de la Costa Atlantica Costaricense y se determine que estas
salen principalmente de la tradicion jamaicana. El autor plantea tres factors
principles que han contribuido a la conservaci6n de la tradici6n oral anglofona en
Lim6n: el aislamiento geografico, la cohesion de la poblaci6n afrocaribena y su
profundo sentimiento de superioridad cultural frente a los pobres hispanos y
terceros, que a pesar de sus sentimientos de superioridad, habian sido el blanco
generalizado de la descriminaci6n racial de parte de la mayoria. El autor declara
que es irbnico que un efecto de la persistencia de la discriminaci6n etnica contra
los negros sea la conservaci6n de la cultural negra.

Los conflicts culturales tambien son resenados en Two Tunes: Jean
Rhys Voyage in the Dark (Dos liricas: El viaje a la oscuridad de Jean Rhys) en el
siguente articulo de Harold Loendorf. Aqui se examinan los temas de colonial-
ismo, racism, sexismo y los temas asociados del poder y de la debilidad desde la
perspective de la protagonista Anna Morgan. El critic cuestiona las descripciones
tradicionales de Anna como mujer debil o soltera urbana desposeida, a fin de
cuentas, un character basado principalmente en la propia vida de Jean Rhys. El
postula que cualquiera de estas definiciones exclusivas formuladas no Ilegaria a
describir adecuadamente su personalidad compleja y que para poder entender su
motivacion y comportamiento, se tiene que tener en cuenta su posicion de coloni-
zadora en un entorno colonial, su identificaci6n inesperada con los colonizados, su
genero y la manera en la cual se le trata como consecuencia de todos estos
factors. Desde el principio Anna esta colocada entire dos cultures. Loendorf
declara que Anna, al darse cuenta de que no puede integrar las dos (el centro
colonial de la actualidad y la colonia del pasado), casi ha logrado entender la
contradicci6n central que tiene que confrontar o sea que el volver a su pais de su
natal no es lo mismo que volver a casa y que mudarse al centro de su cultural
colonial significa dejar aquel donde habia crecido El autor concluye que volver
a casa en terminos coloniales significa exilarse, significa darse cuenta de las
fuerzas opresivas de los poderes colonizantes. El precio sicol6gico de este exilio
aun reverbera alrededor de la region.
En el siguiente ensayo, se despliegan las complejidades del Caribe multi
etnico. La novela que se resena, Divina Trace es narrada por siete voces distintas
e incluye perspectives representatives de tres de los principles elements etno
hist6ricos de las Antillas o sea, el europeo, el africano y el hindU. Al lector se le
permit entender la identidad cultural de todo el Caribe por medio de las voces de
la narradora principal. En esta resefia de Dean Karpowicz titulada A Postmodern
Collective: Deconstruction, Identity, and Faith in Robert Antonios Divina Trace
(Una colectiva pos modern: Deconstruccion, Identidad y Fe) en Divina Trace de
Roberto Antonio, plantea que el significado particular se apoya en la noci6n de
una paradoja de fe dentro de la cual lo interno (un mito imaginario) es incomensur-
able con los hechos o la realidad. De hecho, esta idea no es nada diferente de la
dualidad cartesiana alentada por el pensamiento occidental, una nocion que no
cuenta con el apoyo de otras filosofias y va en contra del meollo de la africania o
lo caribeio.
En su reseia de la obra de Erna Brodber Myal titulada Distinction and
Dialogism in Jamaica: Myal by Erna Brodber (Distincion y Dialogismo en Jamaica:
Myal por Erna Brodber), Collette Maximin opina que Myal ejemplifica la concienti-
zaci6n de Brodber (sin duda respaldada por su formaci6n en antropologia social)
en cuanto a los complejos process historicos y culturales ya que destaca las
divisions sociales de Jamaica por la religion y como una novela que no solo trata
de la hibridizacion, sino que de por si es una novela hibrida. Es una reseia de una
novela de esperanza porque en ella se transcienden las barreras creadas por la

Europa modern entire el arte aprendido y el arte popular La novela va mas alla
de Divina Trace antes resenada y declara y enriquece un Caribe que Ilena la
laguna entire varias tradiciones. Un texto teatral disfrazado de novela, Myal re-
conocilia voz con escritura un enfoque verdaderamente caribeho en esta sociedad
de tradici6n oral.
En el ensayo final se examine el aporte de un resenador del program, el
anfitrion de la emisi6n Caribbean Voices de la BBC (quien tambien podria ser
perteneciente a la epoca colonial) a la Literatura Caribeha. El ensayo titulado
What does Mr Swanzy Want? (Que quiere el Sr Swanzy?) Shaping or Reflect-
ing? (LCrear o Refleccionar?) An assessment of Henry Swanzys contribution to
the development of Caribbean Literature, by Philip Nanton (Una evaluacion de la
contribucion de Henry Swanzy al desarrollo de la Literatura Caribera) por Philip
Nanton, suministra una exploracion del alcance del logro de Swanzy Declara que
el primer resultado important de la intervenci6n de Swanzy fue que desencadeno
un debate sobre la aplicabilidad y las normas de la literature caribeha, que sigue
reverberando hasta hoy Otro resultado fue que abrio un espacio para que los
escritores caribefios reclamen el derecho a la atenci6n de modo legitimo aunque
Ie aceptaba que cualquier intervenci6n del tipo que dirigia fuera del Caribe solo
podria ser provisional, y que todavia quedaba el trabajo verdadero por hacerse en
el mismo Caribe. Un tercer resultado fue su influencia sobre la naturaleza de la
audiencia de la literature caribena. El autor concluye que al liderar las formas
locales y especificas de decir y escribir, Swanzy hizo un aporte important al
desarrollo y la accesibilidad de la escritura regional del Caribe de habla inglesa de
parte de una audiencia mas amplia. Es este process de formacion en todas sus
dimensions que merece reconocerse.
Es apropiado que la Resefa del libro por Curdella Forbes que complete
este nOmero es una resena de The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the Post
Modern Perspective (La isla repetitive: El Caribe y la Perspectiva pos modernista)
por el teorico cubano americano Benitez Rojo.

Third International Conference


Caribbean Literature


Ponce, Puerto Rico

November 1- 3, 2000


You are invited to submit a one-page abstract on any topic relevant to any area
of Caribbean literature. Papers may be presented in English, French or Spanish.
Deadline for abstracts is June 30, 2000. Send abstracts of papers which are to
be delivered in French or Spanish to Jorge Roman-Lagunas and send ab-
stracts of papers which are to be delivered in English to Melvin Rahming. Infor-
mation concerning registration, accommodations and travel will be supplied no
later than June 30, 2000. If you need information previous to this date, please
contact Dr Roman-Lagunas or Dr Rahming.

Jorge Roman Lagunas, Co-Director
Purdue University Calumet
Dept. of Foreign Languages and Literatures
2200-169th Street
Hammond, IN 46323
Telephone: (219) 989-2632

Fax, (219) 989-2165
Email. rornan@calumet.purdue.edu

Melvin Rahming, Co-Director
Morehouse College
Dept. of English and Linguistics
830 WestView Dr S W
Atlanta, CiA 30314
Telephone: (404) 681-2800,
Ext. 2512
Fax- (404) 614-9545
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The English Language Folk Tradition of Lim6n Province,
Costa Rica*



Between 1989 and 1995, under the auspices of the Fundacion Educativa
San Judas Tadeo of San Jose, an international team of researchers carried out a
systematic collection of folklore in all seven provinces of Costa Rica. Our aim was
to gather and publish a representative body of songs and poems that exist in the
popular oral tradition so that scholars might use it for a variety of purposes and so
that the Costa Rican people might have a record of its rich cultural patrimony We
chose not to collect folktales, because to record and transcribe them along with the
other material would have required more than the one month per year that we had
available to carry out our research and to include them would have made our
collection too long and expensive to easily publish.
We have been able to gather the largest representative collection of Costa
Rican folklore ever assembled. It includes material in Spanish, English, and Bri Bri,
the language of the Indians of the Talamanca Mountains in the Southeast. Since
nearly all Costa Rican folklore researchers have been Spanish speakers who
would have had trouble comprehending the English of the Caribbean, the oral folk
tradition of Lim6n province has gone almost totally unrecorded. Add to this the
Hispanic sector's feeling that its black population was not authentically Costa-Ri-
can-a view sanctioned by law until the 1949 Constitution-and one can under-
stand why this body of folklore has been largely ignored. There are, however, a
few exceptions; some Anglophone scholars have collected stories from the oral
tradition, but for some reason have never extended their research to poetry, songs,
prayers and games.
In May and June of 1995, ethnomusicologist Carlos Fernandez and I
traveled to several towns and villages, from Guapiles, Roxana, Rita and Gudcimo
in the west, through Siquirres, Matina and Estrada in the centre, to Lim6n,
Cieneguita and Puerto Viejo on the Atlantic Coast, interviewing and recording
Spanish and English speakers of different ages, professions and social classes. In
this article, I am presenting essentially a field study of the Anglophone material that
we found there, together with commentary Significant variants, when they exist,
follow each primary textual example. Certain items are easily recognizable as
stemming from the English folk tradition, which black inhabitants of Jamaica and
other Antillean British colonies readily absorbed into their own folkways, while
others seem to be purely Caribbean inventions.

Before presenting the collected material, I will briefly trace the presence in
Costa Rica of its Afro-Caribbean population in order to set the context for an
analysis of the conditions that have favoured and worked against the preservation
of its folklore in that country
While a very small number of African slaves had been brought in the
colonial era by the Spaniards to what is now known as Costa Rica, and although
some Afro-Antilleans, either freedmen or people escaping slavery, had migrated
between the late eighteenth century and 1825 to the eastern shore near Panama,
where they had become self-sufficient turtle fishermen and coconut palm farmers,
the vast majority of black immigrants went to the Atlantic Coast region between the
1870s and the 1930s drawn by economic opportunity This second stage of the
African diaspora in the Americas has been analyzed by Roy Simon Bryce-Laporte
and Trevor Purcell:
As the United States replaced its European
predecessor as the dominant colonial force in
Central America, it also introduced a second step
in the black diaspora-the movement of black
free labour to build and maintain plantations in
lands alien both to them and to their white su-
perordinate benefactors. (221)

In 1871, the North American Minor Keith, who would first construct the
Atlantic Railroad and then, as head of the United Fruit Company, establish a string
of banana plantations along it, was granted permission by the central government
to import about a thousand construction workers from Jamaica. There, the sugar
plantations had become so unproductive that there was not enough work to sustain
the descendants of the British slaves who had been freed in 1833, so labourers
migrated willingly to Central America. When the railroad was finished, these
workers were obliged to move into banana production, principally because they
could not afford to buy passage back to Jamaica as had been their original intent.
Another 10,000 Jamaicans immigrated in the decade beginning in 1881, also
under the monopolistic neocolonialist aegis of Keith, and subsequent waves of
immigrants from various Caribbean islands, also fleeing poverty, arrived in the
ensuing decades (Bourgeois 162; Seligson 64-65; Biesanz 66; Lefever 89). The
national census shows a figure of 902 Jamaicans in Limon province in 1883, 839 in
1888, 734 in 1892, and 18,003 in 1927 (Jones 36, Bryce-Laporte and Purcell 223).
It is difficult to know the exact Afro-Antillean population of the country in the early
decades of its immigration. Philippe Bourgeois writes that many workers died of
malaria, yellow fever and serpent bites during the very difficult initial stage of
railroad construction (162) Bryce-Laporte and Purcell suppose that
thereee seems to have been considerable recur-
rent, temporary and nomadic migrations, in addi-

tion to permanent removals, of Jamaicans from
one Central American country to another accord-
ing to the vicissitudes of labour demand and avail-
ability This seems especially true of Costa Rica
and Panama, and between these two and Ja-
maica itself" (223-24).
In any event, by the turn of the century, the Antillean black population was
firmly and permanently established in the country While their numbers dropped,
according to the 1950 census, from about 18,000 to 13,749 (Bourgeois 163), by
1963 people of Jamaican descent residing in Lim6n had risen to roughly 24,000
(Melendez and Duncan 75). Since that time, their numbers have increased consid-
erably, and their economic status is rather good, because when banana production
plummeted in the thirties and forties, and many left the country for Panama and the
United States to seek work, other
[b]lacks who stayed behind during the economic
crisis, when employment on the plantation was no
longer available, squatted on uncultivated lands
and established themselves as subsistence farm-
ers, often in abject poverty Once the economy
improved, these squatters were able to convert
their subsistence plots into commercial cacao or
banana farms

In the mid-1950s, with the rise of cacao prices on
the world market, these formerly marginal black
farmer-squatters emerged as comfortable land-
owners. (Bourgeois 163)
In 1982, Richard Biesanz et al. estimated that around 35,000 West Indian
immigrants and their descendants constituted about two percent of the total Costa
Rican population and one third of that of Limon province.
Three main factors have contributed to the conservation of the Anglophone
oral tradition in Limon. First among these is geographical isolation. Black immi-
grants, who were not recognized as British subjects, were not accorded Costa
Rican citizenship until after the 1948 democratic revolution led by Pepe Figueres.
"They were the group most affected by the change of government... From then on
blacks began to enter politics, move to San Jose, attend public schools, and
assimilate culturally" (Biesanz 67). Prior to that date, even when economic hard
times hit, such as the severe drop in banana production due to diseases and
nutrient depletion in the soil, and the decision by United Fruit to move production to
the Pacific Coast after the Communist-led labour strikes in 1934, the Afro-Carib-
beans were prohibited de facto, if not de jure, from traveling further west than

Siquirres on the railroad, which was the only practical means of transportation in
that part of the country due to the presence of the Cordillera Central that bisects it
from the Northwest to the Southeast. In fact, a contract made in 1934 between the
government and United Fruit explicitly stated that no black labour would be used in
Pacific Coast banana farming (Lefever 212). "President Ricardo Jimenez signed a
law to that effect in 1935, arguing that relocation would upset the country's 'racial
balance' and possibly cause 'civil commotion' (Biesanz 66). The real reasons for
that segregation were politicians' pandering to white Costa Ricans' deep-seated
racism and United Fruit's wish to more easily exploit agricultural workers by
dividing them along racial lines.
Another cause of the cohesiveness of the Afro-Caribbean population, and
thus of the persistence of their lore, was their profound feeling of cultural superiority
vis-a-vis the poor Hispanics who migrated from the central highlands to Limon in
search of work early in the century and also vis-a-vis the American banana
company managers and foremen (Bryce-Laporte and Purcell 228). This sense of
being better than the "Spaniards, as they called them, was partly based on their
British cultural heritage, including their ability to speak English, which placed them
in an advantageous position in the banana company whose foremen were North
Americans, such that they generally held more higher level jobs in agriculture than
did the Hispanic workers. "Even blacks who work side by side with Hispanics as
day labourers on banana plantations consider their Hispanic fellow workers 'less
civilized', writes Bourgois. "They criticize them for being loud, violent, alcoholic,
and abusive to their women" (167). Of the Afro-Caribbeans, Carlos Melendez
writes that "muchos de ellos, aunque tenian muchos ahos de residir en Limon,
seguian sintiendose subditos britanicos, mas que ciudadanos costarricenses" (77)
and, "El negro se aferra a algunas de sus costumbres; mantiene a toda costa
ciertas actitudes que en alguna forma lo definen. Ha fundado una colonia bri-
tanica, y quiere mantenerla" (115-16).
On the other hand, Afro-Caribbeans have simultaneously been the gener-
alized target of racial discrimination at the hands of the majority "Ironically, one
effect of the persistence of ethnic discrimination against blacks is the preservation
of black culture. The obvious skin-colour difference between West Indians and the
rest of the Costa Rican population has prevented the second and third generations
of blacks from blending into Costa Rican society, even though they have risen in
the local class structure" (Bourgeois 167). According to Harry Lefever, the two
competing social tendencies, the implied promise of integration and the practices of
social exclusion, have created a psychological identity crisis for black Costa Ricans
that he likens to W.E.B. DuBois' notion of double-consciousness in African-North
Americans. They are obliged to see themselves through the eyes of the majority
population, a psychological condition that tears them apart internally (Lefever
217-18). This complex also places the issue of the preservation of folklore in the
middle of conflicting desires of wanting to be accepted as truly Costa Rican,

including making Spanish one's primary tongue, and affirming one's self-worth in
the face of scorn, including keeping up one's Anglophone cultural patrimony
The new opportunities opened up for blacks have encouraged more and
more Costa Rican Afro-Caribbeans to adopt Spanish as their main language, with
all that that implies for the loss of the Antillean oral tradition. Jamaicans could no
longer resist 'Spanish' education in the post-plantation period as they did when
their livelihood depended on the English-speaking plantation system. Spanish
education, with all its cultural and ideological trappings, had become their passport
to a better life" (Bryce-Laporte and Purcell 232). Success in the Hispanophone
public school system can give blacks entry to good public sector jobs, to the
university branch situated in the city of Lim6n, and even to higher education
opportunities in the capital. There is now a two-thirds white majority population in
the province, whose culture has therefore been Hispanized in large measure. We
witnessed nearly all the bilingual children of Afro-Antillean extraction speaking
Spanish with parents, teachers and friends. One reason for this is that it allows
them to play with both white and black children at the same time, and white children
do not have as great an opportunity to learn English as the black children do to
learn Spanish.
While there is still a major English-language radio station in Limon and
people of all ages listen to radio signals emanating from the Antilles, the adoles-
cents and young people also listen to, sing and dance to Spanish-language music.
There is no English-language newspaper The private church schools in Lim6n,
such as St. Mark's, still teach in English, but most children now probably attend the
public schools, whose teachers, whether they be black or white, all speak Spanish.
The main-line Protestant churches-Episcopal, Baptist, and Methodist, which the
nineteenth-century immigrants had brought with them-still have their services in
English, but the newer Evangelical churches conduct them in both Spanish and
English, since they are aggressively trying to appeal to a wide constituency that they
are trying hard to attract away from other faith groups.
The result is that much of the folklore that we collected, including children's
games, resides in the memory of an ageing Afro-Caribbean population. The
exception is the persistence of more modern children's games and ditties that have
come from Jamaica, Panama or New York through recent personal contact with
travelers or through travel to those destinations.
The first-and smallest-category is bedtime prayers. Of these, we col-
lected only three, the last two of which are commonly found in the English-speaking
world. We were surprised by this paucity of examples, because in our field
research in the Hispanic areas we had found so many.
Pray, mama, pray, papa,
pray to God to bless me

and make me a good child.
(Leonora Sawyers Royal, 82, Limon)

Gentle Jesus meek and mild,
look upon a little child.
Pity my simplicity
Hear my prayer, blessed Lord
(Mavis Morris, 65, Estrada de Carandi)

This night when I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
(Stanford'Crawford, 82, Guacimo)

The second group of texts are assorted poems and songs from the popular
oral tradition. The structure of the poem "Toady, toady, mind yourself" whose
comic theme is "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched," is a causal and
lexical concatenation. A poor peasant gets angry at a toad that is keeping him from
pulling weeds, because at the end of a series of imagined causes and effects he
already envisions himself as a rich man if only he can just manage that first step.
The rhetorical figure that is used to express the illusion is anadiplosis, the repetition
of the last part of each line at the beginning of the next. Intensive lexical duplication
is thus used to represent the rapid and inevitable accumulation of material benefits.
Toady, toady, mind yourself;
Mind yourself, let me weed me grass;
Weed me grass and me plant me corn;
Ground me corn that will feed me horse;
Feed the horse that will win the race.
Gee, gee, gee, gee, gee, gee!
(Albert Guthrie, 80, Puerto Viejo)

Toady, toady, mind yourself;
Make a hoe me corn.
(Stanford Crawford, 82, Guacimo)
Anthropologist Walter Jekyll identifies this as a Jamaican work song used
to maintain the rhythm of workers who are digging furrows and planting corn. The
version that he collected early in this century is slightly different from ours, for the
ultimate aim is not to buy a racehorse but to court a woman who might be
acceptable to the farmer's mother (179-80).

"On a one Monday morning" is a call-and-response chant revolving around
the theme of an everyday shopping experience, one part of which is successful and
the other not. Because of its rhythmic regularity, its antiphonal interaction between
an individual and a collective voice, and the fact that the latter calls a refrain found
in many Caribbean songs, this seems also to be a work chant.
On a one Monday morning,
'ol' 'im, Joe
we went down to Heebee Town.
'ol' 'im, Joe
Me go buy a bunch o'plantane.
'ol' 'im ,Joe
Me wa' look me a beer car,
'ol' 'im Joe
An' a was an only beer car,
'ol' 'im, Joe
An' disappear me beer car,
ol' im, Joe
I said to pick up the plantane.
ol' 'im, Joe
(Cyril Alterano Sylvan, 63, and Ana Alterano
Foster, 33, Cieneguita)
The tongue-twister "Rise an'cuma" is a series of imperative verbs arranged
in mixed order While the beginnings of the two lines are identical, the rest of each
is an inverted form of the other The result is an elaborate chiasmus, punctuated
by the division-marking word "cuma, that is pleasing to the ear but challenging to
the speaker who must pronounce it.
Rise an'cuma come you cuma go you cuma
Rise an'cuma go you cuma come you cuma go.
(Cyril Alterano Sylvan, 63, and Ana Alterano
Foster, 33, Cieneguita)
The following variant of an English nursery rhyme has underdone signifi-
cant changes as it has passed through the Jamaican oral tradition, principally the
disappearance of the fourth line ("and she shall have music wherever she goes ")
and its replacement by a repetition of the place name plus a series of cardinal
numbers, all of which constitutes an obviously meaningless filler-line. "To see a
great lady upon a white horse" has become "to see an old lady upon a great cross,
and the English town Banbury has become Bombelly
I'lla wan'ride a cock horse Bombelly Cross
To see an old lady upon a great cross.

