Front Cover
 Title Page
 Editor's notes
 Table of Contents
 George Lamming and Gordon K. Lewis:...
 Nancy Dew Taylor: A break in our...
 Tony Hunt: On my way to work this...
 Gordon K. Lewis: The making of...
 Dante Pasquinucci: The perspective...
 George Lamming: Politics and...
 Book reviews
 Notes on contributors
 Back Matter
 Back Cover

Group Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras, San Juan, P.R.)
Title: Sargasso
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00096005/00002
 Material Information
Title: Sargasso
Uniform Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras, San Juan, P.R.)
Alternate Title: Sargazo
Abbreviated Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras San Juan P. R.)
Physical Description: v. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: University of Puerto Rico (Ri´o Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
Publisher: s.n.
Place of Publication: Ri´o Piedras P.R
Río Piedras P.R
Publication Date: 1984-
Copyright Date: 1986
Frequency: twice a year[2002-]
two no. a year[ former 1984]
irregular[ former <1987>-2001]
Subject: Caribbean literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Caribbean literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Genre: review   ( marcgt )
periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Puerto Rico
Additional Physical Form: Also issued online.
Language: Chiefly English, with some French and Spanish.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1, no. 1-no. 10 (2000) ; 2001-
Numbering Peculiarities: Volume designation dropped with no. 3; issue for 2001 lacks numbering; issues for 2002- called 2002, 1-
Issuing Body: Edited by the faculty and graduate students of the English Dept., University of Puerto Rico.
General Note: Title from cover.
General Note: Some issues have also distinctive titles.
General Note: Latest issue consulted: 2004-05,2.
General Note: Has occasional special issues.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00096005
Volume ID: VID00002
Source Institution: University of Puerto Rico
Holding Location: University of Puerto Rico
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 12797847
lccn - 85643628
issn - 1060-5533
alephbibnum - 002422411

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
    Editor's notes
        Page 1
    Table of Contents
        Page 2
    George Lamming and Gordon K. Lewis: Intersections and divergences
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
    Nancy Dew Taylor: A break in our routine
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
    Tony Hunt: On my way to work this morining
        Page 40
    Gordon K. Lewis: The making of a Caribbeanist
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
    Dante Pasquinucci: The perspective of progress in Humacao
        Page 60
    George Lamming: Politics and culture
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
    Book reviews
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
    Notes on contributors
        Page 90
    Back Matter
        Page 91
        Page 92
    Back Cover
        Page 93
Full Text




"Politics and Culture"
"The Making of a Caribbeanist"

reviews of
Memoirs of Bernardo Vega
George Lamming's The Pleasures of Exile
Pedro Pietri's The Masses Are Asses

Sargasso 3 (1986)

Sargasso, an independent literary magazine published at
the University of Puerto Rico, publishes critical essays,
interviews, and some short stories and poems. Sargasso
particularly welcomes material written by the people of
the Caribbean and/or about the Caribbean.

Sargasso strives to make current studies in literature,
language, and culture accessible to non-specialists.
The prose should be clear, lively, and understandable to
those-not among the initiate. Essays and critical studies
should conform to the style of the MLA Handbook. Short
stories should be no more than 2,500 words in length,
and poems should be kept to no more than twenty to thirty
lines. All correspondence must include S.A.S.E.
Mailing Address:

Department of English
Box BG
University Station
Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico 00931

Editorial Committee

Lowell Fiet, Editor
Janet Butler Haugaard, Co-Editory Book Review Editor
Ada Haiman, Co-Editor
Maria C. Rodriguez, Co-Editor
Thomas Sullivan, Co-Editor

Associate Editors:

Aileene Alvarez Stella L6pez
Diana Gonz&lez Minerva Santos
Myrsa Landr6n

Technical Consultant, Layout:

Angel Rivera

Opinions and views expressed in Sargasso are those of the
individual authors and are not necessarily shared by
Sargasso's Editorial Committee. Copies of Sargasso 3 (1986),
as well as previous issues, are on deposit in the Library
of Congress. @ 1987.

Editor's Notes

dedication: Lamming and Lewis

Barbadian novelist George Lamming spent the August-
December 1984 semester as a visiting professor at the
University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. In addition
to his general lectures, he devoted untold hours to a
ten-session seminar on the confrontation of Europe and
Africa as seen in the writing of English, African, North
American, and most importantly, Caribbean authors. The
seminar became an event of significant proportions.
For Lamming's presence and work in the English
Department of the College of Humanities, the real credit
goes to Dr. Gordon K. Lewis, Director of the Caribbean
Studies Institute of the College of Social Sciences at
the University of Puerto-Rico. Gordon's efforts brought
George to Puerto Rico, and in fact, the visiting profes-
sorship was in Social Sciences and not Humanities. Thus
Lewis deserves special mention for allowing us to "use"
Lamming in the exhaustive way we did.
This issue of Sargasso, then, is really a tribute
to George Lamming and Gordon Lewis. Since both have been
strong formative influences in Caribbean letters, it seems
very appropriate that this issue of Sargasso be dedicated
to them. They exchange views in the interview that begins
this issue, and each has permitted us to reprint a recent
essay first published elsewhere: Lewis, "The Making of
a Caribbeanist" first appeared as #10 in the Working
Papers series published by the Caribbean Institute and
Study Center for Latin America (CISCLA), Jorge Heine,
director, Inter-American University, San German, Puerto
Rico, and Lamming, "Politics and Culture" is reprinted
from The Most Important People (c 1981), a pamphlet with
introduction by Michael Manley and also containing
Kathleen Drayton's essay "Work and Labour."