Bell on her finger, nng on her toe.
Bombelly, Bombelly one, two, three
(Grace Stephenson, 39, Siquirres)
Mothers often sing songs to infants that encourage their motor develop-
ment, teach them to recognize their own names, reinforce the reciprocal relation-
ship between mother and child, and please them by shifting their physical position
radically yet predictably
Clap hands, clap hands 'til mama comes home.
Mama bring cake for [baby's name] alone.
[Baby's name] eat cake, no give mama none
Mama get vexed and put [baby's name] on the
(Leonora Sawyers Royal, 82, and Joyce Sawyers
Royal, 54, Limon)
The following children's song is the only one that we collected that did not
seem to be part of an interactive game. It is accompanied, though, by the type of
body movement that is often found in ring games. The reference to a U S. place
name suggests a North American origin, which is very plausible, since so many
residents of Limon province have migrated to New York and relatives and friends
often travel back and forth.
I went to California
to see my friend
I see a seiorita
with a bottle on her head.
I love you.
(Shamara Brown, 13, and Cindy Patricia Barton,
9, Limon)

Typical of folk poetry are the homoiteleutons (enough sound resemblance
at the end of corresponding lines of poetry for the ear to pick up without there
actually being either consonant or assonant rhyme) that link "California" and
"senorita" and "friend" and "head" respectively, the alternation of tonic stress on the
penultimate syllable of the odd-numbered lines and on the final syllable of the
even-numbered lines, and the recessive syllabic gradation at the end.
The American abolitionist John Brown planned to capture the U.S. military
arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, distribute the arms to black slaves, organize his
own army in the southern mountains, and put an end to slavery His mission failed
when Brown and his small band of followers were captured after a brief skirmish.
Brown was hanged in 1859 and immediately became a symbolic figure in the

anti-slavery movement. This must account for the North American folksong John
Brown's Body" becoming known in Jamaica, where slavery had persisted until
1838 and where the memory of that institution was therefore still fresh.
John Brown's body lies a mourner in the grave,
and the truth goes marching on
John Brown's body has a col' upon the chest, (ter
so he lyin'd it down chamber where he died.
(Cleveland Peters, 81, Siquirres)

One of the lines of the Siquirres version ("and the truth goes marching on")
corresponds not to the abolitionist song, but rather to a refrain in the "Battle Hymn
of the Republic" ("His truth goes marching on") which Julia Ward Howe composed
to the same melody at around the same time. The first line of our version, John
Brown's body lies a mourner in the grave, which makes no literal sense but whose
invention may be understood through the logical association of his baby's death,
his subsequent burial, and the father's anguish, is probably a modification of John
Brown's body lies a moulderin' in the grave, which is a common U S variant. The
second stanza of the Costa Rican version jumps immediately from the cause, the
illness, to the effect, death, while the most common North American version speaks
of the remedy after indicating the malady
John Brown's baby had a cold upon his chest,
and they rubbed it down with camphorated oil.
By decree of the British Parliament, all Jamaican slaves were emancipated
on 1 August, 1838. In the following poem, an emancipated Jamaican says that if
any white man dares enter the area around his house, he will crack his head open,
as he almost did to his neighbour's wife by mistake a few days earlier Deep
resentment and hostility underlie this folk poem composed in a dialect in
which"first" and "bust" constitute a perfect rhyme but where "wife" and "fight" form
an assonant rhyme reinforced by the alternately post positioned and pre posi-
tioned If/ A "bakra man" is a white man,"'kull bust" means "skull busted, and
"wen" signifies "was.
Good ma'ning, good ma'ning, ma dear boy
De day a'August de fu'st.
No bakra man no com a fo' me ya'd
Unless him get him'kull bust.
A hotha' day I run to me stick
an' me pull up on me neighbour wife.
Me t'ink he wen one bakra man.
Me laughing' will show 'im fight.
(Albert Guthrie, 80, Puerto Viejo)

The largest corpus of material that we found are one adult and several
children's games. These were typically played by the moonlight in both rural
villages and the city of Lim6n before electrification. Before the advent of radio and
television, communal life was heavily centred around game playing, story telling,
and singing. Now these sorts of activities have largely disappeared, an unfortunate
consequence of the accessibility of the mass electronic media both for the preser-
vation of the oral tradition and for the cohesiveness of social groups. All of our
informants expressed a deeply nostalgic regret of these changes in the social and
artistic life of Limon.
"There's a Brown Girl in the Ring" is a ring-game in which a boy in the circle
chooses a dancing partner with whom he dances inside it. She next returns the
boy to the circle and chooses another boy with whom to dance, and so on, with girls
and boys alternating as choosers and chosen. In Jamaica, Jekyll collected this
game ninety years ago (207-08), Beckwith attested its popularity in the 1920s
(74-75), and as recently as 1979 John Barton Hopkin found that it was played
"everywhere" in the island, although he furnished a rather truncated version of the
song (36).
There's a brown girl in the ring, tra la la la la, (ter)
For she looks like a sugar in the plum, plum, plum.
Then you show me your motion, tra la la la la, (ter)
For she looks like a sugar in the plum, plum, plum.
Then you skip across the ocean, tra la la la la,(ter)
For she looks like a sugar in the plum, plum, plum.
Then you wheel and take your partner, tra la la la, (ter)
For she looks like a sugar in the Plum, Plum, Plum.
(Ruby Nicholson, 67 Lim6n)

Then you wheel and show your partner, tra la la la
la, (bis)
For she likes sugar and I like plum.
(Grace Stephenson, 39, Siquirres)

Sweet like sugar and I like plum.
(Estela Smith, 95, Limon)

For you like sugar and I like plum.
(Mavis Morris, 65, Estrada de Carandi)

In "Balimbo-Balimba-Balindo, inside a circle a boy dances with a girl
whom he has chosen while the other children comment on her physical qualities
and question him about his economic circumstances. They either approve or
disapprove of the match. Sometimes the chorus asks the couple to kiss in order to
judge whether they seem suited to one another Jekyll collected this game in
Jamaica, saying that the refrain-word "bahlimbo" meant any kind of inexpensive
cloth (212-13). When Beckwith saw it played there, she found that a single "judge"
called out all the longer lines while all the others called out the refrain the couple
wheeled around the inside of the ring (55-56).

Boy, you come, you come.
Yes, balindo
What you come about?
Yes, balindo
You come to court the girl.
Yes, balindo
All right, I say come in.
Yes, balindo
Walkin'through the ring.
Yes, balindo
Bring your lover, come.
Yes, balindo
Dat no pretty girl.
Yes, balindo
This no match at all.
Yes, balindo
Wheel and put her back.
Yes, balindo
Pick another one.
Yes, balindo
Boy, dis a girl you know?
Yes, balindo
This a pretty girl.
Yes, balindo
Boy, you love the girl?
Yes, balindo
Kiss and make me see.
Yes, balindo
So, you have your coffee work?
Yes, balindo
You have your dray and mule?

Yes, balindo
The cart cheaper town.
Yes, balindo
Ten cents a yeard.
Yes, balindo
You want to know my name?
Yes, balindo
My name is Tata Joe.
Yes, balindo
Right away to see.
Yes, balindo
Wheel and let her go.
Yes, balindo.
(Uriah Johnson Scott, 94, Siquirres)

Boy, you come, you come.
Yes, balindo.
What you come about?
Yes, balindo.
You come to court a girl?
Yes, balindo
You have you cocoa farm?
Yes, balindo
You have you house and land?
Yes, balindo
Walk and view the ring.
Yes, balindo
Pick the girl you choose,
Yes, balindo
Girl, you love the boy?
Yes, balindo
Kiss 'im, let me see.
Yes, balindo
(Linford Adolfin Lewis, 51, Siquirres)

In the following variant, "Manzanillo" is the name of a small village on the
Talamanca Coast near the Panamanian border that lies just ten kilometres east of
Puerto Viejo (called Old Harbour earlier in the century before the post-war influx of
Hispanics was accompanied by a wave of renaming of towns), where this version
was furnished to us.
Who'll have a boy?
Dem no boy at all.

Manzanillo boy, dem not boy at all.
Guru from boy, de mighty boy
(Albert Guthrie, 80, Puerto Viejo)

Y'all, you come, you come.
Yes, balimba.
Come to look a' man.
Yes, balimba.
Pick the one you like.
Yes, balimba
Me say, "Bring'im home to me.
Yes. balimba
Wheel 'im 'round the ring.
Yes, balimba
Wheel 'im 'n' put him back.
Yes, balimba
Dat no good at dat.
Yes, balimba
(Cyril Alterno Sylvan, 63, and Ana Alterno Foster,
33, Cieneguita)
Yet another ring song-and-dance game is "Under This Carpet," whose
theme is once again the choice of a mate. In some versions, a funny little rhyme
about Nebuchadnezzar is tacked on to the end without there being any obvious
thematic link between the two texts. The short-lived nature of the marriage in this
game allows for the continual recombination of new partners in the dance. Jekyll
collected this game in the early twentieth century with the initial lines "On the carpet
you must be/ Happy as the grass bird on the tree" (191). The five versions that
Beckwith gathered between 1919 and 1925 vary in the opening lines: "Undah de
carpet we mus' -go/ like a Jack's bird in de air, "Undah de carpet we mus' go/like
a jasper in de sky, "Under de carpet we must go/ like a grasshopper in de ear,
"Under the carpet we must go/ like a jackbird in the ring" (75-76). One of these
versions contains the Nebuchadnezzar rhyme at the end, which marks that link as
an earlier Jamaican amalgam rather than a later Costa Rican one. Hopkin also
found this game in Jamaica with the verses referring to the king of Babylon at the
end; he writes," The source of the Nebuchadnezzar material is a mystery" (21-22).
Under this carpet you must be
Like a grass bird in the fi'
Rise and stand up on your legs
And choice the one that you love the best.

Sally, when you marry I'll wish you joy,
First the boy and second the girl.

Seven days after, seven days ago,
Give 'a a kiss and send 'er out.

Then the Nebuchodnezer, the king of Babylon,
Spread his bed into sardine pan. (bis)
(Leonora Sawyers Royal, 82, Lim6n)

Under this carpi you must be
Like a grass bird in the field.
Rise and stand up on your legs
And pick the very one you love the best.

Nebuchodnezer, the king of Babylon,
Spread his bed in a sardine pan.
When the sardine pan begin to rust,
Nebuchodnezer begin to cuss.
(Albert Guthrie, 80, Puerto Viejo)

In a sorry you marry, you wish you joy,
First the boy and second the girl.
Seven days after, seven days ago,
Break fast, kiss and be done.
(Ruby Nicholson, 67 Limon)

Under this carpet you must be
Like a grass bird in a tree.

(Hortense Campbell Beulah Smith, 81, Siquirres)
The game played to the old English tune "London Bridge Is Falling Down"
involves two players' arms forming a bridge beneath which passes a continuously
circulating line of children until the two lower their arms to capture one of them.
When the verse about beheading is sung, the captors pretend to cut off their
captive's head in a sawing motion. The captive then whispers into the ear of one
of the children who form the bridge whether he prefers one of two colours, or fruits,
or any other category designated by the two stationary players as the basis by
which the captives will become members of one of their two teams. When all the
mobile players have been caught and sent into lines that have formed behind the
"bridge" persons, a tug-of-war ensues between the two groups. Especially interest-
ing is the fact that in the Hispanic Costa Rican children's game "Ambo, the exact
same method is used to divide the chosen children into two teams that will
eventually engage in a tug-of-war. It appears that when Hispanics migrated to

Limon, children of Afro-Caribbean ancestry played with their friends who had come
from the country's interior, assimilating their games, and that they introduced this
particular element into "London Bridge," to which it became a permanent addition.
London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down,
London Bridge is falling down so merrily
Then you call for the light to light up the house light up the house light up
the house ,
Call for the light to light up the'ouse so merrily
In the following version, "Badjun" means "Barbadan.
Little Sally Water
Sprinkle in the saucer
Rise, Sally, rise
And wipe your eyes.
And you turn to the east,
And you turn to the west,
And you turn to the very one
You love the best.
Then you hug 'er up and kiss 'er up
And put her in the Badjun room, my darling.
Hug 'er up and kiss "er up
And put her in the Badjun room.
(Leonora Sawyers Royal, 82, Limon)

Another ring game song of English origin, whose text clearly indicates
when couples of children will pantomime certain actions, is "Jane and Louisa. Both
Beckwith in the 1920s and Hopkin, fifty years later, found it widely played in
Jane and Louisa will
-soon come home, just will soon come home, (bis)
Jane and Louisa will soon come home into this beautiful garden?
My love, will you love me to walk with you, just to
walk with you, (bis)
My love, will you love me to walk with you into this beautiful garden?
My love, will you love me to waltz with you, just to waltz with you, (bis)
My love, will you love me to waltz with you into this beautiful garden?
My love, will you love me to pick a rose, just to pick a rose, (bis)
My love, will you love me to pick a rose into this beautiful garden?
(Mavis Morris, 65, Estrada de Carandi)

My love, will you allow me to pick a rose, just to pick a rose? (bis)
(Hortense Campbell Beulah Smith, 81, Siquirres)

"Children, Children" is a call-and-response type interactive children's
game. Another direct import from Jamaica, its presence there is attested by
Beckwith (19) a half century ago and by Daryl C. Dance in 1978 (203). In Limon,
as on the island, when one child asks, "Who is the dog?" "What is a dog?" the
others all run away and he or she has to catch them. In fact, the Costa Rican texts
and the two Jamaican ones are practically identical, despite the gaps in time and
Then you call for the knife to cut off the neck, cut off the neck, cut off the
Call for the knife to cut off the neck so merrily
(Mavis Morris, 65, Estrada de Carandi)

London Bridge is falling down so heavilyy
(Barzillah Gayle Barton, 71, Lim6n)

Then you call for the broom, the broom of the house, so merrily
(Ruby Nicholson, 67 Lim6n)

Jekyll, who collected "Little Sally Water" in Jamaica, calls it "perhaps the
best-known and most widely-spread of all English singing games" and describes its
practice in the Caribbean island just as it was explained to us by older Costa
The boys and girls join hands and form a ring. One the sex is immaterial
crouches in the middle and personates Sally Water At the words "Rise,Sally,
rise, he or she slowly rises to an erect position, brushing away imaginary tears,
turns first one way and then the other, and chooses a partner out of the ring. They
wheel a rapid turning dance and after the wheeling, the partner is left inside the
ring and becomes Sally Water (191)

Beckwith found two versions of this game in the same country and Mary
Manning Carley found it in a form identical to the ones that we collected (143).
Little Sally Water
Sprinkle in the saucer
Rise, Sally, rise
And wipe your eyes.
Pick a partner;
Turn to the west
And turn to the east.
Put him in the dancing hall, my son
Turn to the east
And turn to the west
Turn to the west, my son.
(Albert Guthrie, 80, Puerto Viejo)

I come to see Janie, (ter)
And where is she now?
She's washing our clothes. (ter)
Will yor call back again?
I come to see Janie, (ter)
Ans where is she now?
She's hironing. (ter)
Will you call back again?
I come to see Janie, (ter)
And where is she now?
She's sick. (ter)
Will you call back again?
I come to see Janie, (ter)
And where is she now?
She's dead!
(Barzillah Gayle Barton, 71, Limon)

"I Went to the River to Wash My Clothes" also involves calls and re-
sponses, and probably also handclapping, as several others surely must. Since it
is not attested in Jamaican collections, it may well be a Costa Rican invention.
Pi, pi, clock, clock. (bis)
I went to the river to wash my clothes.
'time I come back, the clock was slow
Ol'man, ol'man,'ow much o'clock?

One o'clock!

Pi, pi, clock, clock. (bis), etc.

(Joyce Sawyers Royal, 54, Limon)
In "Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?" each child is given a
number except for the initiator of a series of accusations done by number rather
than by name. When accused, players deny their guilt and then accuse another by
number The one who fails to remember his number and does not respond
immediately is expelled, and the game continues until one wins by process of
elimination. Hopkin (24-25) and Dance (193-94) found the game in Jamaica in the
late 1970s.
Children children !
Yes, mama?
Where'ave you been to?
To see grandmama.
What'ave she given you?
Bread and cheese.
Where's my share?
It's up in the air
How can I reach it?
Climb on a broken chair
Who teach you dat manners?
Who it's a dog?
(Barzillah Gayle Barton, 71, Limon)

A similar game, called "Post, in which rapid responses in a set pattern are
accompanied by the players' placing their fists one atop the other, begins like a
Jamaican version collected by Beckwith but then becomes contaminated by "Chil-
dren, children" because they both contain the response "Bread and cheese.
What is that?
Take it off and kiss it.
What is that?
What's in there?
Bread and cheese.
How can I reach it?

Climb on a chair?
Suppose I fall.
I do not care.
Who teach yo dat manners?
The dog.
Who is the dog?
(Ruby Nicholson, 67 Limon)
In yet another highly cadenced dialogic game, "I Come to See Janie, one
child lies on the ground motionless while two lines of children stand on either side
of her, one chanting questions and the other answering. When one arrives at the
response "She's dead, she leaps to her feet and chases her playmates, trying to
catch them. The version collected in Jamaica by Beckwith, who calls it "one of the
most wide-spread of all folk games" (45), contains the same triple repetition of the
first line of each question and each response as the one we found in Limon,
Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?
Number one stole the cookie from the cookie jar
Who, me?
Yes, you.
Couldn't be!
And then a who?,etc.
(Ghiselle Benjamin, 38, Limon)
"Rhythm" is a handclapping game in which the players in turn have to
supply a word in a given category as they move through the alphabet. The
clapping beats give the children time to think of their next item. When a person
misses his turn, he is expelled to the rythmic spelling of O-U-T
(clap, clap, clap) Rhythm! (bis)
(clap, clap, clap) A!
(clap,clap, clap) Albert!
(clap clap, clap) B!
(clap, clap, clap) Benjamin'

clap, clap, clap) C!
(clap, clap, clap) Carlos!, etc.

(clap, clap, clap) O!
(clap, clap, clap) U!
(clap, clap, clap) T!
(clap, clap, clap) Out!

(Ghiselle Benjamin, 38, and Joyce Sawyers
Royal, 54, Limon)
"Down Emanuel Road" was a game played in Costa Rica exclusively by
adults by the light of the moon, including during breaks in the evening "Nine Night"
religious services when people sang hymns and prayed for a deceased relative,
friend or neighbour On her trips to the Caribbean in the early 1920s, Beckwith
learned that "[t]he Jamaica Negroes believe that for nine nights after death the
ghost rises out of the grave and returns to its familiar haunts
During this period every relative and friend gathers at the house of the
dead to entertain the ghost, welcome his return, and speed him back to the
grave"(Lefever 169). This custom was transported to Limon province, where
another practice, according to Mavis Morris of Estrada, was the removal of the
dead person's bed from her house so that the spirit would not return to sleep in it
and bother the remaining inhabitants. Paula Palmer describes in considerable
detail "Nine Night" as she found it on the southern coast of the province in the
1970s (219-24). An informant of hers from Cahulta attested the practice of people
staying up all night drinking and engaging in amusing pastimes such as telling
Anansi stories, riddles and jokes, but what we find curious is that she does not
report the playing of games, a custom that we found to have been prevalent in
Lim6n city and some towns further inland.
A group of people would form a circle; in front of each player was a stone
heavy enough to inflict damage on the fingers of he who was not nimble enough to
keep the rhythm. When each line of the song was sung, the players shifted the
stone to the person to her or his left at a speed that was set by the increasing pace
of the song. This game has been a custom in Jamaica throughout this century, as
is proven by examples collected by Beckwith, who found it played by adults at
wakes (90-92), Jekyll, who witnessed children playing it (199), and Dance, who
also collected it as a children's game (189-90) In this first version, "gal' am' ba'
means "girls and boys, "fi go" means "I am going to, and "we a play" signifies "we
are playing.
Down Emanuel Road, gal' am' ba'
Fi go broke rock stone. (bis)
Broke them one by one, gal' am' ba'
Broke them tow by two, gal' am' ba'
Broke them three by three, gal'am'ba'
Finga' mash' no cry, gal' am' ba'
'memba play we a' play, gal' am' ba'
(Ghiselle Benjamin, 38, Joyce Sawyers Royal,
54, Limon)

Go down to Emanuel Road, girl and boy (bis)

Mash your finger, no cry
(Dudley White, 76, Puerto Viejo)

Come me go down Emanuel Road, girl and boy

'memba play with a play
(Lindford Adolfin Lewis, 51, Siquirres)

There's a broke rock stone, girl and boy

Bash yo' 'and, no cry, boy and girl.
(Uriah Johnson Scott, 94, Siquirres)

Go 'round Emanuel Road, girl and boy,
Make you broke rock stone, girl and boy

(Mavis Morris, 65, Estrada de Carandi)

Took a broke rock stone.
Took them one by one, girl and boy

(Ruby Nicholson, 67 John Edwards, 70, Limon)

We can see that the Anglophone folklore of the Costa Rican Atlantic Coast
region has been reasonably well preserved and that it comes principally from the
Jamaican tradition. It is no wonder that such a significant portion of the whole is
made Lip of children's games since, as Hopkin writes, "[t]he conventional wisdom
concerning children's lore is that children are culturally conservative; they will
always try to reproduce something exactly as they heard it, simply because that's
how it goes" (5). Now that the Atlantic Coast is fast becoming culturally integrated
into the preponderantly Hispanic portion of the country for the reasons specified in
the first part of this article, it remains to be seen to what degree and how long the
Afro-Antillean oral tradition will survive. If children are the most culturally conserva-
tive sector of a population's folklore, if Spanish is the dominant language of the
public schools, and if the black and Hispanic children play together more and more,
may we assume that Anglophone juvenile lore will either gradually disappear or be
combined with the Hispanic juvenile tradition? Indeed, most of the versions of

children's- as well as adults'- songs, poems, prayers and games were furnished
to us by people in their fifties through their nineties. It may well be, given recent
migration patterns, that the United States will eventually supplant Jamaica- a
Jamaica that is clearly an extension of British folk culture- as the main source of
English-language cultural importations, just as Mexico and Colombia long ago
surpassed Spain as the major influences on Costa Rican folk song and poetry


This article was originally published in Voices The Wisconsin Review of African Literature, Issue 2,
Fall, 1999, pp.25-48
Harry Lefever, in his ethnographic study of Tortuguero, furnishes complete texts of some of the
Anansi tales that originated in West Africa and that are found in all the languages and islands of
the Caribbean, as well as some other folktales He cites examples of those same tales that
were discovered in Jamaica, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Barbados, Trinidad, Surinam, Bra-
zil and the United States (182-93), but for some reason he does not include in his survey the
Domincan Republic, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Haiti, where they are also both well preserved
and profuse Paula Palmer, in her "folk-history of the Talamanca Coast, also provides several
wonderful Anansi tales (224-42). Quince Duncan, in an article entitled "La tradici6n oral del afro-
costarricense"- but which does not include any of the genres that we found in Limon province ex-
cept tales also furnishes a pair of Anansi stories that he translates into Spanish (177-82)


Beckwith, Martha Warren. Jamaica Folk-Lore. New York: American Folk-Lore Society, G.F,Stecherf,
Blesanz, Richard, Karen Zubris Biesanz, and Mavis Hiltunen Biesanz. The Costa Ricans, Englewooc
Cliffs (NJ); Prentice-Hall, 1982
Bourgeois, Philippe. "Blacks in Costa Rica;Upward Mobility and Ethnic Discrimination. The Costa
Rica Reader Ed. Marc Edelman and Joanne Kenen New York Grove Weidenfeld, 1989.

Bryce-Laporte, Roy Simon and Trevor Purcell, "A Lesser-Known Chapter of the African Diaspora:
West Indians in Costa Rica, Central America," Global Dimensions of the African Diaspora Ed.
Joseph E. Harris. Washington. Howard U P 1982, 219-39.
Carley, Mary Manning. Jamaica: The Old and the New New York: Frederick A Prager, 1963.
Dance, Daryl C[umber]. Folklore from Contemporary Jamaicans. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P 1985.
Hopkin, John Barton. "Jamaican Children's Songs. Ethnomusicology 28.1 (1984) 1-36.
Jekyll, Walter. Jamaican Song and Story: Anancy Stories, Digging Singing, Ring Tunes, and Dancing
Tunes, London Folklore Society,1907 New York, Dover, 1966.
Jones, Choster Lloyd. Costa Rica and Ci ilization in the Caribbean, New York: Russell and Russell,
Lefever, Harry G. Turtle Bogue. Afro-Caribbean Life and Culture in a Costa Rican Village.Selins-
grove: Susquehanna UP; London: Associated U Presses, 1992.
Melelndez, Carlos and Quince Duncan, eds. El negro en Costa Rica. San Jose: Editorial Costa
Rica, 1972.
Palmer, Paula. "What Happen" A Folk-History of Costa Rica's Talamanca Coast. San Jose Ecode-
sarrollos. 1977
Seigson, Mitchell A, Peasants of Costa Rica and the Development of agranan Capitalism. Madison:
U of Wisconsin P, 1980.

Two Tunes: Jean Rhys' Voyage in the Dark



Anna Morgan, the first person narrator of Jean Rhys' Voyage in the Dark
(1934)1 has often been described as either a weak, irresponsible and parasitic
woman who consequently slides down the social scale as one of the dispossessed
urban spinsters2 "as a member of the group of single women, without family ties
[who], albeit reluctantly, find their own jobs" or, finally, as a character that is
mainly based on Jean Rhys' own life. Any of these definitions taken exclusively
would fall far short of her complex personality In order to fully understand her
motivation and behaviour, one has to take into account that her upbringing as a
coloniser in a colonial environment, her unexpected identification with the colo-
nised, her gender and the way she is treated in consequence of the above all
contribute to an image that is as much the result of an idiosyncratic inclination as of
the way she is treated by her social environment. Having been brought up in the
Caribbean as the daughter of a white former slave-owner and a Creole mother
positions Anna between the two cultures from the very start. Her taking sides
through sympathy for and identification with the Black population does not make
her childhood and youth an easy one with clearly defined role-models, because her
family's living conditions together with her white skin colour set her off and betray
her slave-owner's history
By implanting sensitive Anna into London, the centre of British colonial
power, Rhys manages to monitor the characteristic nuances in the way such power
becomes manifest. What Anna has to confront, symbolised by material and
immaterial walls around her, is not only the hubris of colonisers vis b vis the
colonised, but, additionally, the forces of an oppressive hierarchy inside the colo-
nising mother society Anna does not experience any solidarity from the women
she socialises with, even though it becomes clear that they themselves have been
mentally invaded by the male wielders of power, nor does she offer them such, as
she regards them as co-agents in an oppression she continuously encounters
through looks, gestures, or tones of voice. It is an oppression that has transcended
the geographical sphere and become manifest as a categorisation into good and
bad, respectable and disrespectable, virgin and non-virgin, woman and tart, famil-
iar and unfamiliar, indigenous and other
Already at the beginning of the novel, Anna provides the general frame-
work and space of her experiences to come. "It was as if a curtain had fallen,
hiding everything I had ever known, (p.7) Anna says at her arrival in England.

Curtains fall at the end of theatrical performances, terminating the fictitious,
signalling that the suspension of disbelief is at an end and reality has set in again.
So right in the first sentence Anna hints at her experience that her past life has now
taken on the character of a play, a dream, in opposition to the real life in England
with its different colours and its different ways of perceiving and feeling. When she
says sometimess was as if I were back there and as if England were a dream. At
other times England was the real thing and out there was the dream, but I could
never fit them together" (ViD, p. 8), she is not only reflecting the reactions of a
young girl that has been transported from protective surroundings into a different
world, but the reactions anyone would show when moved from a colonial environ-
ment into the cultural centre, the mother country Coming there entails a whole
series of changes, e. g. of temperature, of light, of colour, of smells. But more than
just that, the change pervades the whole structure of her being, in the very own way
she feels and experiences, so that she has the feeling of being changed com-
pletely, of being reborn. And as is natural to a child, she first experiences her new
enviromnent through the reception of colours, smells and sounds, or, respec-tively,
their absence. Her impressions are that the new colours around her consist mainly
of shades of grey,
"[of a] grey street leading to the stage door of the
theatre and another grey street where your lodg-
ings were, and the rows of little houses with chim-
neys like funnels of dummy steamers and smoke
the same colour as the sky; and a grey stone
promenade running hard, naked and straight by
the side of the grey-brown or grey-green sea"
(ViD, p. 8).
This is so different from her accustomed habitat that shows "red, purple,
blue, gold, all shades of green. (VID, p. 47). The atmosphere of desolation is
enhanced by the sinister appearance of the streets that are "like smooth shut-in
ravines" and the dark houses that seem to be "frowning down" on her (ViD, p. 16)
like adults on a naughty child. Though what strikes her most is the absence of her
accustomed smells,
the smell of the streets and the smells of frangi-
panni and lime juice and cinnamon and cloves,
and sweets made of ginger and syrup, and in-
cense after funerals or Corpus Christi proces-
sions, and the patients standing outside the
surgery next door, and the smell of the sea-
breeze and the different smell of the landbreeze.
(VID, p. 7)

This makes her permanently aware of the rupture in her life, a rupture that
leaves her stranded "like a fish out of water" (ViD, p. 16) as her stepmother Hester
tells her
The situation Anna is first thinking of shows how at home in the West
Indies she has already been subject to the British influence through her stepmother
Hester's insistence on British ways and customs:
I thought about home and standing by the window
Sunday morning, dressing to go to church, and
putting on a woollen vest which had shrunk in the
wash too small, because wool next the skin is
healthy And white drawers tight at the knee and
a white petticoat and a white embroidered dress -
everything starched and prickly And black
ribbed-wool stockings with black shoes. And
brown kid gloves straight from England, one size
too small. (ViD, p. 36).
This description is expressive of a very special kind of misery this young
girl feels when forced to comply with the demands of a culture pressed upon her
The description conveys a feel of physical closeness, as the drawers, the vest, the
gloves all ordered in England and, of course, already much too small on arrival,
restrict Anna's movements and are unsuitable for such a hot climate.
Though it does not seem to be a pleasant dream, compared to the English
Sunday where "there was no sun" (VID, p. 36), the colours that she remembers
once more indicate the "otherness" of the English climate:
And the sky close to the earth. Hard, blue and
close to the earth. The mangotree was so big that
all the garden was in its shadow and the ground
under it always looked dark and damp. The sta-
ble-yard was by the side of the garden, white-
paved and hot, smelling of horses and manure.
And then next to the stables was a bathroom.
And the bathroom too was always dark and
damp. It had no windows, but the door used to be
hooked a little bit open. The light was always
dim, greenish. You went up into it by two stone
steps, cool and lovely to your feet. Then you sat
on the side of the bath and let your legs dangle
into the dark green water. (ViD, p. 37)

This scene is full of physical sensations, of colours, smells, the coolness of
stones and of the water as opposed to the grey image of London she had evoked
earlier The ease with which the dreams and memories are coming to Anna is
indicative of the point that Rhys wanted to make: of the possible parallelism of past
and present, of the past flowing like a subterranean river underneath the surface of
the present. When Anna later escapes from Walter into a bedroom, she listens
intently for him to come after her, but the only sound she can hear is "a noise like
when you hold a shell up to your ear, like something rushing past you" (ViD, p. 2 1)
or later with Ethel she escapes to her bedroom again, "It's funny when you feel as
if you don't want anything more in your life except to sleep, or else to lie without
moving That's when you can hear time sliding past you, like water running" (ViD,
p. 97). Rhys further constructs a cluster of associations consisting of the images of
time, piano music and the flowing movement of a river when she describes the
sound of a "piano in one of the houses we passed a tinkling sound like water
running" (ViD, p. 10). The identification of music with time and both with a flowing
river is finally made clear in her allusion to Coleridge's Kubla Khan, "The piano
began to play, sickly-sweet. Never again, never, not ever, never Through caverns
measureless to man down to a sunless sea" (ViD, p. 92f.).
The tune that the piano is playing, its "Never again, never, not ever, never"
is the tune of the past flowing like the river Alph in enchanted darkness under the
surface of the present. Somebody trying to stay on this river, to stay in the past,
would indeed undertake a "voyage in the dark" Rhys' original title "Two Tunes"
(Rhys, Letters, p149), would have this link more obvious.
Apart from the imagery related to rivers, Rhys mainly uses descriptions of
trees and flowers to indicate Anna's state of mind. During one of the short
instances in which Anna seems really happy, the "leaves of the beech trees were
bright as glass in the sun. In the clearings there were quantities of little flowers in
the grass, red, yellow, blue and white, so many that it looked all colours. Here
England seems to be as near to the Caribbean flora as she could possibly get,
though not really identical as Anna is fast in realising, echoing the beginning of the
novel: "But when I began to talk about the flowers out there I got that feeling of a
dream, of two things that I couldn't fit together, and it was as if I were making up the
names" Even though England is beautifid, it is a beauty with "the wildness gone
out of it" whose mechanical character is underlined by the lark that seems to be a
"clockwork, as if someone were winding it up and stopping every now and again"
(ViD, p. 67). What is missing is life behind the outer surfaces. This is something
Anna had felt quite soon after her arrival in England, when in one of her lodgings
she finds a walled-in garden in the back of the house featuring a tree by the back
wall that "was lopped so that it looked like a man with stumps instead of arms and
legs. The washing hung limp, without moving, in the grey-yellow light." (ViD, p. 9)
The "tiny green tree" (ViD, p. 127), the promising tree of life, shown in the
advertisement for biscuits has died, leaving an impression of desolation and
impotence in a morgue-like atmosphere. Implicitly, though, Anna is still unaware

that in England men may appear 'lopped' and 'limp' but can still be sexually
aggressive. 110 pages later she has made the experience that leads her to a
different image of men as "trees, like skeletons, and others like spiders, and others
like octopuses" (ViD, p. 122). What they all have in common is the non-human
tendency to use their thin arms in embraces too tight to survive. A metaphor that is
mirrored in the ever present wall-imagery and in the references to the clothes of her
The apparent split in Anna's behaviour, the one that leads Ethel to shout
"You're not all there; you're a half-potty bastard. You're not all there; that's what's
the matter with you. Anybody's only got to look at you to see that" (ViD, p. 124),
stems partly from a struggle to stay on two layers of reality, on the two rivers, the
past and the present, at the same time, but also to stay outside of walls. One of her
earliest memories includes the said image of a picture advertising "Biscuits Like
Mother Makes, as Fresh in the Tropics as in the Motherland, Packed in Airtight
Tins" (ViD, p. 127). It showed
a tiny green tree and a shiny pale-blue sky, so
close that if the little girl had stretched her arm up
she could have touched it. (God is always near
us. So cosy.) And a high, dark wall behind the
little girl. Underneath the picture was written
The past is dear,/The future clear,/And, best of all,
the present.
But it was the wall that mattered. And that used to
be my idea of what England was like. 'And it is
like that, too, I thought. (ViD, p. 127)

Here in retrospect England already appears as a dark, enclosing force
around a paradisical garden populated by children. Not only does the wall serve to
keep the children safely inside the enclosed area, but it also protects whatever is
on the outside from what might be dangerous on the inside, in this case a different
world view represented by the children. The link to colonisation is achieved
through the reference to the biscuit tin which may very well have been one of the
famous Huntley & Palmer biscuit tins that had already established themselves as
symbols of Bntain's colonising power all over the world. They even appear inside
Africa, at the Congo, where in Conrad's Heart of Darkness Marlowe's boat reminds
him of "an empty Huntley & Palmer biscuit-tin kicked along the gutter nothing so
solid in make, and rather less pretty" (HoD, p. 41).
At this instant an element of protection could still be extant, because the
wall might guarantee the safety of the garden. That this aspect, though, is not
meant has already been made clear near the beginning of the text:
My heart was beating like hell. I lay down and
started thinking about the time when I was ill in

Newcastle, and the room I had there, and that
story about the walls of a room getting smaller
and smaller until they crush you to death. The
Iron Shroud, it was called. It wasn't Poe's story; it
was more frightening than that. 'I believe this
danmed room's getting smaller and smaller,' I
thought. And about the rows of houses outside,
gimcrack, rotten-looking, and all exactly alike.
(ViD, p. 26)
Walls, even imagined ones, cause a feel of claustrophobia in Anna, a
physical reaction to the feeling of being oppressed or strangled which very often
leaves her breathless and helpless. "I began to feel awfully miserable, as if
everything were shutting up around me and I couldn't breathe. I wanted to die.
(ViD, p. 59) or "Being afraid is cold like ice, and it's like when you can't breathe.
(ViD, p. 76) This feeling of being unable to breathe, of facing walls all around and
of being embraced too tightly, works on two separate levels, a personal and a
socio-political one. Anna as the Creole daughter of a British gentleman and a girl
from the West Indies is neither a full member of the white, formerly slave-owning
class nor a member of the black native group, a situation Anna is fully aware of.
"But I knew that of course she disliked me too because I was white; and that I would
never be able to explain to her that I hated being white. (ViD, p. 62) For Anna being
black meant a series of positive concepts, the most important of which was the
equation of black and naturalness Its attraction for her lies in the spontaneous way
she sees black people express their emotions, their joy and happiness.
Thus, smacking lips would be considered bad behaviour in civilised British
circles, but in the Caribbean it would not only mean a lack in manners, it would
indicate an affiliation to the coloni'sed people as well. So considerable pains were
taken to make sure that Anna was British in appearance when going to church on
Sunday and in her use of the language. Her stepmother Hester especially was
highly concerned with teaching her correct British pronunciation, thereby fighting
against local influences in the persons of the servant Francine who Anna preferred.
I tried to teach you to talk like a lady and behave
like a lady and not like a nigger and of course I
couldn't do it. Impossible to get you away from
the servants. That awful singsong voice you had!
Exactly like a nigger you talked and still do.
Exactly like that dreadful girl Francine. When you
were jabbering away together in the pantry I
never could tell which of you was speaking. (ViD,
p. 56)

Hester tried to build a wall between the people Anna felt most attached to
and the traditional British behaviour in the colonies. When Anna experiences her
first menstruation it is Francine who explains to her the natural circumstances of
what is going on and Anna understands its natural inevitability "When I was unwell
for the first time it was she who explained to me, so that it seemed quite all right and
I thought it was all in the day's work like eating or drinking. But then Francine tells
Hester about Anna and Hester overwhelms her with the traditional embarrassment
accompanying the female 'curse' and Hester came and jawed away at me, her
eyes wandering all over the place. I kept saying, 'No, rather not. Yes, I see.
Oh yes, of course. But I began to feel awfully miserable, as if everything were
shutting up around me and I couldn't breathe. I wanted to die. (ViD, p. 59) Putting
on British values like clothes already too small causes her to suffocate, but she is
unable to refuse them, to block them off by setting her own values against them.
Later in London she will mirror moral values like 'good' and 'bad' (ViD, p. 49), but
she will see them as conceptual tools used for a purpose.
The British education she has undergone seems to have prevented her
from acquiring indigenous values and modes of behaviour without giving her a
substitute equally true to herself. It mainly leaves her with guilt for phenomena that
were actually out of her sphere of influence, like growing up or sweating in clothes
unfit for a hot climate, and with shame. For her parents, growing bigger appears to
be her personal fault. Her physical reaction to heat indicates her intentional refusal
to behave as a British lady would. But for herself growing up means growing
further away from Francine, becoming more British, i.e. more like Hester
Anna cannot help but grow, but to avoid that feeling of guilt, to stop
becoming more like Hester, from a point of view based in the western European
culture Anna seems to have stopped developing her mind at the stage of a very
bright child, a child that is consecutively reborn in the very world she tried so much
to avoid, in a world where the walls have transcended their physicality and become
immaterial, where Anna finds the walls in "the damned way they look at you, and
their damned voices, like high, smooth, unclimbable walls, all round you, closing in
on you. And nothing to be done about it, either" (ViD, p. 126) Judging her mental
capacities, of course reveals the systems of criteria used to form this judgement.
So stigmatising her as infantile or re-gressing says more about the system in which
these labels are found than about the object of discussion. It is mainly an expres-
sion of the incompatibility of two social systems, of which one regards itself as
superior, as adult, assuming the role of an educator and protector of the infantile
colonised ethnic group.
Anna's regression is a means of survival. In one of the few direct charac-
terisations, Vincent, Walter's cousin, addresses her with "'Well, how's the child?
How's my infantile Anna?"' (VID, p. 69), and Walter calls her
'Poor little Anna; making his voice very kind. 'I'm
so damned sorry you've been having a bad time.

Making his voice very kind, but the look in his
eyes was like a high, smooth, unclimbable wall.
No communication possible. You have to be
three-quarters mad even to attempt it. (ViD, p
In this passage another dualism is made clear, the putting on of an infantile
mask that still allows for clear-sighted realisations on the nature of male behaviour
What puts Anna off is not the possibility of real human compassion or of natural
processes that are what they are without being given culturally invented signifiers
as in the next passage:
He put his hand on my knee and I thought, 'Yes
yes yes. Sometimes it's like that everything
drops away except the one moment. Then he
started talking about my being a virgin and it all
went the feeling of being on fire and I was cold.
(VID, p. 3 If.)
Anna does not mind losing what is artificially defined by a male culture as
'virginity' as long as it is seen as being in harinony with the natural progress of life.
What she reacts to is Walter's giving it a name and attaching to it the highest
'You oughtn't to tell lies about that. 'I'm not telling
lies, but it doesn't matter, anyway, I said. 'People
have made all that up. 'Oh yes, it matters. It's the
only thing that matters. 'It's not the only thing that
matters, I said. 'All that's made up. He stared at
me and then he laughed. 'You're quite right, he
said. But I felt cold as if someone had thrown cold
water over me. (ViD, p. 32)
Paradise has been taken away, what is left for Anna is the walls, so it is not
surpris-ing that she feels unable to move at all, a mental reaction that may appear
as a regressive infantilism from the outside, but which is no more than a psycho-
logical reaction to a colonialism that does not stop at geographical borders but
invades the mind as well.
'I wouldn't be an Englishwoman, [Germaine]
said, 'for any money you could give me or any-
thing else. 'It's a very nice place; she said, 'so
long as you doesn't suffer from claustrophobia.
'Once, she said, 'a very clever man said to me
that there were pretty girls in England, but very

few pretty women. "In fact, hardly any," he said, "I
don't believe there are any Why? What happens
to them? A few pretty girls and then finish, a
blank, a desert. What happens to them?" 'And its
true too, she said. 'The women here are awful.
That beaten, cringing look or else as cruel and
dried-up as they're made! Mechantes, that's
what they are. And everybody knows why they're
like that. They're like that because most English-
men don't care a damn about women. They can't
make women happy because they don't really like
them. I suppose it's the climate or something.
(ViD, p. 70)
Here it becomes obvious that the claustrophobic feeling is not idiosyncratic
to Anna but a phenomenon that can be felt by more women The difference is that
Germaine makes the important transfer She makes clear that British colonisation
is not only a colonisafion of geographically remote regions, or a general indoctrina-
tion of minds, but means an attempt to suppress female minds, to invade territories
of the female soul. Rhys gives a number of examples of this "cruel and dried-up"
type of women who have been successfully colonised, who have intemalised the
male cultural code. Apart from Hester as the first specimen of this species, there is
Ethel with whom Anna shares a flat for a short time. Ethel tells her of the reactions
following her advertisement in the newspaper
There were detectives calling and wanting to see
my references and my certificates. I showed
them some references, and some certificates too.
I was wild. Treating me as if I was a dirty foreign-
er She used to wear a white overall. Her face
was rather red and her nose tumed-up with wide
nostrils.(ViD, p. 119)