production problems

Sargasso remains alive, believe it or not, but
the current issue (3) has proven to be very difficult
to produce. Problems of time, budget, personnel,
delayed manuscripts, et cetera, plagued us every step
of the way. Thus Sargasso 3 (1986) is roughly one year
behind its scheduled publication date. However, those
delays should not haunt future numbers: production work
on number 4 is already underway, and we are currently
receiving materials for consideration for inclusion in
Sargasso 5. In the future, Sargasso's format and
editorial structure will be somewhat changed: we are
aiming at a more even balance between creative and
critical writing and hope to be able to work with a
reduced size to facilitate mailing.


Special credit must be given to Prof. Janet Butler
Haugaard. A technical problem with the transcription
of the Lamming/Lewis interview was one of the factors
that initially contributed to the delay in preparing
Sargasso 3 for publication. Janet single-handedly
undertook the task of resolving that difficulty and,
after thankless hours before tape recorder and type-
writer, presented a readable clear copy. This in ad-
dition to her normal duties as co-editor and Book Review
Janet is one of the founders of Sargasso and is
responsible for naming the journal. She has decided
to leave the University of Puerto Rico and relocate in
the United States at St. Mary's College in Maryland.
She will be missed.
I also want to take this opportunity, on behalf
of the Editorial Committee, to thank Dr. Eduardo Rivera
Medina, Dean of Academic Affairs at the University of
Puerto Rico, for assistance in facilitating the publica-
tion of this issue of Sargasso. Ms. Olga Rivera and the
staff of the Copy Center in the Office of the Dean of
Administration deserve special mention as well.

Lowell Fiet



George Lamming and Gordon K. Lewis:
Intersections and Divergences
(Interview) ............................... 3

Nancy Dew Taylor: A Break in Our Routine ...... 31

Tony Hunt: On My Way to Work This Morning
(Poem) .................................... 40

Gordon K. Lewis: The Making of a Caribbeanist .. 41

Dante Pasquinucci: The Perspective of Progress
in Humacao (Poem) ......................... 60

George Lamming: Politics and Culture .......... 61


Richard Cameron: Cesar Andrew Iglesias, ed.;
Juan Flores, trans. Memoirs of Bernardo
Vega: A Contribution to the History of the
Puerto Rican Community in New York ....... 69

Lowell Fiet: George Lamming; The Pleasuresof
Exile .................................. 78

Rosa Luisa Marquez: Pedro Pietri; The Masses
Are Asses ................................ 86

NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS .......................... 90

TABLE OF CONTENTS, Sargasso I, Vol. I (1984)
and Sargasso I, Vol. II (1984).............. 91



(Note: The novelist George Lamming and
political scientist Gordon K. Lewis have known
each other for years, and both play important
roles in the formation of literary and socio-
political approaches to Caribbean culture and
experience--Lamming through novels such as
In the Castle of My Skin (1953), The Emigrants
(1954), Of Age and Innocence (1958), Season of
Adventure (1960), Water with Berries (1971),
and Natives of My Person (1972), and Lewis
through such impressive studies as Puerto Rico:
Freedom and Power in the Caribbean (1963),
The Growth of the Modern West Indies (1968),
The Virgin Islands: A Caribbean Lilliput (1972),
Notes on the Puerto Rican Revolution (1975),
and Main Currents in Caribbean Thought (1983).
The editors of Sargasso felt that
bringing Lamming and Lewis together in the
same interview presented a rare and potentially
very fertile opportunity for creative friction
and interchange: on the one hand, the gifted
writer Lamming is a highly informed commentator
who participates actively in Caribbean
political affairs; on the other, as one of
the Caribbean's most astute political analysts,
Lewis also demonstrates a depth of knowledge
of and an acute sensitivity to Caribbean
literature, to the point of incorporating
literary references and examples in his more
strictly "sociological" studies.
The interview was taped in December 1984
at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras.)

Lowell Fiet: How would you respond if a critic called
In the Castle of My Skin "the quintessential
novel of the Caribbean"?