Stressing her whiteness and cultural superiority by wearing a white overall,
Ethel is enraged about being treated as a foreigner or a possible immigrant from
the colonies. She does not view this from either a feminist perspective as an
independent woman setting herself up as a professional, or from the one of a
prostitute being surprised by the swiftness of the law The former would lead to a
kind of solidarity with Anna who in turn does not feel any solidarity for her That
Anna regards their conversation as one between coloniser and colonised is made
clear by her response to Ethel's throwing her out of her flat in London.
What dyou want to stay here for, if you don't like
it? Who wants you here anyway? Why don't you

clear out?' 'I can't swim well enough, that's one
reason, I said.
(ViD, p. 124)
Anna's companion from the dancing company, Laurie, is another example,
though one that is definitely the most positive one in the whole text. Laurie remains
Anna's friend even when in individual cases she puts her own good before Anna's.
She puts money away regularly, she is streetwise, but otherwise "a good old cow"
(ViD, p. 111).
Vincent's girlfriend Germaine doesn't really care about this hierarchy of
oppression as she is French and from her implications it seems that in her opinion
the French are different.
Anna, though feels taken over, invaded, through the act of naming, of
inventing ideas, and attaching them to what to her are spontaneous, natural acts
and emotions, thereby installing, implementing them into a cultural and generic
code that is not hers.
Coming to the source of power that has so far only been experienced from
afar, but has nevertheless been regarded as the perpetrator of the 'true' national
culture, must leave every member of a colonial group disoriented at first When
Anna realises that she cannot fit the two (colonial centre and colony present and
past) together, she has almost grasped the central contradiction she has to face:
that coming to the homeland is not the same as coming home, that moving to the
centre of her colonial culture means leaving the one she has grown up in. So for
her, as for many others, this coming home in colonial terms means going into
exile, means realising the oppressive force of colonising powers. In England Anna
shows herself as what must appear an infantile, weak parasitic woman on the
downward move on the social scale, totally irresponsible and devoid of any initia-
tive or aim. Indeed, the image of the infant is quite often evoked. When Rhys
mentions the novel in one of her letters, she herself uses a metaphor that points in
the same direction: "It's written almost entirely in words of one syllable. Like a
kitten mewing perhaps. (Rhys, Letters, p. 24) Anna's own associations reflect this
attitude, she thinks of "a place where you crouch down when you are playing
hide-and-seek" (ViD. p. 2 1) or of the time 'when you're a kid and you put your face
very near to the glass and make faces at yourself' (ViD. p. 72). Her usual way of
coping with problems is to close her eyes and dream: "Soon he'll come in again and
kiss me, but differently Hell be different and so I'll be different. It'll be different. I
thought, 'It'll be different, different. It must be different (ViD, p. 2 1).
In Anna's retrospective reflexions we hear her quoting herself, often re-
peating in adverted commas what she had just told the reader Thus, the reader is
made aware of Anna's narrative position, of the time that may have elapsed and,
what is more, of Anna's possible change in attitude and character Meeting Walter
for the first time in a restaurant, Anna talks about her previous life in England, her

job as a chorus girl and of her time at the "Cats' Home" the chorus girls' hostel
which she didn't like because of the prayers every morning before breakfast. She
sees the praying matron' and "her little, short nose and her long, moving lips.
There was something horrible about that sort of praying. I thought, 'I believe there
is something horrible about any sort of praying."' (ViD, p. 19). Here the narrating
voice makes a slight but vital alteration to the cited words that indicate a change in
perspective. The reader expects her to quote truthfully when writing "any sort of
praying" but her words ex post facto are "that sort of praying" (my emphasis). The
development from 'any' to 'that delineates the devel-opment towards a more
matured personality, narrowing the universal of youth to the specific of adulthood.
But when using this technique of juxtaposing comments of the narrative
voice with what is narrated, Rhys is still within the narrative tradition of more or less
fictitious autobiographies like, for example, Dickens' David Copperfield. This struc-
ture of narrative voice and narrated voice assumes a definable unity that narrates
a character at a certain point within its process of development. But Rhys trans-
gresses this tradition when she employs different voices within a first-person
narrator "Everybody says, 'Get on. Of course, some people do get on. Yes, but
how many? What about what's-her-name? She got on, didn't she? 'Chorus-Girl
Marries Peer's Son.' Well, what about her? Get on or get out, they say Get on or
get out." (ViD, p. 64) In this dreamlike conversation with herself the split in Anna's
character that has so far been one that could have consisted in the different points
of view of the narrator and the narrated female voice, becomes a verbal split within
the narrated voice itself, a manifestation of a multiple or collective self. In this
interactive dialogue between the parts Rhys employs another variation on the 'Two
Tunes' theme.
At the same time, the repetition of what has actually been said emphasises
Anna's relationship to her social environment in general. When she says, "He'll be
different and so I'll be different" she appears to be unable to take the initiative into
her own hands, she only reacts to other people's behaviour, more like an object
than a human being, like an object whose outer appearance alone invests it with
status, strength and security This security can be achieved by means of money
which in itself does not have any meaning for Anna. The 25 received from Walter
help her to forget about being ill, to feel safe and protected in "this wam room that
smells of fur" (VID, p. 25) for as long as the money lasts to buy clothes. In this case
the existence of a matured narrator again becomes implicitly apparent. Instead of
being innocently reborn from this womb-like place Anna sees the shape of her
thighs in the new dress she is wearing. So in opposition to her rather courageous
remark, "Yes, I like this. I'll keep it on" the reader is told of her appearance in the
mirror which shows her face "small and frightened" (ViD, p. 25), due to the sexual
seductiveness she is aware of emanating. Here obviously the mirror reflects her
true state of mind.4 When Anna looks into the mirror after her first sexual encoun-
ter with Walter she asks, "Have you ever noticed how different some looking-
glasses make you look?" (VID, p. 33). The mirror shows her changed self in a

sexual context. Again her face may well be the face of a frightened child, regres-
sion being the automatic way Anna uses to protect herself And within these states
of regression, especially in bed, the method Rhys employs to connect past and
present, dream and reality, becomes more obvious. On a Sunday after she had
slept late "because there wasn't anything else to do" (ViD, p. 36), she lies down
again in the afternoon, but is not able to sleep because of church bells which
remind her of the Sunday at home in the Caribbean when she was being dressed
to go to church. Or, later, when Vincent writes her a letter on Walter's behalf, telling
her of the end of their relationship, Anna thinks of an episode concerning her Uncle
Bo, who, being asleep on the veranda, had not noticed his false teeth slipping out
of his mouth, making him look like a wild animal with long fangs. The fangs again
remind Anna of piano keys, which in turn make her think of a time when a blind man
from Martinique came to tune her father's piano and she felt protected and com-
forted by her father when least expecting it. So her train of thought travels from the
idea of man as animal to her usual refuge of man as protector
And again we find the narrating Anna recognizing what is going on around
her when she calls Vincent's outer appearance "the whole bag of tricks, in fact"
(ViD, p. 69) or feels that Walter is different from the other men she had met as "he
didn't look at my breasts or my legs, as they usually do. Not that I saw (ViD, p.
12) She has become wise enough to include the possibility of her not noticing. She
reallses that as a woman she is put into the position of an object, like wine one can
taste ("He kissed me again, and his mouth was hard, and I remembered him
smelling the glass of wine and I couldn't think of anything but that, and I hated him.
ViD, p. 20) or like something one can categorise, e. g. as a tart to be picked up. As
said above, her attempt to bridge the widening gap between the present and the
past, the recognition that her coming from the colony into the centre of her culture
did not stop her from being colonised by looks, voices, or behaviour, leaves her
totally out of her depth, causes the split inside her personality Less and less she
seems to remain the protagonist of her life, instead she turns into her own audi-
ence, and like a child that is afraid in the dark might hug herself for comfort, Anna
concentrates on her own perspective from the inside, "hearing my voice going on
and on" (ViD, p. 19) or thinking "it was funny I could giggle like that because in my
heart I was always sad" (ViD, p. 14).
To say that Anna simply lacks the basic cultural skills to survive in a
western European culture, that her self is split into one that clings to a past that is
remembered by her as one more natural, more protective, more paradisical, and
into one that submits to the European cultural code but just cannot come up to its
standards, would mean to omit several characteristics. Already in the Caribbean
Anna had been an outsider, as she was rejected by the Blacks because of her
family history and the colour of her skin, and by her stepmother because of her
identification with the servants, not the least 'indicated by her adaptation of their
local language. On the other hand, the narrating voice is an Anna that has become
streetwise through her London life, at least in a theoretical sense, commenting on

those experiences while she was making them. But she communicates her expe-
riences to the reader, not to those around her In doing so she would have to apply
exactly those instruments of suppression, i.e. looks, voice, tone, words, that have
been claimed by a society she regards as alien, by men and women utilising them
to categorise and degrade her, using them to make her immobile in a hostile
environment. Two tunes being played at the same time do not result in an
increased effect, but in each one becoming unintelligible. Any use of the tools she
could have used for her own rescue would immerse herself more into the ocean in
which all she can finally do is float. And, if taking the original ending of the novel,5
not even that.


Rhys, Jean. Voyage in the Dark, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969 Hereafter called VID, all page
numbers relate to this edition.
2. Wolfe, Peter "Preface" to Jean Rhys, Twayne English Author Series, Boston Twayne, 1980, n.p
3. It is tempting to see this as a pun on "preying" and the almost homophone closeness to 'praying
mantis" may not be co-incidental as well, thereby intensifying the insect image
4. This appears to be a faint echo of the Victorian superstition that mirrors show the soul of a person
and not the outer appearance. Instances of this belief can be found in literature, e.g. the Vam-
pire tales in which vampires are never reflected in a mirror as they do not have souls anymore,
or in folklore, e.g. in the old German tradition of veiling mirrors if a family member has died so
that the soul is not caught when leaving the body
5. Jean Rhys originally intended to have Anna die as a result of the abortion.

A Postmodem Collective: Deconstruction, Identity, and Faith
in Robert Antoni's Divina Trace



Robert Antoni's Divina Trace, recipient of the 1992 Commonwealth Writers
Prize, is one of the richest explorations of Caribbean lore and language to appear
in many years. The novel is narrated by seven different voices-all members of the
Domingo family-who circle around, retell, and revise the story of Magdalena
Domingo, her union with Barto Domingo, and the birth of her mysterious frog child
(called the crapo-child) on the island of Corpus Christi, Antoni's fictional re-creation
of Trinidad, about a century ago. The voices include perspectives representing
three of the major ethnohistoric elements of the West Indies-European, African,
and East Indian; indeed, the central section of the novel, related by Magdalena
herself, is patterned after the Ramayana but also reiterates, in yet another version,
the main events of Divina Trace. As the voices speak, through memory, to the
primary narrator Johnny Domingo, the myth that has accrued around Magdalena
and her crapo-child becomes a way of understanding the island's cultural identity
and, by extension, that of the whole Caribbean.1
Edouard Glissant has observed that "[all] mimesis presupposes that what
is represented is the 'only true reality When it involves two realities of which one is
destined to reproduce the other, inevitably those who are part of the process see
themselves living in a permanent state of the unreal. That is the case with us"
(242). Certainly reality and truth are questioned throughout Divina Trace. Johnny
Domingo, looking back at age ninety on the events surrounding the "crapo-myth"
finds himself frustrated time and again by the conflicting versions of what he hears.
He acts as a narrative filter through which the cohesion and contradictions of
Antoni's Caribbean story must necessarily be questioned alongside the myth-mak-
ing process.
The representation of myth and the process of its unfolding are crucial to
this novel's understanding. Examining Antoni's creation of the "crapo-myth" re-
veals a paradox at the center of the novel, a paradox that undercuts the all too
common suppositions made about current postmodern texts: that the meaning is
there is no meaning. I am not talking about a close reading of the text but Antoni's
own demand that the reader deconstruct it, thus engaging in a postmodern dis-
course, which, oddly enough, ultimately produces unity and meaning in the case of
Divina Trace. My intent here is not to produce a debate over postmodernism itself
or exactly what it is. Yet, establishing an understanding of some of its critical

techniques and applying them to Divina Trace are necessary to understanding
Antoni's concept of a Caribbean consciousness that exists outside reality, is
constantly redefined, and simultaneously serves to define the Caribbean mind
To show unique elements within Divina Trace with regard to the final end
of postmodern analysis, it is necessary to examine a few elements that are crucial
to the application of postmodern criticism on texts generally Antonio Benitez-Rojo
offers an adequate commentary for our purposes. In his view
what lies at the heart of postmodern literary
analysis: [is] a questioning of the concept of
"unity" and a dismantling, or rather unmasking, of
the mechanism that we know as "binary opposi-
tion"-the thing that sustains, to a greater or a
lesser degree the philosophical and ideological
edifice of modernity (154)
The intention of the postmodern critic, then, appears to be an unraveling of
narrative threads by revealing their own contradictions in binary opposites with a
view toward a proof of the inability of narrative to represent an accurate reality The
postmodern critic supposes that narrative attempts to create unity where there is,
in reality, none. More often than not, the sense one is left with, as a result, is that
of meaninglessness within the text. It is the same sense the reader of Thomas
Pynchon's V inevitably encounters in an analysis of Stencil's quest for V Known
as "He Who Looks For V" (226), Stencil is obsessed with a search, presumably for
a woman, that is doomed to be fruitless by his own refusal to find her In essence,
Stencil finds meaning in his own meaningless quest-the meaning is that there is
no meaning,
This is not so with Antoni's novel. In establishing the crapo-story as a myth
he invites the reader to move through the text alongside Johnny Domingo, sifting
through the six different narratives (and Johnny's own narrative in the reader's
case) searching for the truth about what happened. The story has its contradic-
tions. The reader must wonder about certain questions raised between the narra-
tives. Who killed Magdalena? Was it Dr Domingo? Was it Mother Maurina? Did
Magdalena kill herself. We must wonder too if Magdalena is dead at all. In Papee
Vince's historical second narrative we are told that, "in fact Magdalena is still alive"
Similarly, we are told in Dr Domingo's reiteration of the crapo-story that
Barto, after killing his son Gomez, "fired quick at his own head to end the whole
confusion one time and finish" (276). In fact, this statement only compounds
Johnny's confusion (as well as the reader's) when he is told, by Evelina, that "[his]
grandaddy Barto is living still, He alive. Still. Living right dere in dat little mudhut in
Village Suparee" (337). Papee Vince attests to the same. Moreover, the reader
finds that Johnny himself may have killed his grandfather. Finding Barto in a small

hut, he drinks rum with the old man and then admits that he "brought the bottle
down on [Barto's] head with all my strength. With such force that it broke in [his]
hand, even on [Barto's] soft skull" (340).
Perhaps the most significant contradiction within the text is revealed when
the reader is forced to juxtapose Granny Myna's two narratives. As readers, we
must question the request she has made of Johnny In her first narrative we find
that she has killed the crapochild by dipping him in a pot of boiling callaloo. On her
deathbed she tells Johnny
I am ready to lie down my bones in peace, peace
that I have earn with sweating blood cold in the
hot night, but I will never know peace so long as I
have to be bury next to that crapochild. Never!
But you will take him away Johnny You will go
for me tonight to Domingo Cemetery, and you will
dig him up, and you will carry him away Now I am
ready to die. Go and call mummy and daddy (19)
This request comes at the very beginning of the novel. It is what the reader
supposes Johnny is to do until the very end of the novel where her dying request is
much different:
I am ready to lie my bones down in peace, peace
that I have earn with sweating blood cold in the
hot night, but I will never know peace so long as I
have to be bury with this rosary burning a hole in
my hand. Never! But you will take it to her,
Johnny now I have hope of all my children
carry on for me when I am gone, and you can ask
no more than that in the end. Now I am ready to
die. Go and call you daddy and mummy (425-26).
The gift of the rosary takes the place of unearthing the dead crapochild
here. Granny Myna's intentions are opposite from her initial hatred at the opening
of the novel. Where her first narrative reveals her rejection of the crapochild and
Magdalena, this passage suggests an acceptance as well as empathy for the
suffering endured. In effect, Antoni undermines, with this contradiction, the most
basic truth that we have taken for granted throughout the entire novel.
These are by no means the only contradictions revealed to the reader of
Divina Trace. The text is littered with them, and their purpose seems to be
essentially three-fold. First, they serve to undermine the sort of Western logic that
we apply when reading a text-that is, "B" necessarily follows from "A" and leads to
conclusion "C. There is simply no place for events taking place and not taking
place at the same time, situations where we understand characters who are dead

are not dead. Perhaps deconstuctionists would point to this undercutting as a
failure on the part of the text. A reader might easily say that the story simply does
not make sense-that it serves as a proof that narrative is utterly inadequate in its
effort to impose unity on an ultimately fragmented reality But Antoni's text pur-
posely undermines Western logic to explore Antoni's own conception of Caribbean
consciousness, and that consciousness is not limited to Western conceptual frame-
works, if only because of its multi-cultural origins.
Moreover, Antoni is not describing reality The second purpose of the
contradictions within Divina Trace is to develop the entire story as a myth rather
than an accurate account of actual events. We must question the reliability of each
of the narrators: Granny Myna seems to be biased by her own rejection of
Magdalena and the crapochild; Maurina's sanity must be questioned; Dr Domingo
seems to shield his son from certain truths so as not to implicate himself in the
death of Magdalena; and Papee Vince, probably the most reliable of all the
narrators, admits that he is no more than "a simple storyteller" (341) who was not
there for any of the events but speaks about them as if he were a historian.
Moreover, Johnny is told by Papee Vince that "this story you hearing might be
nothing more than a simple island folk-tale, telling of simple island folkpeople"
Further establishing this "crapo-narrative" as myth are the techniques used
in Divina Trace that parallel those that Antoni himself noted in an unpublished
essay he wrote on myth-making in Absalom. Absalom! and One Hundred Years of
Solitude. Antoni wrote that "Marquez's structure is based on temporal discontinu-
ity, mythological time" (12). Similarly, Divina Trace distorts time throughout the
narrative. In Mother Maurina's second narrative we are told that Gomez was ready
to "settle he stakes for only a VCR" (268) and in Granny Myna's first section,
Johnny, as a young boy, asks the "oldman" what he is dressed as: "'Who you is?' I
asked. 'Robot?'" (15). These events take place near the beginning of the century,
when VCR's and robots weren't even around. Perhaps the most striking distortion
of time comes in Papee Vince's second narrative when, as a parenthetical aside,
he interrupts his own current retelling of the crapo-myth to explain to Jimmy that
of course, if [Jimmy] recalls] the chronology of
the story, [he) will remember that Evelina sheself
wouldn't be dead fa good few years to come, and
in fact, I [Papee Vince] myself would be dead fa
good few months before her (346)
So Papee Vince, already dead, is telling Jimmy the crapo-story We might
explain this in the fact that Johnny is remembering all this nearly a century later, but
nonetheless, all of these examples serve to distort the chronology within the story.
Antoni, in his unpublished essay on Faulkner and Marquez, also claims
that the two writers "allude to Biblical myths, and in doing so they imply the

universality of their own stories, and seek to elevate the importance of their stories
by associating them with already established myths" (5). Divina Trace does the
same thing on a complex level. We find that the "crapo-myth" is associated with
more than one pre-established myth. It serves to parallel the story of the Virgin
Mary and her child throughout, and at the same time, in the centre of the novel,
Magdalena herself reiterates her story in the form of the Ramayana, revealing
analogues to Hinduism. Further, in Evelina's narratives, we see ties within the
"crapo-myth" to obeah mythology, where Barto serves as both Papa God and
In effect, the crapo- story "unfolds like a dream" ("The Myth-making Proc-
ess" 12), producing the effect of myth according to Antoni, but it is grounded in
reality at the same time. In Divina Trace this is made clear in a statement Johnny
makes during his first discussion with Mother Maurina: "This must be a dream,
because nothing in real life feel so sweet as these pants breezing up against you
legs, and nothing could squeeze you so hard as these hard backs'(130). Here
Antoni mixes dream and reality in Johnny's own realization that what he is experi-
encing must be a dream because it's so real-another contradiction.
Third and finally with regard to the contradictions in Divina Trace, the
reader is implicated, almost instinctively through the process of attempting to make
sense of the contradictions throughout the text, in the search for the truth that
Johnny himself engages in. The deconstructive process itself demands we search
for meaning in the crapo-story as Johnny himself does. Indeed, both the reader
and Johnny are doing the same thing: sitting in one place or another and imagining
the different narrators telling their version of the story That is what the novel asks
of the reader In effect, the overall narrative frame of the novel is chronologically
simple: Johnny sits up all night remembering events and stories from the past, he
leaves his house the next morning, on Corpus Christi day, travels to the chapel at
the edge of the swamp, and puts a rosary from Granny Myna around the neck of
the statue of Magdalena. What draws the reader into the text must necessarily be
the conflicting narratives offered by the various narrators via Johnny Moreover,
one has to look no further than the centre of the novel to realize to what extent the
text incorporates the reader into the story and the search for truth it demands.
Finding the mirror-page and the phrase "SEEING IN DE PAGE you own monkey-
face (205), makes clear Antoni's intent to implicate the reader, or perhaps
more clearly, assimilate him/her into the-unreality of the text.
This implies an almost second person point-of-view in the text, skillfully
breaking down assumed barriers between author, protagonist, and reader, and
pointing toward another concern of postmodern literary criticism-what Benitez-
Rojo explains as
anotherr of postmodern literary criticism's con-
cerns [which] lies in demystifying the concept of
the author, and erasing the "creator" aura with

which modem criticism endows him. For the
poststructuralist critic, looking at the literary task
from the postmodern standpoint, the author, far
from being the creator of worlds, is a technician or
artisan whose job is controlled by a preexisting
And what is the result of a demystificationn" of the author in Divina Trace?
It necessarily must point toward a text that is informed by an entire society and,
indeed, that is what Divina Trace is. In essence the "crapo-myth" has no single
author, but rather, several authors, all of which tell their own "true" version of it. The
"truth" of these stories lies in what Papee Vince tells Johnny
I can only give this story back to you the way life
give it to me-the way the story ask itself to be
told-with all its many deceptions, and cumbruca-
tions, and confufflations. Because all that is es-
sential to the telling of this story No son, I can
only give you this story the way life offer it up, and
try my best to remain truthful to all three: to the
story, to myself and to you.... Because of course,
in the end, as with any other tale told of man or
monkeys since the beginning of time, you can
only tell your own story You can only hear your
own story too. (342, my italics)

Here we find that the contradictions are essential to the story, and the different
versions are required. In one sense all of the versions attest to a communal text, a
myth that is representative of an entire society Truth and falsity do not matter
here, only the mix of narratives and how they define the community itself. This is
further made clear in Papee Vince's reiteration of the history of the statue itself. Key
in this history are all the cultural marks that the statue displays: the Madonna and
child suggest European Christianity; the mark in the middle of the forehead sug-
gests East-Indian origin; its blackness suggest African or perhaps Creole crafts-
In another sense, the story requires revision by all who tell it. The story
must evolve and be constantly redefined by those telling it because "you can only
tell your own story The "crapo-myth" serves to define a society and at the same
time is redefined by those who tell it then. Both cultural and individual identity are
coupled within the myth and its retelling. Further, Papee Vince says,of Mag-
dalena's refusal to the canon that: "We took the rejection of Magdalena as a
rejection of Corpus Christi sheself, as a denial of we very existence" (387). Johnny

also adapts his own intimate tie with the crapochild "as though in that frogchild I had
suddenly seen myself, my other self, the constant companion of my on-going silent
conversation, my twin brother" (I 70). Surely then, the myth works on both levels
within the text-culturally and individually.
The "crapo-myth" lies at the core of the novel in Johnny's own quest for its
truth and thus his identity individually and culturally As Robert Hussein puts it:
"The voice of myth, recounting a myth, lies at the heart of this chronicle of the
creation of a myth" (21). Readers arrive at this realization, alongside Johnny,
deconstructing the myth itself. As a result of that deconstruction we must place the
crapo-story outside of the real world. The events described by the different
narratives do not add up or cancel one another out. We may be fairly sure that
some of those events are true, that something happened seventy-seven years ago
which Johnny is recollecting, but we cannot be sure what that something was. In
the end we are left with one choice: to believe or not to believe. Here lies the
ultimate paradox within Divina Trace and the key to its uniqueness. It is a
Kierkegaardian "leap of faith" arrived at through a postmodern critical reading of the
text, a reading that intends to nullify meaning within any system of representation
and reveal that system's disunity The contradictions themselves, the very sen-
slessness of the conflicting narratives encourage the reader to make this leap.
Kierkegaard writes that "the movement of faith must continually be made by virtue
of the absurd, but in a way, please note, that one does not lose the finite but gains
it whole and intact" (37). Thus the meaning (in the Kierkegaardian sense it is union
with the infinite or God) that we acquire from a movement of faith is achieved
through the absurd or the contradictory nature of the choices with which one is
faced. Kierkegaard's example, Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son Isaac, illus-
trates a movement of faith achieved through Abraham's simultaneous belief that he
had to do God's will (sacrifice his son) and that God would not allow his son to be
killed-a contradiction (see pages 34-7). Antoni's narrative contradictions elicit a
similar movement from the reader
As with Johnny, the reader has no logical basis for accepting the "crapo-
myth" as anything more than a few conflicting narratives given to us by lunatics,
biased narrators, and those who were not there. But faced with the choice and the
realization that the value of the myth (in all of its many forms) does not lie in its truth
or falsity, the reader is left with little apprehension about saying, as Papee Vince
suggests, "Yes. I believe" (62)-words that reverberate throughout the text and
are realized by Johnny when he finally places his grandmother's rosary around the
statue's neck. Certainly a reader has no more apprehension in accepting this story
than, say, believing in the story of Christ, which is given to all Christians in four
different, somewhat conflicting versions.
What we are left with after this "leap of faith" is, in fact, a sense of unity in
the completion of Johnny's quest and meaning in the myth itself. This meaning lies
outside of any system of logic, as it is grounded in faith and made by virtue of the

absurd (i.e. the contradictory elements of the crapo-myth). It is the realization of a
sense of what it is to be Caribbean, a sense of a Caribbean consciousness. That
consciousness parallels Jung's own notion of a "collective unconscious. Jung
states that "[t]he obvious application of mythology and religious motifs in a dream"
point toward "the activity of the collective unconscious" (Two Essays 158). And
both mythology and religious motifs play a large part in Antoni's text.
Moreover, Divina Trace serves to encapsulate a sense of "Caribbeanness"
in its own self realization of the "crapo-myth" as fiction. In the realization that the
myth holds meaning in its very unreality, in its revision of the story, and mixing of
cultural identities within it, we realize that the story creates identity as well as
represents it culturally Here we can draw another analogue to Jung's concept of
the "collective unconscious" where he writes of Goethe's Faust:
It is not Goethe that creates Faust, but Faust that
creates Goethe. And what is Faust? Faust is
essentially a symbol. By this I do not mean that it
is an allegory pointing to something all too famil-
iar, but the expression of something profoundly
alive in the soul of every German. (Spirit 103)

We get this same sense of cultural identity in Divina Trace when Johnny
asks Papee Vince why there is no books of Caribbean literature. Papee Vince
Because why the ass would anybody in they right
mind want to read out a story dead, that they
could hear in a hundred different living ver-
sions-each one better than before-on any
streetcomer or porchtop they happen to stumble.
While the stress in this passage falls on an oral tradition, the concept of
"Caribbeanness" is the same as Jung's with regard to "Germanness. Antoni
refuses the acknowledgment of a written text simply because the Caribbean one
must necessarily be oral-thus the multiple, fragmented narratives of Divina Trace.
Antoni's crapo-story is timeless, as Johnny notes: thereee is no end to any of this.
there is only beginning, and between and beginning again" (62). The story exists
outside the real world, and yet it evolves with each retelling of it as a mythological
cross-section of the Caribbean mind, both defining and being defined by each
generation. It serves as a representation of a Jungian concept of "collective
unconscious, or perhaps in a more metaphysical sense, a Cartesian model of
cultural mind, from which all may draw and store knowledge.
Ultimately, Divina Trace encourages and resists postmodern analysis at
once. It invites attempts to deconstruct the myth created by Antoni, yet those

attempts are diverted by his text's shift to the unreal world of myth. The cultural
"Caribbean" meaning of the text rests in the Kierkegaardian notion of the paradox
of faith in which there is "an interiority [in Antoni an imagined myth] that is
incommensurable with exteriority [the facts or reality], an interiority that is not
identical" (Kierkegaard 69). And that paradox undercuts any attempt to eradicate
meaning. As Papee Vince explains to Johnny

You see son, it is not so much the telling of this
story It is the believing in it. Because no story
told without faith is any kind of story a-tall. It is
windballs and airfritters, and anybody who takes
even a taste knows the difference. Even before
they begin to chew (396)


1. For an excellent summary of Divina Trace see John C Hawley's article, "Robert Antoni's Divina
Trace and the Womb of Place," in Ariel A Review of International English Literature, 24 1
(1993): 91-104


Antoni, Robert. Divina Trace. Woodstock: Overlook Press, 1991
Antoni, Robert. "The Myth-making Process in Absalom, Absalom! and One Hundred Years of Soli-
tude," Unpublished essay.
Benitez-Rojo, Antonio. The Repeating Island The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective.
Trans. James E. Maraniss. Durham and London: Duke UP, 1992.
Glissant, Edouard. Canbbean Discourse, Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1989.
Hussein, Aanuner Rev. of Divina Trace, by Robert Antoni. Times Literary Supplement 22 Nov
1991 2 1
Jung, C. G. The Spirit in Man, Art, and Literature, Trans. R. F C. Hull. Ed. Herbert Read, Michael
Fordham, Gerhard Adler, and William McGuire. Princeton: Princeton UP 1971 Vol. 15 of The
Collected Works of C G. Jung. 18 vols. 1953-73
Jung, C. G. Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. Trans. R. F C. Hull. Ed. Herbert Read, Michael
Fordham, and Gerhard Adler New York: Pantheon, 1953. Vol. 7 of The Collected Works of C
G. Jung, 18 vols. 1953-73.
Kierkegaard, Soren. Fear and TremblinglRepetition, Ed and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H.
Hong. Princeton: UP of Princeton, 1983.
Pynchon, Thomas. V, New York: Harper, 1963.

"Distinction and Dialogism in Jamaica Myal by Erna Brodber



Two competing models may serve to interpret Caribbean society and
creative writing: the theory of distinction expounded by Pierre Bourdieu1 and the
poetics of hybridization worked out by Mikhail Bakhtine.2 Those models are
grounded on common assumptions: aesthetics and politics are interwoven and
popular culture plays a decisive part in the self-definition of all the classes. Still,
those writers describe opposite trends and have divergent outlooks on the lower
classes. While the former insists on their subordinate status, the latter brings out
their cultural attraction for the other layers. Hence the polarization of the academy
and its preference for either theory Which of these frameworks is the more
suitable in a colonial/post-colonial context ? Not only the analysis of social segmen-
tation but also the exploration of a particular novel will throw light on this issue.
Paradigms are provided by Jamaica, by its reality and literary output. Myal a novel
by Erna Brodber will illustrate the role of the modern artist.
The sociocultural background
Scholars stress the divisions produced by stratification in the Caribbean.
How these data fit in with Bourdieu's theory is the concern of the present study
The French sociologist, in coining his concept, referred especially to the Western
world. He claims that all classes in middle-class society are actuated by the'urge
to set themselves apart from the lower strata, to assert their difference LLoking
away from the workers, and looking down upon the lower-class ethos, the other
segments are involved in the quest for symbolic prestige.
In Jamaica's history, stratification has been paralleled by cultural segmen-
tation. In the field of religion, which is explored by Brodber's novel, denominations
have been symbolic of status and class. Since the slave system was set up in the
island, various churches have competed to rally the masses or their antagonists.
Historians have thrown light on the distribution which is this writer's subject-matter
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, three groups of churches repre-
sented the three strata of Jamaican society while the planters identified with the
Church of England, the Scottish Kirk or Roman Catholicism, the middle strata and
lower classes preferred to trust the Non-Conformists. As they always kept aloof
from the overclass during the slave period, the Dissenters appealed to the other
layers. Still, the subordinate classes did not league together against their rulers:
the former joined the Methodists for middle-class prestige, and the latter felt safe

with local Baptism. A distinct form, this denomination had taken root in Jamaica
with the immigration of Black American ex-slaves. Figures like George Liele and
Moses Baker had achieved freedom by taking sides with the British against their
thirteen colonies and founded the Baptist faith in the island. Thus, in Jamaica,
slaves along with the free coloureds had their separate loyalties.
The political field reflected those differences and significantly religion was
the expression of militancy. Not unexpectedly, planters used Christianity to for-
ward their interests. While they took advantage of their slaves' ignorance and
objected to those being taught the Bible, Emancipation made them shift from
hostility to manipulation. The Church of England was advertised as the best
Church so that the ruling class might retain the upper hand. Later attempts by
ambitious Black men to gain power in that institution came up against ruthless
racism. That interconnection of religion and politics was even greater in the lower
classes. At the far end of the social spectrum, Baptists had stood up against
slavery They had not been shy of expressing their views openly, and had to
withstand the fierce attacks of those in power
Emancipation strengthened those links between Baptism and social chal-
lenge. William Knibb, an important figure, claimed he could not tell those two
realms apart. The leaders of that Church sided with the masses for wage in-
creases. So as to offset the planters' influence, they undertook to win over the
middle classes Coloured professionals and landlords, together with Jewish entre-
preneurs. Their progressive platform recommended that public funds be used
preferably for social advancement, mainly health and education. That rebellious
spirit that the Baptists nurtured outlasted their withdrawal from the political stage in
the late nineteenth century The 1865 Morant Bay uprising, which was a landmark
in Jamaican history, exemplifies that continuity Within thirty-four years of the
"Ba-'ist war" otherwise called the "Black Family war" which had been a major
anti-slave revolt, Black smallholders rose in armed protest against the arrest of
Baptist preacher Paul Bogle. Very significantly, William Gordon, his mulatto ally,
had switched to that creed. Only a few months before, the nameless author of a
posted text had questioned the status quo with prophetic zeal. Robert Stewart has
underlined the outstanding convergence of various forms of awareness since that
discourse blends ethnic, religious and political matters:
I heard a voice speaking to me in the year 1864,
saying "tell the sons and daughters of Africa, that
a great deliverance will take place for them from
the hand of opposition; for said the Voice, they
are oppressed by Government, by Magistrates,
by proprietors, and by Merchants And this voice
also said, "tell them to call a solemn assembly,
and to sanctify themselves for the day of deliver-
ance which will surely take place.

It follows from this quotation and the previous developments that the
process of distinction, such as described by Pierre Bourdieu, does exist in Jamaica.
Still, in the light of the same facts, one is led to qualify some of that scholar's major
assertions. Jamaica's history belies his statement that the lower classes cannot
have brought forth cultural forms of political resistance. In contradistinction to that
theory, the Caribbean masses are able to fight back by using distinctive cultural
tools. It can be inferred that cultural elements are set the task of expressing social
resistance. Jamaica has bred a lower-class ethos that has challenged domination.
Going further than this, the Jamaican masses took the lead in asserting
cultural difference. Their experience shows that the process of distinction does not
always entail upward movements. On their very own terms, the lower classes of
the island's society express original, separate identities. Native Baptism and then,
Myalism, were typical of these important trends. Both of them exemplify the
masses' remarkable creativity
The nineteenth-century Jamaican masses originated new forms of religion.
Baptism, which had arrived with the Black North Americans, adjusted itself to its
new environment. Christianity was thus reinterpreted in the light of those beliefs
that Africans still held. Sin was a social and not an individual phenomenon; it
meant breaking not the laws of God but those of society Whereas the white
preacher paid attention to behaviour to decide whether one should be baptized, the
Black catechist, much closer to the following, analyzed their dreams and night
visions. During services, cultists were prone to fall into trance under the influence
of their Black leaders. Heterodoxy reached even further since relationships with
God were viewed in a new light the Holy Scriptures were unnecessary to
communicate with the Creator; they were even thought to be a hindrance. Since
dreams and visions were supposed to be more successful mediums, novices were
invited by their catechists to lie down and wait for the Spirit's call The role of the
Bible was also challenged by the cultists' outlook on baptism. Immersion was
expected not only to purify but also to grant wisdom and knowledge, which
lessened the influence of white preachers' sermons.
That distinctive form of Christianity moved further away from the dominant
faith after merging with Myalism. A legacy from the Akan, the basic opposition
between healer and obeahman matched the Christian antinomy of good and evil.
Thus Myalists, blending heritages, set themselves the task of uprooting wicked-
ness from the community This mission, which embraced the whole society, was
both African and Christian in scope. Witchcraft, the target of the cultists' efforts,
was pointed at as the main source of social disorder Hence the necessity to fight
against it with the help of songs, drums and dancing. While the method is
obviously reminiscent of African performances, so are the conceptions that under-
lie those practices. Evil could only stem from the stealing of one's spirit by a
malevolent person. That idea itself was in keeping with the belief that each
individual detained two souls, one which made him a distinct person, and, on the

other hand, its duppie or shadow, also called jumbie. At particular moments
-dreaming or dying, when spirits were believed to be wandering about,- Obeah was
able to sever the soul from the weakened body Through specific rites, the Myal
priest released the captive spirit, and took it away from the silk cotton tree to which
it had been tied.
As they built those traditions and moved further away from dominant
views, the Christian masses of Jamaica dramatized the island's polarizations.
Interpreting white rule as a form of witchcraft, Myalism expressed Black identity and
the African-oriented resistance of the lower classes against colonialism.4
Mval or the literary representation of distinction
Myal5 exemplifies Brodber's awareness of these complex historical and
cultural processes. It highlights Jamaica's social divisions as it interconnects
religion and politics. In Grove Town, a small village around Morant Bay, Baptists,
Methodists and the Anglican Church represent a cross-section of Jamaican society
early this century William Brassington, as a Westem-oriented Methodist preacher
and an advocate of Christian orthodoxy, stands for middle-class respectability
Through the folk healer's critical eyes, differentiation is brought into focus:
'These new people' his score was saying, 'these
in-between colours people, these trained-minded
people play the percussions so loud and raucous,
the wee small babe could know they feared the
tune' My people would humble them spirit and
let me reach them: but this knd of people, ...spirit
too sekle pekle. Let them keep their distance
after all. (p. 1).
Combined with colour, which favours promotion, culture points to status.
By contrasting intellectual approaches to the world with the lower classes' African-
based beliefs, the text seems to aim first and foremost, at stressing the gulf
between the strata. Musical metaphors (with reference to the drum) set off the
distance between the practices. A symbol for the middle class of lack of refine-
ment, the drum is alien to that group's experience. Hence awkward relations with
it. Still, this picture would be oversimplistic, had not a third factor been included:
money Growing stratification within the peasantry is highlighted by the novel. A
man of substance and authority, Mass Levi, represents the rising middle class6'
Characterization, from the very first lines, stresses that figure's outstanding status:
"Everyone knew the full extent of Mass Levi's power They knew it by fame or they
knew it by fact" (p. 31). Even though further down, Mass Levi's practices might
foster a restrictive interpretation, 'power' denotes here more than sexual prowess
and embraces sundry human activities. A former district constable and hard-work-
ing farmer, Mass Levi has considerably improved his circumstances; which en-
ables him to let out a house and to lend money without profit: "You want two pounds

to borrow and Mass Levi have it, it was never him to say no"(p. 33). Forced
conversion to the Baptist faith arises from this cunning behaviour since Mass Levi,
also a deacon, can raise feelings of guilt in those grateful persons. These achieve-
ments induce a striking comparison with the upper classes: "The man was blest
and his fame travelled far and wide. Man with his owna privy! Thing only big massa
have!" (p. 33). Thus from the very start the text throws into relief the main forces
behind stratification: colour, education and financial success.
But the process of distinction which the novel dramatizes is explored within
a colonial context. A complex pattern is therefore created so as to stress the
involvement of outside forces. In a subordinate country such as Jamaica, British
culture performs a definite function it transforms the bright offspring of the local
peasants into a new section of the middle class. Further segmentation is thus
brought about by education. The epitomes of that phenomenon, Anita and Ella, are
the two focuses of the narrative. Their plight illustrates the interconnection of
differentiation and alienation. The further removed from lower-class culture, the
more likely to gain status and respect. A superordinate, external agent proves to
determine the whole evolution by assuming the guise of native performance: "The
words were those of Kipling but the voice was that of Ella O'Grady aged thirteen(. .)
She was doing very we// Very well indeed" (p. 5). On celebrating her masters'
empire through this poet's verse, the colonized girl forces herself into the role of the
talking puppet. Zombification, a symbolic network in the whole novel, is here
introduced on political grounds. Just as the jumbie is only a body actuated by the
will of an alien force, Ella provides her British rulers with a very useful physical
vector; so "the white man's burden"lies very heavily on the shoulders of the
colonized ones. Depicted here as "spirit thievery" education reshapes the whole
social order on the basis of deceptive identification.
Once the colonizer has set it in train, that process takes root in the
community and thrives on existing stratification. In the words of his wife, but also in
his own, Brassington, the middle-class Methodist parson, and the one in control of
many parish schools, is shown to carry on the rulers' task: "William, you are a spirit
thief. You keep taking away these people's spirit ( ) 'That is the nature of this kind
of ministry to exorcise and replace'(p. 18). Still, more than mimicry is here
involved, and zombification stems from deeper forces, from the local roots of selfish
ambition. The ties that bind education to new forms of power7 have been acknow-
ledged by a cunning mind -the greedy Mass Levi. He is fully aware that there lies
a major source of authority and therefore wickedly intends to tap that energy for his
sole profit. Through obeah practices, a very bright girl's mind is made to sustain his
waning forces. The operation is all the easier since colonial education, intrinsically,
is based on self-denial, on the disruption of one's identity
Anita was studying. The kind that splits the mind
from the body and both from the soul and leaves
each open to infiltration"(p. 28).

Manipulation seems to derive naturally from that harmful separation, from the
destruction of wholeness. In that oblique reference to zombification, a parallel is
drawn between this conduct and the politics of dominant nations. Should that
meaning have slipped the readers attention, the link is highlighted by Reverend

I will see that you learn how to fight this little spirit
thief Someday maybe, you be strong enough
and learn to fight the bigger one (p. 68).

Then, with the distortion of Grove Town's story by Ella's ambitious American
husband, the reader can make a further connection between upward mobility and
cultural negation. Although it secures financial success, Selwynn's staging of
Ella's memories overlooks the truth of her experience: "Ella's spirit and with it that
of Grove Town would be locked into celluloid for the world to see for ages on end"
(p. 92). Living culture is made a commodity and turned into folklore.
That powerful myth from Haitian culture underlies the whole novel and
provides a useful symbolic medium. A very rich network relates private experi-
ences to collective ones. Ella's and Anita's specific sufferings, whose allegorical
status is soon brought out, cast light on the whole colonial process:
Taken their knowledge of their original and natu-
ral voodoo away from them and left them empty
shells -duppies, zombies, living deads capable
only of receiving orders from someone else and
carrying them out (p. 107).

Then the novel goes far beyond the colonial predicament and through Simpson's
statements, emphasizes the role of culture in a segmented world:"Easier to be a
jumbie. No faith in the people, no faith in themselves "(p. 66). "They split man from
his seff. A working jumbie (p. 67). Beside dependence, economic exploitation is
associated with cultural contempt. As the matter is probed, new aspects are
foregrounded the robotization of man, the enslavement of his mind: "People are
separated from the parts of themselves that make them think and are left as flesh
only Flesh that takes directions from someone. (..) In those societies there are
persons trained to do the separation and insertion. The name under which they go
would be translated as spirit thieves"(p. 108), strong, lusty popular culture: "Grove
Town people would resist his efforts to separate them from their understanding of
life "(p. 19). The enlightened leaders of the community, Reverend Simpson in
particular, articulate their resistance in the lower-class medium. "Let my people go",
the Black slaves' Spiritual, sets Simpson meditating about liberation:

The spirit was preparing him for his Sunday ser-
mon and it wanted to come through in song. It led
him to Let my people go" ( ) "When Israel was in
Egypt land/let my people go/oppressed so hard
they could not stand/Let my people go. And the
meditation started (..) That fellow in St Ann. Fel-
low that start up the Aboukir Institute, is a good
man. Hear he is trying to get the king to give him
land in the Congo to begin some sort of return
home. Fine. I endorse that. But that is not what
'go' means to me. That is 'go off' and it cannot be
just 'go off' for they will follow you. What my 'go'
means, is 'take your hands off my shirt' His voice
was rising higher and higher 'What my 'go'
means is 'take your collar from my neck' is 'take
your vyse from off my head' is 'stop sitting on my
lungs and let me breathe' (36).
Further references to great conquerors (Napoleon, Hawkins and Drake)
strengthen the link between song and protest. Thus is underlined the political
mission of American Churches.
The recurrent contrast between voice and words illustrates that the subor-
dinate countries only exemplify the most critical aspects of a wider process -the
subjection of the intellect by the ruling forces: "That most of the world is made up of
zombies who cannot think for themselves but must be taken care of by Mr Joe and
Benjie ?"(p 107). Furthermore, by suggesting economic alienation in the very
terms used by Marxian scholars (" Separating people from themselves, separating
man from his labour p. 37), the text has a modern, universal scope.
This all-embracing view of human subjection highlights the novel's distinc-
tive focus the colonial plight. In the Caribbean, zombification proves all the more
necessary since the dominant culture must contend with the presence of a struggle
between distinct forces -oral popular culture and written dominant culture: "My
people have been separated from themselves White Hen, by several means, one
of them being the printed word and the idea it carries"(p. 109). Singled out as the
instruments of spirit thievery, books symbolize the established order Mass Levi's
obeah is associated with his reading capacities; even the Bible, the epitome of
scriptural culture, is only referred to in that evil context This basic opposition
between printing and voice is continued by the contrast between silent reading (the
obeah man's) and screaming (Anita's). The latter means a fight for liberation, while
the former represents bonding and bondage. And when one's attention has been
fully aroused, one can also hear some striking echoes from one chapter to another,
between the prelude of zombification and the discovery of the malefactor:"he was

as dead as dodo"(p. 75) is reminiscent of an earlier scene with Anita singing: "So it
was now'mi fa do do' and this last 'do' was a deep one. So she sang 'mi fa do do.
Do' (p. 28). Should we understand that the practice of solfa-ing somehow
foreshadowed the triumph of evil since sound is created from the printed notes ?
Whatever the case, vocal expression represents the soul and this is made clear at
crucial moments "they gave them our voice ( ) they sent their message using
our voice" (p. 66). "They sold Joseph in Egypt. Hoodoo men, voodoo men gave
them our sound (p. 66). "Learnt our tune from the brethren" (p. 67). Building a
dualistic symbolic system, the text matches writing against performance at the
expense of the former Challenge and protest follow the same lines: "Need your
voice say what [the writer] says ?" (p. 107).
Thus binary opposition seem to prevail. Still, on the basis of some other
facts, different trends might offset these first impressions.
Erna Brodber and Bakhtinian dialogics:
Distinction is counterbalanced by another process: blurring frontiers and
creating links. This phenomenon should not be confused with that well-known
aspect of Caribbean reality cultural syncretism. The novel does incorporate this
major dimension of Jamaican society the merging of traditions from the old
continents. Thus Ole African, a visiting spirit, is equated with Christ:"with his hands
stretched out like he was a cross"(p. 54). Syncretism, it can be seen, by no means
rules out difference and conflict. On the contrary the Caribbean shows that a
plurality of syncretic cultures can coexist with stratification Segments develop
their own distinctive breed of mixed identity Dialogism here has another denota-
tion the bringing together and intersection of separate socio-cultural worlds.
Polyphony and heterology:
A polyphonic, multilingual text, Myal bears out Bakhtinian theory about the
novel. It juxtaposes, organizes and blends heterogeneous stylistic units, thus
being a welding of languages and styles. As such, it reflects the linguistic diversity
of the social realm and dramatizes its contradictions. Through the handling of
voice and structure, Brodber produces dialogic effects.
With shifting point of view, distinct voices can be heard about the same
object. Significantly, the first six chapters foreground the role of speech. The
opening sentences of the whole novel are highly representative: "Mass Cyrus said
that it was not worms (...) He spoke very quietly" (p. 1). Then while chapter two
starts with Ella's recitation, the third one dabbles in metalinguistics: "This was the
time of day that Maydene liked. The gloaming. No. Twilight. Not that. The dusk.
No. Nighffall. Yes. The right world at last. That was Maydene. The effort to be true
to any place or situation that she found herself in. If she were in the British Isles,
the time of day that meant so much to her would have been called the "gloaming"
but she was in St Thomas, Jamaica. Nightfall then. The right word. But there was
something still missing. But it wasn't just the fall of night that was hers. It was the

'cusp' Her personal word. (p. 13). In these foregoing lines, rhythm and turns are
evocative of oral delivery Following the same pattern with minor variations,
chapter four focuses on gossip "All Mrs Brassington said to Cook ( ) From there
the news winked about and settled in Mrs Amy Holness' kitchen (p. 20). Then,
symmetrically, chapters five and six lay stress on singing. In addition to all this, a
nameless, collective voice addresses the reader "You could call her a prophet for
she had hardly let herseff down into the rocking-chair when she saw Maydene
Brassington" (p. 20).
Yet, though talking and songs perform basic functions, the novelist has
aimed at striking a balance: writing and reading are reconciled with performance.
Dealing with Mass Cyrus, Maydene or Anita, the text highlights convergences
rather than exclusion: "His score was saying "(p. 1). "Cusp" was a word that
delighted her from the day they met. 'A point where two curves meet, the
dictionary had said"(p. 13). "She had to read the notes ( ) and she had to
remember the sounds" (p. 28).
Pluralism is reinforced by the coexistence of linguistic levels. Dialect
alternates with standard English. With this variety, one has a sweeping view of the
social spectrum. Each character according to his rank has been given a distinctive
voice. While reflecting segmentation and sociocultural difference, all those styles
interact within the same framework. Even though language is used as a mask and
messages often need deciphering, the importance of intercourse is brought out by
a metaphor "linguistic ritualism"(p. 25 ). Against this background, the middle class
stands out as the one that represents cultural intermixing. The blending of stand-
ard and dialect grammars is characteristic of that position: "There was really
nothing to do in this district and to tell the truth she really don't look good carrying
basket on her head (p. 26). With the same Amy Holness, who is the teacher's
wife, this status is highlighted by linguistic change; thinking about, then talking to
Maydene Brassington, this character adjusts to the circumstances:"These white
people just wan tek people pickney fi practice pon (p. 20) "Why Mrs Brassington
how nice to see you. What a coincidence!" (p. 21). This abrupt switch from popular
to academic forms brings out the ambivalence of the middle classes. With a
striking metaphor, the novelist comments on that relationship: "Maydene Brass-
ington was not fooled by the translation "(p. 21). Further down, another trope
brings out that same versatility "Amy was no longer on her high linguistic horse
(p. 23).
Structural devices reinforce those trends. Thus with the use of free indirect
style, popular opinion is incorporated into the white lady's musing: "Maydene
thought of William's reaction to her visit ( ) He too would hear of it through the
grapevine ( ) Maydene Brassington walking about in the parish was not news:
parson 's wife just liked to walk around quietly by herself and more so at nightfall *
(p. 24). The missing article calls one's attention to the change.

It is significant that many characters, as they are involved in mental
dialogues, reproduce in their minds, with inner voices, their own words and others'
Two cases need emphasizing as the epitomes of this narrative choice: those of
Mass Cyrus and Maydene Brassington. In the very first scene of the whole novel,
the folk healer passes judgment on his visitors: "Another kind of people would have
said:'Mass Cyrus we need help. Just that and shut up" (p. 1). Thus the role of
performance is highlighted by the alternation of speech within speech with re-
ported style. This theatrical interior monologue is even more illustrated by May-
dene Brassington Her dramatic soliloquies give this novel a distinctive flavour
Arguing with herself in a first-person speech, Maydene merges four distinct func-
tions since she is simultaneously recitant and narratee, herself and her husband as
the two actors:"William I have said: 'You are neglecting the people right at your
door step who might want to join the Methodist fellowship. And he has said every
time 'May, you don't know Let me work where I can get results ( ) I have
suggested all sorts of things" (pp. 14-15). But the climax is reached in a later scene
with metalinguistic considerations:
By the time William reached the outskirts of Mo-
rant Bay, someone would have said to him. "So
Parson, you trying with Grove Town now" mean-
ing Your Missus went up there today- Did you
send her to feel out the possibilities of setting up a
mission station there ?" Or someone else would
have said more pointedly "Parson how nice of you
to send the missus into Grove Town to minister to
the sickl v" which would have meant, "Your wife
with her busybody self has gone up to Grove
Town and has been there mixing with those kinds
of people" (25).
In addition to this, the novelist often resorts to the dramatic arrangement of
verbal exchange, thus creating polyphonic effects and theatrical movement. Many
examples might be offered; the most meaningful ones show middle-class Simpson
addressing the ragged necromancer Willie. With further sophistication, perform-
ance is embedded in characters' thoughts or memories.
Reverend Simpson remembered a time six hun-
dred years ago.

I had said. We did try I had said to Willie.

Willie, you are mightily fine, mighty fine. And it is
true, was true still true.

You sure can rattle those drums. You know it

Darned if I don't -Perce had said (p. 38).
The novel also displays its hybrid identity quotations from written, aca-
demic culture but also from oral, popular creations have been worked into the text;
thus two famous poems of Rudyard Kipling's, respectively about steamers and
"The White Man's Burden" appear in chapter two, while some well-known lines
from a Black Spiritual are cited in chapter six ("Let My People Go"). Intertextuality
performs a function, as it represents contrastive discourses those of the rulers and
upper classes, on the one hand, and of the downtrodden and working masses, on
the other The cultural gulf between song and verse reflects differences in social
status. But Myal achieves more since it organizes subtle correspondences and
interconnection. Kipling's poem about steamers is involved in a dialogue with the
black slaves' song. With their common themes of departure and adventure, and
the symmetry expansion/freedom, they actually refer, from opposite angles, to the
same reality colonial conflicts. The song seems to expose the lie of the poem. A
more complex pattern is further created as the image of ships recurs in the novel:
"We'll quiet them and send them back to their tacky old ships"(p. 67). This leitmotif
keeps reminding us of Kipling's rhetoric. The resistance expressed through the
Spiritual "Let My People Go" leads to the upturning of the rulers' discourse and to
the challenge of their symbols "Black Star Line" (Marcus Garvey's dream of
sovereignty) is opposed to the oppressor's "tacky old ships" (p. 67). The link is
made even stronger between song and poem with the fusion of their separate
contents: "You change those books, you take those ships and away we go (p. 68)
Mediation and communion: overcoming difference.
Bakhtinian dialogism is also sustained by mediation. Apart from Ella, the
half-caste girl, who fulfils that mission at the end of the novel, this function is
performed throughout by Maydene Brassington. In spite of her whiteness, English
nationality and upper-class rank, Maydene Brassington will not be daunted by the
existing gulf Steering clear of idealism, she does not deny the existence of
divisions: That there are classes everywhere and that those below must hate
those above and must devise some way of communicating this without seeming too
obviously rude" (p. 21). Her real intention is to transcend them: "So if Mrs Holness
thought that just because she was black, was a couple of rungs below her socially,
she could roll this into a weapon with which to distance her, she would have to think
again" (p. 21). A comparison with her husband highlights her difference "May-
dene found this Baptist parson quite a reasonable man. But a clear message came
from her husband that he would prefer if she kept him at a distance" (p. 15). Her
outlook, actually, is the very epitome of the novel's Bakhtinian logic:"The minor was
showing a crash, not a joining of cultures and there went one mark against her
marriage and a telling blow to her faith in the intrinsic beauty in the meeting of

unlikes"(p. 15). This approach is illustrated by her relationship with the Myal
priestess "She [Maydene] loved her [Miss Gatha] and felt that she was loved.
They never spoke but neither needed words to know that each was happy that the
other existed (p. 17) Actions are consonant with those principles. Often walking
or visiting, thus always on the road, Maydene can be viewed as a female Legba.
Powerfully evocative are her privileged moments. "that was what she liked about
the time called nightfall. The meeting of two disparate points. Then, she felt she
was at the beginning of a new phase of creation" (p. 13). As a matter of fact, this
character succeeds in creating links: through her frequent trips, she is the one that
relates Morant Bay and Grove Town, and later Jamaica with the U.S.A. Some
other elements reinforce these impressions: Maydene brings change by adopting
the coloured girl, and Maydene again, when she becomes aware of the harmful
consequences of the girl's exile, heals the breach between Ella and her community
And last but not least, Maydene, like Legba, is a messenger to the Holness and to
Simpson, after she has called at Miss Gatha's home, she breaks the news of
Anita's victory over evil. 9
The culmination of the whole process with the meeting and communion of
separate forces occurs eventually with the ceremony A critical scene in the whole
novel, the Myal session starts off a new dynamic. Like carnival and masquerade
along with sundry forms of popular culture (festivals and fairs), this animist celebra-
tion, a religious happening, exemplifies the people's genius. The folk tradition had
provided Bakhtin with models of polyphony and interaction. Likewise, in her own
heritage, Brodber discovers a valuable source of inspiration.
Through the description of Anita's healing, two ethic systems are in com-
petition. The togetherness of the Myal ceremony with sundry visitors coming from
far and wide contrasts with Mass Levi's solitary habits. The wicked man is found
dead dealing in obeah in the very privy that sets him socially apart. His physical
separation from the community -and his solitary world" (p. 73)- stand out against
the depiction of the singing group: "Mass Levi had been getting up early in the
mornings and taking his Bibie and his books into the privy with him. (p 62). Thus
distinction is set against dialogics. Drum music, suggesting festive communion,
accompanies all-class participation in the struggle against evil. Earlier in the novel,
so as to foreshadow the eventual celebration, references to music express the
community's urge for unity The very instruments Myalism requires (the magic
talking drums) bring out Mass Levi's self-centered silence: "he had stopped speak-
ing to anybody or answering their questions" (p. 74)
The joining, even the collaboration, of two characters that are poles apart,
is an achievement of the ceremony Barefooted Miss Gatha and British-style
Maydene seal their friendship on this occasion and league together against zombi-
fication. Bourdieu's distinction, like Bakhtine's theory, makes allowances for these
attractions. One may welcome his idea that the subordinate persons of a dominant
group are likely to take an interest in the subordinate strata. Gender, in the case of

the British lady, must have fostered this sympathy for the lower classes.10 As she
becomes White Hen, a ritual figure, the upper-class alien (Maydene Brassington)
gains recognition among the downtrodden:" she was telling him that her name and
function were White Hen' and that she was and had been working with the
Reverend Simpson who was Mr Dan; that Miss Gatha was Mother Hen and the
necromancer Master Willie, that they had been and were a team"(p. 88). This fresh
alliance clears the ground for further steps, for the coming together of the Baptist
and Methodist parsons. It takes, however, a second session, this time relating to
the young Ella, for Reverend Simpson and Reverend Brassington to engage in
fruitful, initiatory conversations about spirit thievery In addition to this, Myalism,
like carnival, involves a permutation of identities: "the child's face changed to that
of an old woman and she began in her stupor to groan and moan like Miss Gatha
( ) her [Miss Gatha's] face changed to that of a beautiful fifteen-year old and back
again to that of a woman of Miss Gatha's sixty odd years and back again and back
again and back again until she was silent, her limbs quiet and she was fifteen years
old (p. 73).
Brodber has transformed a lower-class event into a powerful dialogic
symbol. With regard to ideology, this performance works as a turning point. Owing
to this ritual, prevalent views come into question. Maydene Brassington is the first
character to give utterance to this new awareness "No longer knowledge but
participation ( ) It was revealed to her" (p. 88). Therefore, rather than symbols
of power -, knowledge is power" (p. )-the community should seek unity and forms
of commitment to the welfare of all.1
With the Myal session as a starting-point and the recognition of lower-class
culture as a regenerative source, the educational system can be refounded Thus,
knowledge, instead of being rejected, must be better and otherwise used: "Now,
White Hen, we have people who can and are willing to correct images from the
inside, destroy what should be destroyed, replace it with what it should be replaced
and put us back together, give us back ourselves with which to chart our course to
go where we want to go (p. 110). The colonized one must conquer the assets of
his oppressors: Get in their books and know their truth (p. 67). Ella, who
embraces the teaching career, will fulfil this mission. Thus Erna Brodber to the very
end is loyal to her anti-Manichean stance.
In this respect, Mval is reminiscent of Carnival by Wilson Harris. Like the
Guyanese novelist, Erna Brodber steers clear of substantialism and polarization
even when dealing with the question of difference, she lays emphasis not on
distinctiveness as fixed identity but on distinction as a social process. But unlike
her counterpart who focuses on synthesis, she takes an interest in both trends
-differentiation and intermixing. Furthermore, she illustrates their interlocking.13 In
doing this she exemplifies the double position of Caribbean intellectuals: the
privileged members of segmented societies, they also suffer from the subordinate
status of their peripheral countries; hence their awareness of division and unity.

Brodber's achievement as regards vision is enhanced by the formal qualities of her
novel. Myal, which deals with hybridization, is also a hybrid novel. It transcends
the barriers that modem Europe has created between learned and popular art. In
keeping with the evolution of Caribbean literature in the twentieth century, it
asserts and enriches a Caribbean aesthetic which heals the breach between
various heritages. 4 A theatrical text in the guise of a novel, Myal reconciles voice
with writing


Pierre Bourdieu, La Distinction (Paris Minuit, 1979). English translation: Distinction A Social Cri-
tique of the Judgement of Taste trans. R. Nice (Cambridge:Universi ty Press, 1984).
2. Mickhail Bakhtine, The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson and MI-
chael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press. 1981).
3. Iris Zavala, in Colonialism and Culture (Bloomington and Indianapolis Indiana University Press,
1992) rejects Bourdieu's approach and emphasises the Bakhtinian process of sociocultural in-
4 Historical and cultural data about Myalism in the nineteenth century are borrowed from Robert Ste-
wart, Religion and Society in Post-Emancipation Jamaica (Knoxville University of Tennessee
Press 1992) and Monica Schuler,"Myalism and the African religious Tradition in Jamaica" in
Margaret Crahan and Franklin Knight (eds.), Africa and the Canbbean (Baltimore and London,
The John Hopkins University Press, 1979) 65-79.
5 All quotations will be from Erna Broder, Myal (London New Beacon Books, 1988)
6 The middle class in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries arose mainly from the world of inde-
pendent peasants What was true of Blacks was also true of Indians. See Jean Benoit, La or-
ganizacion social de las antillas in Moreno Fraginal's (relator),Africa en America latina (Paris
U N.E.S.C.O. 1977) 77-102 and Singaravelou, Les Indiens dans la Caraibe (Pans. L'Harmat-
tan 1987).
7 Reverend Simpson stressed that point by stating clearly "knowledge is power" (p. 78)
8. Other examples of syncretism can be found earlier in the novel, with the blending of folk healing
and Christian imagery in the depiction of trees in Mass Cyrus's grove On their shoulders he
always placed the sin-generated afflictions of the human world They felt it. The bastard cedar's
eyes were quick to tears ( ) With all the banging and ringing and splitting and weeping, it
thought it was another Good Friday many many years ago when the Saviour of the world was
lynched. (p 3)
9 About the Afncan Legba's various attributes and functions, see Robert Pelton's book The Trickster
in West Africa, Los Angeles University of California Press. 1980)
10. Pierre Bourdieu, in La Distinction, op. cit., incorporates gender into his definitions of social classes
and of social sections within each class. Thus upper-class women, being further removed from
power, are more likely to challenge the established order or to be critical.
Notwithstanding their divergent analyses about social processes and the impact on all classes of
popular culture, Bourdieu and Bakhtine agree about the basic nature of popular aesthetics. Its
main feature is participation, which is exemplified, first and foremost, by carnival.
12. As regards the stressing of unity and dialogism, one can also notice that in the world of the necro-
mancer, Master Willie, no separation exists between the natural and human kingdoms. A
mango tree in Mass Cyrus' s grove is personified and depicted as the folk healer's double
(which corresponds to a Caribbean folk belief and ritual practice burying one's umbilical cord
under a fruit tree, usually a mango tree) "Mass Cyrus ( ) elbow on the weeping bastard cedar
tree, listened to the cnes and the hurts in the grove the mango tree resumed its old-man's
posture of quiet meditation (p. 3).

13. The interlocking of these two processes socio-cultural differentiation and socio-cultural mixing -
is the focus of my third study about Caribbean popular cultures which is soon to be published
The Political Poetics of Popular Culture: the Caribbean in its World-Wide Context "(Paris Un-
versite de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, 1996).
14. See Colette Maximin, La parole aux masques (Paris: Editions Caribeennes, 1991).

Brodber, Erna. Myal, London :New Beacon Books, 1988.
Harris, Wilson. Carnival., London Faber and Faber, 1985.
Bakhtine, Mikhal The Dialogic Imagination., Ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson and Mi-
chael Holquist. Austin 'University of Texas Press, 1981
Benoit, Jean. "La organization social de las Antillas" in Moreno Fermginals (Relator), Africa en Amer-
ica Latina, Paris U.N.E.S.C.O. 1977 77-102.
Boardieu, Pierre. La Distinction, Paris :ed. De Minuit, 1979. English tran. & Distinction A Critique
of the Judgment of Taste, Oxford Oxford University Press, 1984
Maximin, Colette La parole aux Masques.,Paris: Editions Caribennes,
Maximin, Colette. "The Political Poetics of Popular Culture "(These habilitation en langues et littera-
tures anglaises et anglo-saxonnes, Paris Universite de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, 1996) 235 p.
Pelton, Robert. The Trickster in West Africa, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California
Press, 1980.
Schuler, Monica. "Myalism and the African Religious Tradition in Jamaica", in Margaret Crahan and
Franklin Knight (eds), Africa and the Caribbean, Baltimore and London The John Hopkins Uni-
versity Press, 1979.
Singaravelou. Les Indiens dans la Caraibe, Paris L'Harmattan, 1987
Stewart, Robert. Religion and Society in Post-Emancipation Jamaica, Knoxville University of Ten-
nessee Press, 1992.
Zavala, Iris. Colonialism and Culture, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1992.

What Does Mr. Swanzy Want Shaping or Reflecting?
An assessment of Henry Swanzy's contribution to the
development of Caribbean Literature.*



In November 1954, after a period of eight years as editor of the BBC radio
programme Caribbean Voices, Henry Swanzy left London for Accra to take up a
further appointment in broadcasting. Those eight years established for him a
unique position in Caribbean literature. He had presided over a series of regular
weekly programmes, at first lasting 20 minutes and then 29 minutes after 1947
These programmes became, perhaps, the most important focus for the develop-
ment and promotion of the region's literary output. Swanzy estimated that the
programmes' first six years introduced to its audience over 150 different contribu-
tors from the English-speaking Caribbean. In the life of the programme some 400
stories and poems were broadcast. Listeners were offered stories, poetry, plays
and literary criticism beamed through the static of the short wave band and
intermittently re-diffused by local commercial radio stations. The programme
helped to launch the careers of many authors including a number who have
achieved international fame as poets, playwrights, artists and musicians; notably,
the Nobel Prize winning St.Lucian Derek Walcott, Edward Kamau Brathwaite and
George Lamming from Barbados, V S. Naipaul and the late Sam Selvon from
Trinidad, Gloria Escoffery, John Figueroa and the late Andrew Salkey from Ja-
maica, Wilson Harris and lan McDonald from Guyana and E.M. 'Shake' Keane from
St. Vincent. Two volumes of poetry which had been broadcast on the programme
were compiled and edited by John Figueroa (1966, 1970).
In the Caribbean, the years 1943-1958, the period in which the programme
was broadcast, coincided with a peak of nationalist sentiment and activity These
aspirations were gradually given recognition and legitimacy by the British colonial
authorities. In 1944, Jamaica obtained home rule, while Trinidad was granted
universal sufferage in 1945, and the short lived West Indian Federation com-
menced in 1958. By the early 1960's, independent island nations were becoming
established in the region as first Jamaica then other islands were granted political
independence. Swanzy could have been written off as a white colonial male,
intervening in West Indian literary development, an outsider imposing an alien

notion of "standards" on a region with which, at the start of his appointment, he was
However, his departure from the programme brought many messages of
appreciation from writers across the Caribbean and in London. In 1955, just afler
Swanzy left the programme, the Times Literary Supplement noted "West Indian
writers freely acknowledge their debt to the BBC for its encouragement, financial
and esthetic. Without that encouragement the birth of a Caribbean literature would
have been slower and even more painful than it has been"(T L S, 1955, pp.xvi
xvii). Edward 'Kamau' Brathwaite has claimed that Caribbean Voices 'was the
single most important literary catalyst for Caribbean creative and critical writing in
English' George Lamming has suggested that "no comprehensive account of
writing in the British Caribbean during the last decade could be written without
considering his whole achievement and his role in the emergence of the West
Indian novel" (Lamming, 1960, p.67). V.S. Naipaul has noted that Swanzy brought
to the programme "standards and enthusiasm. He took local writing seriously and
lifted it above the local" (Naipaul, 1976, p.9-10) Anne Walmsley (1992), the histo-
rian of the Caribbean Artists Movement (1966-1972), has praised Swanzy's pio-
neering editorship.
How might these plaudits be assessed, especially since the nature of
Swanzy's contribution has, for the most part, remained obscure? To what extent
did such an influential programme shape or reflect the pattern of Caribbean
literature as it developed? Cobharn (1986) has analysed the different styles of the
editorship of Caribbean Voices, contrasting the programmes under the 'English'
style of Swanzy and the 'West Indian' style of the programme under his successor,
Naipaul. Figueroa (1989) has explored his perceptions of the influence of 'Carib-
bean Voices' both as a participant and as a chronicler of the poetry from many of
the programmes. However, little has been recorded about the direction or form of
Swanzy's nurturing process for Caribbean literature. The aim of this paper, then, is
to begin to fill this gap.
The paper that follows provides an exploration of the scope of Swanzy's
achievement. It is argued that two important features, the circumstances surround-
ing the production of the programme and the strategy he pursued, provided an
identifiable intermediary role which gave shape and direction well beyond what
might be expected of a radio programme; that is, a mere reflection of developments
in Caribbean literature. Additionally, it was a shaping with which authors, for the
most part, were in sympathy
In presenting the argument I draw on published secondary sources and on
primary sources. The latter are in the form of previously undocumented communi-
cations between Swanzy and his formal agent in Jamaica, Mrs. G.R.Lindo; other

correspondents in the Caribbean; contributors to the programme in the Uiited
Kingdom and BBC archive interviews The paper is divided into three sections.
The first examines the opportunity for shaping. The second section is an exami-
nation of the practice of shaping and, section three constitutes a brief discussion
on the outcome of Swanzy's interventions.
The Opportunity for Shaping
The opportunity for Swanzy to shape developments in Caribbean literature
was provided by three important circumstances. One was an effective mechanism
for the recruitment of original material. The second was the ability of the BBC to
pay for contributions which were used. And the third important circumstance was
the considerable level of interest among many writers across the region in writing
and in being published. Altogether, these circumstances combined to stimulate a
considerable range of contributions to the programme.
Caribbean Voices was first broadcast on the BBC West Indian Service in
March 1943. The programme was broadcast for 15 years until 1958. The idea for
a Caribbean literary programme originated with the Jamaican poet and playwright
Una Marson, who was the programme's first producer During the Second World
War, Marson was central to the production of a programme for West Indian
servicemen and women entitled 'Calling the West Indies' which established links
with families in their home islands. Jarrett-Macauley (1997) suggests that her idea
for the programme, Caribbean Voices, derived from the wartime poetry programme
Voices, edited by Eric Blair (George Orwell). Marson produced early editions of
Caribbean Voices until 1945, when she returned to Jamaica. In the interim before
Swanzy was appointed to the editorship in August 1946, the programme was
managed by John Grenfell Williams who established a regional BBC office in
Jamaica. He appointed a literary agent, Mrs. G.R. Lindo, to stimulate contributions
from the region, to act as the contact point for local authors and to disburse local
payments to contributors. Before this system was established, however, pro-
grammes took the form of readings from work published in papers such as the
Yearbook of the Poetry League of Jamaica(Swanzy, 1960). When Swanzy took
over the editorship in 1946, the practice of collating original and unpublished scripts
regionally and sending them on to London was established Twice a month
manuscripts were sent to Swanzy in London via Jamaica. Selections were made
there and edited by Swanzy, and the rest returned via the official agent in Jamaica
with comments about their quality, style or relevance for the programme. In 1951,
Cedric Lindo, the husband of his official agent Mrs. G.R. Lindo, estimated that there
were 200 authors on file across the region.(Lindo, 1951) In a three year period
Swanzy estimated that he had read some 750 manuscripts which had been
submitted. In total, throughout the life of the programme, some 400 stories and
poems were believed to have been broadcast.

Secondly, the literary world of the region to which the early programmes of
'Caribbean Voices' was broadcast was restricted and uneven. Few outlets for
publishing existed and those which did exist comprised Forum Quarterly in Bar-
bados, Ihe Beacon in Trinidad and the West Indian Review and Public Opinion in
Jamaica. Also, some national newspapers in Sunday editions, the Jamaica
Gleaner, Trinidad Guardian and British Guyana Chronicle, occasionally provided
publishing opportunities. The more regular literary magazines included Bim from
Barbados, Kyk-over-al from Guyana and the intermittently produced Focus in
Jamaica( Sanders, 1970, Walmsley, 1992). There were, thus, few paid outlets or
opportunities to be published or to obtain regular, informed criticism. Two partial
exceptions to the latter was the meetings of small groups of culturally minded
individuals in self-appointed gatherings within each island and, occasionally, links
by post between individuals who knew of each other's literary interest.
By 1948, Caribbean Voices had achieved a degree of popularity As
Swanzy himself noted, in one year "the programme space was doubled: half an
hour a week and 30 in fees! But far more than the cash.. the isolated writer could
believe that someone cared"(Swanzy, 1960, p.350). Thus, in these ways, the
opportunity for the exercise of influence was certainly there. For example, Selvon,
an early protege of Swanzy, noted "The first payment I ever received for my writing
was a cheque for two guineas from the BBC's Caribbean Voices Programme
produced by Henry Swanzy which I treasured for months as a marvel before
cashing it" (Selvon, 1987 p.34.).
In 1951, at a PEN International literary luncheon in Jamaica in a talk on
"Writing for the BBC's Caribbean Voices" Cedric Lindo, journalist and husband of
the official literary agent, Mrs. G.R. Lindo, illustrated the nature of Swanzy's
editorial role. On one hand he described Swanzy through the eyes of aspiring
writers as an Olympian figure, "a hard to please, unpredictable and implacable
arbiter safe in the fortress of Broadcasting House thousands of miles away from his
baffled and disappointed contributors. On the other, Lindo however also described
the status of the programme in the region as probably the most profitable writing
outlet for young writers of the Caribbean" and "of real significance for the writers of
this area." He went on to observe that the programme meant more to writers than
a profitable market; "those interested in West Indian literature" he remaked, "will
have noticed the exodus of many of our best young writers to England and the fact
that one of their first ports of call is Mr Swanzy's office at 200, Oxford Street, is
proof of this fact." More significantly, he suggested Jamaican members of the PEN
club in his audience were especially interested in the answer to one question,
"What does Mr. Swanzy want in the way of contributions?".

The Practice of Shaping
Who then was this unpredictable and implacable arbiter, with the opportu-
nity to influence the direction of Caribbean literature? And, indeed, what did he
want? Swanzy had the experience and background, the sympathy and generosity
to enhance what appeared to him as a variable, if potentially positive, literary
environment for Caribbean literature both in the Caribbean and in London.
Henry Valentine Leonard Swanzy was bom in Ireland in 1915. He was the
son of the Rev S. I Swanzy and Joan Frances Swanzy In 1920,upon the death
of his father he moved with his mother to England. He was a gifted student winning
a number of scholarships throughout his educational career He was a foundation
scholar at Wallington College and went on to study as a Gibbs University Scholar
at New College, Oxford, where he obtained a first class honours degree in Modern
History His family had a long association with West Africa. He joined the BBC in
1937 He became a producer in the General Overseas Service in 1941, producing
a number of programmes in the 'Empire' field for the BBC. In 1946, he was
appointed editor of Caribbean Voices. He brought to the programme editorial
skills, considerable knowledge of Africa as well as effective promotional skills and
a direct, deep and learned understanding of literature.
He combined a self-effacing manner with a clear-sighted approach to his
task. During the time that he edited Caribbean Voices he also edited West African
Affairs, the journal of the Royal Society of Africa. This experience was combined
with a generous spirit which many among the coterie of West Indian writers
struggling to survive in London experienced. Lamming has recalled how
"At one time or another, in one way or another, all
the West Indian novelists have benefited from his
work and his generosity of feeling If you
looked a little thin in the face, he would assume
that there might have been a minor famine on,
and without in any way offending your pride, he
would make some arrangement for you to earn
by employing you to read."(Lamming, 1960,p.67)

The knowledge and experience which his task entailed and the ideals witch
he held out for the programme were studiously played down in public by Swanzy
Although his role as editor of Caribbean Voices provided opportunities for self-pro-
motion, he appeared to prefer to remain in the background, contributing when
required but admitting merely to a technical and organisational role. In practice his
skills of shaping were expressed more widely through his concern with identifiable
standards, through his style of intervention and, directly, through his editing of
manuscripts and his initiation of regular critical programmes.

The feature of his editorship which was dominant, however, was his
overriding interest in the writers who contributed to the programme and his associa-
tion with them. Swanzy was of the opinion that writers were important and needed
to be nurtured because though they did not necessarily form a culture, they
represented the expression of the best thought of the age. (Swanzy, 1960) Among
the writers with whom he associated both in Britain and in the Caribbean, he
adopted the role of educator, advocate and collaborator He was as aware of the
needs of those who "shine for a season as most people do who are not pretentious
and write of what they know" (Swanzy, 1956.) as he was of the needs of the "stars"
The term 'educator' is intended to reflect a number of approaches or
methods of shaping that he brought to the job. These included the establishment
of identifiable, metropolitan influenced standards, especially the development of a
tradition through the provision of an informed critique both for the writers whose
work was broadcast and those which were not, and the shaping of a sense of
community and ultimately the acceptance of the goal of an elevated literary
achievement. These aims are captured in his observation as follows: the purpose
of the programme, in so far as it has a purpose is to attempt to build up some kind
of contemporary tradition by the exchange of writings between the islands and at
the same time to give the writers the benefit of some of the critical standards of
Europe. Of course the relationship is temporary; the real work can only properly be
done in the Caribbean itself. (Swanzy to Fuller, 3:5:'48)
His aims were implemented in a number of ways. Firstly, Swanzy made no
secret of what he did want from contributors. His first requirement was that the
progrannne be filled with authenticity and local colour By local colour he implied
not necessarily topographical features but because "people write and speak best
about the things they have made most their own, which in most cases are all the
little details of personal living to which they bring almost automatically the writers
discipline of speech and selection. (Swanzy, 1953.) His first letter to Mrs. Lindo,
returning refused manuscripts, pointed out what was to him their most important
limitation I have been reading scripts which all have something in common, and
that is a complete absence of local colour This seems to me to be the greatest
crime in the series unless of course the writer is a genius with a universal message"
( Swanzy to Lindo 13:8:'46.).
Secondly, he carried through the practice of shaping by establishing a
tradition of criticism. Swanzy argued at an early stage in his editorship that "If this
programme is to be really effective in raising the literary standard of Caribbean
circles I think it is important to have criticism. The most striking feature of the
material I have seen so far, with few exceptions is its unevenness'.(Swanzy to
Lindo, 6:8:'47 ) A Critics Circle was started in July 1947 which offered reviews of
recently published books by West Indian writers. Swanzy himself presented a six

The feature of his editorship which was dominant, however, was his
overriding interest in the writers who contributed to the programme and his associa-
tion with them. Swanzy was of the opinion that writers were important and needed
to be nurtured because though they did not necessarily form a culture, they
represented the expression of the best thought of the age. (Swanzy 1960) Among
the writers with whom he associated both in Britain and in the Caribbean, he
adopted the role of educator, advocate and collaborator He was as aware of the
needs of those who "shine for a season as most people do who are not pretentious
and write of what they know" (Swanzy, 1956.) as he was of the needs of the "stars"
The term 'educator' is intended to reflect a number of approaches or
methods of shaping that he brought to the job. These included the establishment
of identifiable, metropolitan influenced standards, especially the development of a
tradition through the provision of an informed critique both for the writers whose
work was broadcast and those which were not, and the shaping of a sense of
community and ultimately the acceptance of the goal of an elevated literary
achievement. These aims are captured in his observation as follows: the purpose
of the programme, in so far as it has a purpose is to attempt to build up some kind
of contemporary tradition by the exchange of writings between the islands and at
the same time to give the writers the benefit of some of the critical standards of
Europe. Of course the relationship is temporary; the real work can only properly be
done in the Caribbean itself. (Swanzy to Fuller, 3:5:'48)
His aims were implemented in a number of ways. Firstly, Swanzy made no
secret of what he did want from contributors. His first requirement was that the
progrannne be filled with authenticity and local colour By local colour he implied
not necessarily topographical features but because "people write and speak best
about the things they have made most their own, which in most cases are all the
little details of personal living to which they bring almost automatically the writers
discipline of speech and selection. (Swanzy, 1953.) His first letter to Mrs. Lindo,
returning refused manuscripts, pointed out what was to him their most important
limitation I have been reading scripts which all have something in common, and
that is a complete absence of local colour This seems to me to be the greatest
crime in the series unless of course the writer is a genius with a universal message"
(Swanzy to Lindo 13:8:'46.).
Secondly, he carried through the practice of shaping by establishing a
tradition of criticism. Swanzy argued at an early stage in his editorship that "If this
programme is to be really effective in raising the literary standard of Caribbean
circles I think it is important to have criticism. The most striking feature of the
material I have seen so far, with few exceptions is its unevenness'.(Swanzy to
Lindo, 6:8:'47 ) A Critics Circle was started in July 1947 which offered reviews of
recently published books by West Indian writers. Swanzy himself presented a six

monthly review of materials broadcasted. These broadcasts were often published
in the Sunday Gleaner in Jamaica and in Bim.
Critics were employed from the growing coterie of Caribbean writers resi-
dent in London. In addition, Arthur Caldor-Marshall and Roy Fuller, were regular
contributors to the programme. One theme of criticism, which Swanzy encour-
aged, was to point out why a story or poem was published. Early in his editorship
he informed Mrs. Lindo that "We don't want to give the impression that because a
poem or short story is broadcast, it is necessarily altogether good. Frequently it is
broadcast for one or two virtues which it might be useful to point out"(Swanzy to
Lindo 6:8:47). In time, the circle was occasionally widened where critics Spender
and Laski made contributions. The former discussed a selection of poetry, the latter
a novel by Edgar Mittelholzer These critics were introduced to provide links with
the wider literary world and, in effect, recognition for Caribbean writers as equals in
the metropole.
Thirdly, Swanzy provided shape to the melange of Caribbean writing
through his efforts to create a sense of community beyond what already existed in
the islands. At a practical level this appears to have evolved through the character
of the man and his position rather than being a conscious process. In London, as
the circle of Caribbean writers grew in number, it was apparent in his willingness to
provide what employment was available for periodic readings, for participation in
critical discussion on the air and in occasional social gatherings which he organ-
ised. Beyond the programme, he offered practical support, when, for a time in the
early 1950's, Sam Selvon and Gordon Woolford's health declined.
The sense of community he fostered developed in a number of ways. In
London, as the coterie of West Indian writers increased in number during the
1950's, Swanzy held informal evenings of literary discussion at his home. West
Indian writers from across the region could, for the first time, meet and enter regular
discussions with each other In an interview for the BBC in 1966, Salkey described
these gatherings in the following way "Henry not only became our patron but our
friend. He held tutorials at his house in Hampstead. He helped us a great deal to
meet the critics of the day He suggested books and so on And took a very
close compassionate look at our work. I think this has been invaluable in getting
the writers started in writing novels and plays for the theatre Because of Henry's
influence we got to know one another I got to know the doyen of West Indian
writing, Edgar Mittelholzer I got to know people like V S. Naipaul, George
Lamming, Sam Selvon. We looked at each other's work, we all threatened to write
the West Indian novel. And of course there was always Heny Swanzy there to
make us realise that there was more than just passing responsibility to him, the
BBC and to our area" (Salkey, interview, 16:5:1966, BBC Archives).

A geographically wider sense of community of editors grew out of a close
working relationship with Frank Collymore as editor of Bim. This link went far
beyond any other link with literary editors in the region. Relations with the other
editors ranged from cool with A.J. Seymour at Kyk-over-al to a suspected hostility
from Edna Manley, the editor of Focus in Jamaica. Collymore and Swanzy corre-
sponded regularly between 1949 and 1956. During this period there developed a
long lasting mutual respect, interdependence and friendship between these two
editors. I 1992, Swanzy expressed the relationship with Collymore in the follow-
ing way "Looking back, I do not know which I admire the more, his tastes (which
coincided with mine!) or his magnanimity Unlike so many literary people he was
perfectly ready to pass on names of unknown writers, for their sake, and
not his; So there was a two -way traffic between us,. cash and publicity from the
BBC office in Kingston, where Cedric Lindo played a key role, and credit and
permanency from Bim. For good measure Colly's letters were full of his rich life)
at school, in the theatre, in Barbados,and inDominica" (Swanzy,1992 p-29).
Swanzy also initiated a tradition of supplying commentaries to Bim and the
Gleaner in Jamaica in the form of six monthly criticism of material which was
broadcast. This practice of publishing half yearly criticism of material continued
throughout the life of the programme.
For Swanzy radio was a means to the 'dignity' of print. In Collymore he
found a like spirit who published selected items which broadcast and introduced
new writers from the Eastern Caribbean both through their work and through letters
from Collymore to Swanzy when they were traveling to England. Lamming,
'Shake, Keane and Brathwaite were all introduced in this way as they made their
way to London.
The operation of that community network among these two editors can
also be illustrated in connection with the excitement of discovering a new talent.
Thus, it was to Swanzy, first, that Collymore wrote when he received from Harry
Simmons, the St. Lucian artist, copies of Walcott's '25 Poems' The excitement
was conveyed in thefollowing way from Collymore to Swanzy "Now I think I have
made an important discovery Last Monday Harold Simmonds of St. Lucia sent
me a recently published volume of poems by young Derek Walcott. Have you
heard of him? Walcott, who is nineteen years old tomorrow, writes with remarkable
fervour His literary forbears are obviously Hopkins, Auden and Dylan Thomas
especially the latter, but his work is obviously mature I do not know when I have
read anything so exciting. I have written Simmonds to get more information about
him, and to ask him to forward you a copy if he has not already done so" (Collymore
to Swanzy 22: I;49, Figureoa, 1989, p. 59).

The outcome of shaping
The first important outcome of Swanzy's intervention was that he stirred a
debate about relevance and standards in Caribbean literature which continues to
reverberate long after he departed the programme(Bumett, 1996,Rohlehr,
1992). Caribbean Voices has been criticised for its colonial attitude to the region.
Lamming identified in the programme a replication of metropolitan colonial rela-
tions analogous to the extraction of sugar cane. Thus, the BBC was accused of
extracting the raw material of writers' efforts in the Caribbean and in return, the
organisation offered back its writers, over the radio, more refined versions of their
work (Cobham, 1996, p.149) However in contrast, Figueroa suggests that
Swanzy's efforts to achieve as wide a literary contribution as possible, from both
writers across the region and critics of the programme, disturbed and undermined
the more conservative and snobbish colonial literatti in the Caribbean (Figueroa,
1989, p66).
Cobham (1986) draws on the programme transcript archives to argue that
the application of metropolitan standards and use of metropolitan critics resulted in
some insensitivity to the versatility of Caribbean English language forms She
contrasts this aspect of Swanzy's style of editorship with that of Naipaul. The latter,
she argued, could advise on and reflect a greater sensitivity to the diverse lan-
guage forms from the region. In addition, Swanzy has been criticised for giving
insufficient recognition during his editorship to writing that emanated from the
Caribbean which addressed universal themes (Figueroa, 1989. p.71).
His defence of his interest in a local and specific focus was that an
identifiable West Indian weltanschaung was in the making and it was inappropriate
at that time to publish what would in effect be work indistinguishable from other
writing from other parts of the world. Cobham hints that Swanzy's introduction of
critics from the Caribbean could be construed as a way to avoid the unpleasant-
ness of English critics rounding on weak scripts emanating from the region (Cob-
ham, 1986,p.151). An alternative and more positive interpretation of Swanzy's
editorship, accepting the limited English ear for diverse Caribbean forms of English,
stems from his feeling for struggling and committed writers and his willingness to
support them in a practical way when possible. Lamming himself has recognized,
for example, that without the financial support offered by the programme, In the
Castle of My Skin would have been difficult to complete.
A second outcome was a clearing of space in which Caribbean writers
could establish a legitimate claim for attention. Swanzy accepted that any interven-
tion of the type that he directed from outside the Caribbean could only be tempo-
rary But, as illustrated in his letter to Fuller, above, the real work of literary
development, he recognized, remained to be carried out in the Caribbean itself. In

the interim, Swanzy made a clearing by giving priority to the writers and by holding
back the tide of commercialism of radio broadcasting so that some writers could
break into the wider world of English metropolitan letters. This was an important
outcome of his intervention which perhaps is reflected in the high level of apprecia-
tion and affection in which he continues to be held by writers of that era.

A third outcome was his influence on the nature of the audience for
Caribbean literature. In some respects it is remarkable how little direct discussion
there seems to have taken place around the nature of the audience for the
programme. Few records appear to exist around discussion of the identity, size
and interests of the audience. Occasionally, concern was expressed about the
problem of rediffusing the programme, but the Caribbean audience appears not to
have had a high profile. It is the wider audience which indirectly appears to have
received more attention. The introduction of critics and critical metropolitan stand-
ards and the promotion of Caribbean writing in Swanzy's occasional articles all
suggest a concern for writers foremost and an unselfish eye on a widening
metropolitan market.

By championing the local and specific ways of saying and writing Swanzy
made a major contribution to the development and accessibility of regional writing
from the English speaking Caribbean to a wider audience It is this process of
shaping in all its dimensions which deserves recognition.


Anon, 1955, Caribbean Voices, times Literary Supplement: 8, pp. xvi xvii.

Cobham R 1986, "The Caribbean Voices programme and the Development of West Indian Short
Story Fiction: 1945 1958" in P.0 Stummer (ed) A Story Must be Told Short Narrative Prose in
the New English Literatures, Konigshauson and Neumann

Figueroa J. 1966, Caribbean Voices: an anthology of West Indian poetry, Volume 1, Dreams and Vi-
sions, London, Evans Brothers.

Figueroa J. 1970, Caribbean Voices: an anthology of West Indian poetry, Volume II The Blue Hon-
zons, London, Evans Brothers.

Figueroa, J. 1989, The flaming faith of these first years Caribbean Voices in M. Butcher(ed) Tibisiri:
Caribbean Writers and Critics, Sydney & Mandelstrup, Dungaroo.

Jarrett- Macauley, D. 1997 (forthcoming). The biography of Una Marson: 1905 1965, Manchester
University Press.

Lamming G. 1960, The pleasures of exile, London, Michael Joseph,

Lamming, G. 1995, Lecture delivered at the opening session of "A Brighter Sun: A Celebration of the
Life and Work of Sam Selvon", 24:6:1995, London, Purcell Room, South Bank Centre.

Lindo C.G. 1951, (unpublished) Writing for the BBC's Caribbean Voices: talk to the Jamaica branch
of the International P.E.N. Club, Kingston

Naipaul V S. 1976," Introduction" in S. Naipaul, The adventures of Gurudeva and other stories, Lon-
don, Andre Deutsch.

Rohlehr G. 1992, The shape of that hurt and other essays, Port-of-Spain, Longman.

Sanders R.W. 1979, "The thirties and forties" in B. King (ed) West Indian literature, London,

Swanzy H 1946, Swanzy to R.G. Lindo, 13:8:46 Archive (Archive of Professor J. Figueroa)

Swanzy H. 1947, Swanzy toR.G. Lindo, 6:8:47 Archive

Swanzy H. 1948, Swanzy to R. Fuller, 3:5:48. Archive

Swanzy H. 1949, Collymore to Swanzy, 2 1 1:49. Archive

Swanzy H. 1951 Caribbean Voices: prolegomena to a West Indian culture, Caribbean Quarterly,
8.2. ppl21 128.

Swanzy H. 1956, The literary situation in the contemporary Caribbean, (Books Abroad, 30. pp. 266 -
274), reprinted in A. Donnell and S.L. Welsh (eds) 1996, The Routledge Reader in Caribbean
Literature, London, Routledge

Swanzy H. 1960, The islands of calypso, New Statesman, 10: 9:1960, pp. 3 5 0 3 5 1

Swanzy H 1992, A Letter, Bim. A 50th Anniversary Issue, 1942 1992 p.29.

Selvon S. 1987 Finding West Indian identity in London, Kunapipi, 9.3.pp. 37-38.

Walmsley A. 1992, The Caribbean artists movement 1966 1972: a literary and cultural history, Lon-
don, New Beacon Books.

*AUTHOR'S NOTE: The preparation of this paper owes much to the encouragement, resources, and
constructive criticism of the late Professor John Figueroa and Anne Walmsley Any errors
and omissions are those of the author.

BOOK REVIEW Benitez-Rojo, Antonio. The Repeating Island: The Caribbean
and the Postmodern Perspective. Second Edition. Durham and London: Duke
University Press, 1996. Trans. James Maraniss
The second edition of The Repeating Island, by the Cuban American
theorist Antonio Benitez-Rojo, includes three final chapters not present in the first
edition, published in 1992.
Despite the publisher's gloss and Benitez-Rojo's own subtitle placing the
book within a Postmodern canon, and even despite Cuba's self-identification with
Latin America rather than with the islands, The Repeating Island belongs to the
tradition of original literary and cultural theory articulated by the islands' creative
writers. (The author's Acknowledgements in the second edition indicate his debt to
this tradition). Indeed, Benitez-Rojo is able to find accommodation within postmod-
ern thought precisely because of those synergies of shared thought that link
Caribbean and postmodern theory, despite radical differences of political and even
religious (in the most diffuse sense of that term) orientation. At the same time, the
attempt to position a Caribbean discourse within postmodernism embroils the
author, perhaps unconsciously as well as consciously, in a certain amount of
paradox and contradiction. But this also is part of what Benitez-Rojo recognizes as
the obscure complexity of being Caribbean.
Ultimately, the postmodern theorist, whether as semiotician, deconstruc-
tionist, textual psychoanalyst, or discourse analyst, questions all teleleogical read-
ings and posits the final unreadability-the opacity- of the text, which preserves it
from monolithic and hegemonic enterprises. The best reading, in postmodern
thought, is the reading which recognizes its own limitations, its inability to defini-
tively read anything, whether written text or social text (culture). Not only the
reader, but the writer too is displaced, as her/his presence in the text, whether as
originator or organizing voice, is disputed and problematized. Much of this has to
do with the nature of the word, which in a sense is self-displaced behind an endless
multiplication of meaning as signs, signifiers and signifieds glide into each other
Multiplication then, becomes delay, and, in deconstruction theory at least, ulti-
mately emptiness. But unreadabilityy' is not a sign of confusion; rather of an
organizing principle of obscurity Obscurity decentres the rational, the linear, and
the 'legitimizing' certainty of a single view of the world.
The idea of obscurity as an onto-phenomenological concept has been
articulated by various modes of polemic and representation by Caribbean writer-
theorists from as early as the Negritude movement (Cesaire, Fanon) and the
nationalist movement (Lamming, Brathwaite). It was also articulated by those who
arguably positioned themselves outside the nationalist movement, with which they
were contemporary (Walcott, Harris). Within both movements, the idea of an
obscurity which resists linear definitions and fixed centres, is part of an activist
political stance from which the uniqueness and legitimacy of Caribbean culture and
text is asserted. Caribbean theorists also envisage the obscure semiology of text

and culture in what I refer to as religious terms, by positing the inviolability and even
the sacrosanct nature of the 'subject' being read. In recent times the Martinican
writer/theorist Edouard Glissant has elaborated this last line of thought in his
Poetics of Relation, which shows its own debts to Cesaire, Carpentier, and Harris.
Another important difference of Caribbean thought from postmodernism is
the centrality of persons, or the human, in the one, as opposed to reification of
textuality and discursivity, in the other This presence of what I refer to as 'the
relation of blood' in Caribbean discourse is critical, since it inscribes the Caribbean
belief in the factuality of historical event and its violent imprint upon real psyches
and bodies. This knowledge exists side by side with the recognition of discourse
as history and history as problematized/mythologized narrativity
The preliminary basis of Benitez-Rojo's postmodern reading is simple, and
obvious: the Caribbean, by its history/ies and its present (which is a complex of
histories still in the making) is a space and an idea whose opacity results from its
birth at the confluence of all world cultures in a context of violent rupture from
known origins. From here, Benitez-Rojo goes on to assert that the Caribbean's
antecedents in Africa, India and the Mediterranean (the latter obscured by the
rationalist directions of Western constructions of history) bequeathed to the region
principles of polyrhythm, metarhythm, and syncretism that make for the specifics of
Caribbean obscurity Caribbean people are, like their antecedents, Peoples of the
Sea, where Sea stands not for geographical spaces but metaphorically for flux,
fluidity, mystery, endless fecundity and obscure networks of confluence. But where
these other cultures may be examples, the Caribbean appears by Benitez-Rojo's
representation to be the meta-example of obscurity, precisely because these
cultures converged here, in circumstances that supported the proliferation of ob-
While Benitez-Rojo sees all this as aligning with the postmodern perspec-
tive, he is not unaware that a postmodern reading of the Caribbean is problematic.
He perhaps registers a discomfort with the implied collapse of Caribbean discourse
into Western epistemes, when he asserts that the postmodern philosopher, con-
fronted with the meta-example of obscurity, could not finally name the phenome-
non, since the "Caribbean is postmodernity and something more or less."
To an extent, this is merely Benitez-Rojo's performancing of his post-
modemist's ontological/epistemological dilemma, his self acknowledgement as
example of the reader who ultimately cannot read. The ground of criticism is
acknowledged in order that it may be disarmed. But Benitez-Rojo further argues
for a 'poetic' understanding of Caribbean reality, as opposed to the purely
epistemic modes by which postmoderns' read. He locates the Caribbean in what
seems to be a liminal space of transgression between these two modes of reading
- which is also eventually two modes of being: what I inadequately refer to as the
articulated and the arcane.

The conflation has always appeared, though by a different vocabulary, in
the fictions and theories of the writers of Caribbean nationalism. But Benitez-Rojo
makes a radical break with the nationalist tradition-and this might well be his
major contribution to Caribbean poetics. For the writers of Caribbean nationalism,
the chief ground upon which the Caribbean's uniqueness, its difference, could be
elaborated, was an idea of creolization, or in Cuban/Latin American terms, mesti-
zaje. Creolization as articulated in nationalism meant synthesis, a process of
fusion by which the Caribbean's apparently disparate elements were being meshed
into a single, dynamic heterogenous culture.
Benito-Rojo uses the term 'supersyncretism' rather than 'creolization' to
indicate his vision of the Caribbean as complex interlocking and synergies of
diverse cultures and codes, where the diversity is sufficient in itself; that is, resistant
to synthesis, which would take us back to the circle of reductive universalism, the
linear, totalizing episteme of the West. (Interestingly, Sylvia Wynter in the early 70's
also made her own radical departure from creolization, rejecting it for what she
termed 'Indigenization' which merged a Negritudinous assertion of African culture
with an assertion of West Indian cultural originality) Benitez-Rojo is careful to
distinguish his diversity from theories of the Caribbean as irreconcilable fragmenta-
tion; he posits a subterranean system of regularities within diversity, which he
asserts cannot be deciphered either by a first reading or by traditional kinds of
reading. It is here that Benitez-Rojo finds postmodernism an appropriate entry
point into the Caribbean.
Despite the tensions which subtend his reading, Benitez-Rojo convincingly
represents the Caribbean as unique prototype of his phenomenology of the texts
and cultures of Peoples of the Sea. His complex theorization uses a number of
interlocking/concentric tropes the organizing circle of which is Chaos theory, which
informs nuclear physics. Chaos theory suggests that 'within the disorderr that
swarms around what we already know of as Nature, it is possible to observe
dynamic states or regularities that repeat themselves globally' (2). Two concepts
emerge: the conflation of order and disorder in the way the world is rendered, and
the idea that order is a principle of endlessly fluid regularities. These regularities
are paradoxically, the progeny of un/anti/dis/non order, since change is predicated
within the dissolution of boundaries. The paradoxes of signification forming a
serpent's-tail-in-the mouth-circle rather than a teleology, make Chaos theory an apt
way of reading the Caribbean.
Within this outer circle of obfuscatory signification, Benitez-Rojo suggests
that what accounts for Caribbean obscurity in historical terms is the Plantation,
written with a capital 'P' to indicate 'not just the presence of plantations but the type
of society that results from their use and abuse' (9). The Plantation is represented
as a meta-machine, the ontological suggestions implied in the prefix appearing in a
number of ways: in the vast sets of interlocking economic, military, naval, discur-
sive and other instruments, technologies and practices that kept it going; in its

linkage to other machines, such as the flota, the 'fleet' set up by the Spanish to
ensure the security of their plunder; and in the vast matrices and circles of overt,
covert and liminal influence it continues to have in Caribbean society and by
extension societies that have relations with the Caribbean. The Plantation is at
once iconic and hidden-transgressive in its dynamics of movement, and its subter-
ranean currents are as much regularities as its visible 'overland' shapes. In all
respects, its influences are a metaphysics that drive Caribbean reality Among its
(unintended) results are the supersyncretization of race, language and culture.
(Benitez-Rojo's 'super' suggests the (re)doublings of all relations in Caribbean
space). As supersyncretism is the absence-presence of definitive roots, the Plan-
tation becomes the source of paradox.
Benitez-Rojo's theorization of Caribbean geography provides the book's
title. The archipelago is not just a physical reality but a shaping influence on
culture, psyche, history/ies; it becomes a meta-archipelago, similar to the Planta-
tion's capital 'P' The meta-archipelago, like Chaos, is a repeating island, without
centre or limits, and this becomes its centre and its limit. The Caribbean exists in
no one island nor in the sum of the islands; it is a diaspora in all possible
dimensions. The Caribbean then, is as much an idea as it is a cultural confluence.
Paradoxically, the geographical troping of the Caribbean as idea is linked to an
explicit rejection of physical geography as a category for reading the Caribbean.
One of the most intriguing and original of Benitez- Rojo's 'meta'-tropes is
his representation of the Caribbean's gender The Caribbean is seen as akin to the
mystery and obscurity of femaleness and that which is ideologically termed 'the
feminine. This trope first appears in a wrenching description of the region's birth
out of rape, rapine and cartographical fervour (cartography being the equivalent of
the pen/is in the creation of Empire), a birth that linked seas, oceans, and the
fortunes of Empires and worlds. Multiple paradoxes lie behind Benitez Rojo's
deliberately cruel excesses of description (excess, brutal, baroque and insufficient,
being part of Caribbean resistance to neat containments). Not the least of these
paradoxes is the ironic circle of Europe being birthed by the Caribbean, even as the
Caribbean was fathered by Europe. The anomalous confluence of rape, incest and
serpent tail matemity/patemity are part of the liminal quality that renders the
Caribbean unreadable by traditional modes.
The gender of the Caribbean is also drawn from her geographical space.
Being islands, she is water 'Water,' Benitez-Rojo reminds us (connoting the
Biblical Genesis, an early representation of chaos) 'is the beginning of all things.
Water is fathomless, like the abyss, the void. Benitez-Rojo discusses the signifi-
cance of water in West African and Greek cosmogony, the latter derived from the
former, both part of Caribbean cultural heritage. Water is the female womb, linked
to the moon, marine effluvia and other sites of flux and shapeshifting. But the West
African signification of these elements is linked not only to the marine goddess
Oshun, but to Elegua, the god of signification, who empties out signification by

pointing to the fact that ultimately nothing can be definitively signified. More than
this, Elegua (named in his various manifestations in West African cultures also as
Esu, Esu-Elegbara, Legba) is the god of uncertain gender Benitez -Rojo's thought
here provokes two extrapolations: the Caribbean, in terms of gender, folds and
infolds, like labia, which might suggest femaleness as a sufficient representation.
But the Caribbean goes beyond the female to the hermaphroditic, an even more
powerful trope of obscurity and endless semiology The suggestion may be con-
sidered part of the movement away from nationalism, which has heavy investments
in maleness, and which underlies the generality of Caribbean womanist/feminist
thought, which speaks from within the same circle of opposition and reply
Finally, among the book's major tropes, is the Caribbean as carnival, an
endlessly performative cultural space. The idea is subsumed in the book as a
whole, but explicitly theorized in the three chapters added to the second edition:
'Naming the Father, Naming the Mother; 'Private Reflections on Garcia Marquez's
Erendira' and 'Carnival. Carnivalesque performance is ritualization of Identity;
satire and travesty; the collapse of all boundaries; the porosity of states of being;
the excessive celebration of the gesture. Part of this idea of carnival is Caribbean
speech, which traverses the scribal and the oral (masculine and feminine desire in
language) and makes nonsense of the idea of the definitive word. Caribbean
speech, like the Caribbean as a whole, is polyrhythmic, beyond mere rhythm, which
presents variations only on a single dimension.
The Caribbean's carnivalesque performance becomes an aesthetic with a
radical intent: not the traditionally perceived aesthetic of opposition and reply but
an aesthetic of self-referential resistance, where what is to be resisted is the
violence spawned by the plantation. Aesthetic pleasure, Benitez- Rojo informs us,
becomes sublimation, a libidinal displacement of violence, which threatens the
community, which in its turn longs to make its peace. Violence too inhabits
paradox, describing not only destruction but creation as the other face of chaos.
(Benitez-Rojo uses violent metaphors such as gas, lava, plasma, rage, to suggest
how the Caribbean spins at the nexus of creative chaos). Indeed, there is no
polarity here, but rather liminal synergies, since it is the destructiveness of violence
that releases creative resistance. The formulation here marks another departure
from nationalist theory, by an implicit replacement of the paradigm of opposition
and reply with the paradigm of self referential resistance. The shift is also imbed-
ded in the concept of supersyncretism, which replaces (filiative) synthesis with the
self referentiality of what Glissant refers to as the rhizome.
The self referential aesthetic is reflected in Caribbean literary texts, which
Benitez.Rojo describes as carnival performers:
the Caribbean text is excessive, uncanny,
asymmetrical, entropic, hermetic, all this be-
cause, in the fashion of zoo or bestiary, it opens
its doors to two great orders of reading: one of a

secondary type, epistemological, profane, diur-
nal, and linked to the West-the world outside-
where the text uncoil itself and quivers like a
fantastic beast to be the object of knowledge and
desire; another the principal order, sociological,
teleological, ritual, nocturnal, and referring to the
Caribbean itself, where the text unfolds its bisex-
ual sphinxlike monstrosity toward the void of its
impossible origin, and dreams that it incorporates
this, or is incorporated by it (23).
Here Benitez-Rojo reflects on the complex transgressions of the Carib-
bean text's position within different traditions of writing and discourse. This in-
cludes the ways in which the text's performance straddles courtship of its
metropolitan Western audience and its own self-referentiality, and (somewhat
obliquely) the ways in which the text, like other Caribbean products historically is
being co-opted into the West's self definitions. One is tempted to find here a
reference to Benitez-Rojo's own sense of being appropriated by the postmodern
academy which he paradoxically espouses. (By directing The Repeating Island to
the academy's attention as a new way by which it can learn to read the Caribbean
(2), he re-enters the nationalist circle of opposition and reply).
The metaphors of libido and the liminal meta-powers of desire in the
unconscious of language and history in the passage quoted, are focused in the last
three chapters. These chapters self consciously highlight the Lacanian thoughtline
subsumed in the rest of the book. 'Naming the Father and 'Private Reflections
confer the Caribbean's bisexuality on the literary text, by rephrasing the 'dense
paradoxes' of the Caribbean writer's unfinishable aesthetic odyssey in terms of a
search for matemal/patemal origins. Rephrased, the search is for a language that
successfully bisexuallyly') negotiates the polarities, transgressions and liminal
glides between the Law of the Father (inescapable European speech) and the
Mother's telluricc womb' (obscure Caribbean utterance). The rephrasing is exces-
sive, the focus on Carpentier and Garcia Marquez stimulating and provocative.
The carnivalesque paradoxes and semiologies Benitez-Rojo envisages
are polemicized in the Introduction and Part 1 The major part of the book-Parts
2-4, is taken up with specific illustrations through readings of various Caribbean
authors and texts, These include Wilson Harris, Nicolas Guillen, Alejo Carpentier,
Fernando Ortiz, Gabriel Garcia Marquez Derek Walcott, and Las Casas' 16th
century treatise on the Amenndian assault against slavery Benitez- Rojo's analy-
sis provides a marvellously diverse range of perspectives on Caribbean paradox
and contradiction as they appear in both author and text. The analysis is often
ingenious, sometimes questionable, as in his purporting to read the authors'
unconscious (though this may simply be the 'relation of blood' by which the
Caribbean theorist displaces mere textuality).

Particularly intriguing is the presentation of Las Casas' treatise as a
'proto-Caribbean' text, on the basis that it exhibits subversive ('uncanny') Carib-
bean 'intercalations' into the already tense transgressions between the author's
religious radicalism and inevitable European essentialisms of outlook and genre.
Las Casas' text, Benitez-Rojo argues, unconsciously/subtextually transgresses the
space between 'history' and fiction in order to intercalate forbidden knowledge, the
presence of black African slaves, their stringent resistance and his own overwhelm-
ing guilt at their enslavement in which he had initially colluded. The text as it were
ruptures divides between the permitted and the forbidden, the imaginary and the
symbolic (in Lacanian terms), the epistemic and the poetic, the conscious and
paraconscious psychic states. The treatment of Las Casas' text becomes an
excellent prototype of Benitez- Rojo's Caribbeanesque paradoxes of reading
I have barely suggested here the complexity and deliberate repre-
sentational excess, by which Benitez-Roj'o suggests the Caribbean as 'a meta
machine of differences whose poetic mechanism cannot be diagrammed in con-
ventional dimensions, and whose user's manual is found dispersed in a state of
plasma within the chaos of its own codes and subcodes' (18). Benitez-Rojo's text
is the exemplification of his thesis: multilayered, highly polemical, excessive, para-
doxical, enchantingly lyrical, reminiscent of what Norval Edwards refers to as the
conflation of critical and imaginative discourse that typifies Caribbean discourse
Reminiscent too, of the concentric circles of metaphor Benitez-Rojo uses to de-
scribe the Caribbean. In this sense the text becomes an additional circle of
metaphor, a carnival meta-performance of the performances it represents.
James Maraniss does an excellent job of rendering an uncluttered,lucid
translation, while preserving the baroque excess of Benitez-Rojo's Spanish. The
result is, in the author's own words in reference to Fernando Ortiz, 'a danceable
In the final analysis, Benitez-Rojo can be said to present for our contempla-
tion the entry of Caribbean poetics onto the world stage under the distress and
out-reach of the movement towards globalization. The question that will be asked
by many in the West Indian academy, always at best suspicious of metropolitan
theory, is whether in the process the Caribbean will be able to preserve a unique
identity, will relate (to use Glissant's concept) on equal terms, or will find itself
having to re-fight old battles on new ground, in order to avoid being swallowed up
by old hegemonies in a new guise. For if postmodernism is the fruit of the West's
forced recognition that it has no legitimate rights over the rest of the world, it is also
the West's search for a new self-identity, which is already inured in the co-opted
discourses of the Other But the fact remains that historical change has brought
nationalism into new circles of interpretation, and that globalization is partly the
initiative of Caribbean cultural export and migratory perambulation.
Multiple resonances may be found between all this and Harris' and Glis-
sant's cross cultural poetics, Lamming's paradoxical resistance to his own nation-


alism, and the creative work of Caribbean migrant writers. Whatever our conclu-
sions from contemplating all this tangled skein of relations, the fact remains that
The Repeating Island is an extremely important work that will have a lasting impact
on how Caribbean literary theory is conceived of and taught here and elsewhere.

(Reviews of these books are invited. Interested persons should write to the
editor quoting the titles) of the books) concerned, prior to reviewing them.)
An Introduction to Caribbean Francophone Writing, Guadeloupe and Martinique.
Edited by Sam Haigh. Berg Editorial Offices, 1999. 230- pages.
Panama Poor Victims. Agents, and History makers by Gloria Rudolf. University
Press of Florida, 1999. 298 pages.
Maroon Societies, Rebel Slave Communities in the Americas. Edited by Richard
Price. The John Hopkins University Press, 1996. 429 pages
Jean Rhys by Elaine Savory Cambridge University Press, 1998. 306 pages
The Colonial Caribbean in Transition: Essays on Post-emancipation Social and
Cultural History Edited by Bridget Brereton and Kevin A.Yelvington. The Press
University of the West Indies, 1999. 319 pages.
Class Alliances and the Liberal Authoritarian State. the roots of Post-colonial
democracy in Jamaica,Ttrinidad and Tobago, and Surinam by F.S.J. Ledgister
Africa World Press, Inc. 1998. 218 pages.
Women and Urban Change in San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1820-1868 by Felix V Matos
Rodriguez. University Press of Florida, 1999. 180 pages.
Emmanuel Appadocca or Blighted Life. A Tale of the Buccaneers by Maxwell
Philip. Edited by Selwyn Cudjoe. University of Massachuettes Press, 199, 275
An Introduction to Caribbean Francophone Writing Guadeloupe and Martinique.
Edited by Sam Haigh. Oxford International Publishers, 1999. 230 pages.
Presencia Criolla En El, Caribe Y America Latina Creole Presence in the Carib-
bean and Latin America by Ineke Phaf. Vervuert Verlag, 1996. 129 pages.
Integrating The Americas: Shaping Future Trade Policy Edited by Sidney Wein-
traub. Transaction Publishers, 1994. 197 pages.
The Caribbean Legion: Patriots, Politicians, Soldiers of Fortune, 1946-1950 by
Charles D. Ameringer The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996. 80 pages.
Hispanic and Portuguese Collections An Illuistrated Guide. Library of Congress
1996. 84 pages.
Caribbean Baroque Historic Architecture of the Spanish Antilles by Pamela Gos-
ner. Passeggiata Press, 1996. 425 pages.

Spoils of War Women of Colour Cultures, and Revolutions. Edited by T Denean
Sharpley-Whiting and Renee T White. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc,
1997 176 pages.
An Other Tongue. Nation and Ethnicity in the Linguistic Borderlands. Edited by
Alfred Arteaga. Duke University Press, 1994. 295 pages.
Trinidad Yoruba. From Mother Tongue to Memory by Maureen Warner-Lewis.
The University of Alabama Press, 1996. 279 pages.
A Turbulent Time. The French Revolution and the Greater Caribbean. Edited by
David Barry Gaspar and David Patrick Geggus. Indiana University Press 1997
262 pages.
Canadian Public Administration. Volume 41, No. 4. 643 pages.
Latin America. An Interdisciplinary Approach. Edited by Julio Lopez-Arias and
Gladys M. Varona-Lacey Peter Lang, 1999. 307 pages.
After the Dark Hurricane. Linking Recovery to Sustainable Development in the
Caribbean by Philip R. Berke and Timothy Beatley The John Hopkins University
Press, 1997 212 pages.
Drug Lessons and Education Programs in Developing Countries. Edited by Henry
Kirsch. Transaction Publishers, 1995. 331 pages.
Les Ameriques Haiti, Antilles-Guyane, Quebec by Jack Corzani, Leon-Francois
Hoffmann and Marie-Lyne Piccione. Belin Sup, 1996. 319 pages.
How Sweet the Sound: The Spirit of African American History Edited by Nancy-
Elizabeth Fitch, Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 2000. 542 pages
Best Poems of Trinidad. Chosen by A.M. Clarke, Caribbean Classic No. 1 The
Majority Press, 1999. 66 pages
General Sun, My Brother; By Jacques Stephen Alexis, University Press of Virginia,
1999. 352 pages
Slavery in th Caribbean Francophone World: Distant Voices, Forgotten Acts,
Forged identities. Edited by Doris Y Kadish, University Of Georgia Press, 2000.
247 pages
Francophone Writers of Africa and the Caribbean. By Renee Larrier, University
Press of Florida, 2000. 157 pages
Arms Akimbo African Women in Contemporary Literature. Edited by Janice
Liddell and Yakini Belinda Kemp. University of Florida, 1999. 268 pages.


Henry Cohen

Dean Karpowitz

Harald Loehndorf

Colette Maximin

Philip Nanton

is Professor of Romance Languages and Literature,
Kalamazoo College, Michigan.

is a recent graduate from the Master's programme at
Mississipi State University

is a lecturer at St. Gallen University, Germany.

is a lecturer in English Literatures and Commonwealth
Studies, Universite des Antilles-Guyanne.

is a lecturer at Nottingham University, U.K.

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