Lamming/Lewis Interview

George Lamming: Well, first of all, I don't know
whether it's defined that way I would
perhaps not be a very good judge of that.
I could see, though, the sense in which
a definition of that kind could be applied
because the way the book is structured,
although it begins as the report on a particular
experience of a particular person in a village,
it then becomes a sort of biography of Village,
and then of Island, and then it ends really in
a moving out to another island. And because
of the historical similarity of these
territories, a seminal book is very likely to
touch on a variety of aspects of the other
territories because of this continuity of
historical experience.
So that, although the details may be
different, the essense of that kind of child-
hood would be found in Jamaica or Barbados or
Trinidad. Or, looking very recently at
Black Shack Alley--when I saw Black Shack
Alley it might have been a film of In the
Castle of My Skin: the same role of the
children, the relation of the children to the
matriarchal grandmother, the fundamental
preoccupation with education, the role of the
school as a rescue mission--not even so much
about knowledge and so on, but if you were
going to be rescued from the history of
"persistent poverty," to use the phrase of the
economist Beckford, then the school was the
first rescue mission that you would have to
turn to. So, I suppose that the definition
would derive from the historical likeness and
continuity of the region.

Gordon K. Lewis: Well, that novel of 1953, it really
has--I wouldn't say it's "quintessential"--
but it has quintessential elements which
George has referred to as autobiography.
There's peasant village life, there's village
childhood, and ultimately the implication of
emigration which George treats later in
The Emigrants which I would say is the
quintessential novel on the phenomenon of
emigration in Caribbean life.


Zobel's novel from Martinique, which I
think pre-dates In Castle of My Skin, anticipates
the same thing. So, in a way, as in all
national literatures, the themes are imposed
by the national experience and the novelist
chooses between those themes, but certain
themes are quintessential. And in that sense
I would say, yes, the novel [In the Castle of
My Skin] is quintessential.

LF: Gordon, looking at the Caribbean from the
point of view of a political scientist, do
you see a specific function for the Caribbean

GKL: Well, I would answer that in a twofold sense.
One, there is a universal concept which
relates the writer to the larger society
--in any society--whether you think of
Dickens in the early Victorian society or of
any of the renaissance writers of the Caribbean
after the 1950s,. And in that sense, they
all refer to the lesson presented by V. S.
Pritchett in his Politics and the Novel:
that is to say, the obligation of the writer
to consider the theme of political conscious-
Now, the second part of that answer is
that in the Caribbean--because it is an
emergent post-colonial society--there is a
particular experience which is unknown to
Victorian England or to the Third Republic
in France, and the writer--I think the
Caribbean writer--must respond to both that
larger concept which I think applies to all
literature and the other concept which applies
peculiarly to Caribbean literature.

LF: As you analyze the politics, the history, and
the literature, do you see writers who
specifically comply with that both universal
and more specific function?

GKL: There is some writing, of course, which is
obviously defiantly revolutionary. There's
a lot of revolutionary poetry in the Caribbean

Lamming/Lewis Interview

which is not so much poetry as it is
revolutionary rhetoric, and that is one kind
of response. Another kind of response is one in
which the artist with a larger and more
unique imagination relates the theme of
society with the theme of politics. I would
say, for example, that John Hearne does that,
and I would say that Naipaul does it--probably
both of the Naipauls; Hearne being particular-
ly concerned ,I think, with the figure of the
expatriate in Jamaican politics. Naipaul
also (the elder Naipaul) would be concerned
with the figure of the expatriate, but, I
think, writing with a more perceptive,
psychological insight into human nature than
Hearne possesses.

LF: And does Lamming fit within that perspective?

GKL: Well, if I understand it correctly, George's
intellectual pilgrimage has moved from
certain points in the beginning to certain points
where he now stands; certainly in his essays
he is more the political man than he probably
was in 1953. I think there's an element of
conceived Marxism in his writings now which
was not apparent earlier, and this is quite
natural--and, indeed, inevitable and necessary.
A writer grows.
But I would like to add to that that I
don't gauge writers in terms of whether they
agree or not with my own political philosophy.
After all, Marx's favorite authors were
Balzac and Dickens, and Dickens himself was
a mid-Victorian liberal reformer and Balzac
was a Tory legitimist of the Second Empire.

GL: I'd like to add to that, because I think
there ae some distinctions to be made. When
you are thinking of the writer in relation
to the concept of function in society and
commitment to it, I believe that the parallel
between the Caribbean writer and the Latin
American writer is perhaps a closer one than
the parallel between either and say, the
European equivalent. For this reason: that


the nature of the political experience, which
(in the case of the Caribbean and in the case
of Latin America) has been a largely colonial
and neo-colonial experience. And what is
very special about this experience is that it
involves and touches on the personal and
professional life of the entire country. That
is, if you are living in a colonized situation,
it doesn't really matter what is your own
social formation; everybody is influenced by
that. And the nature of that collective
experience forces the writer--whether he likes
it or not--to be writing not only about his
own individual consciousness but really about
the collective predicament of that situation
in a more urgent way than it might be for a
writer coming out of a more stable and usual
arrangement. So I think that the Caribbean
and Latin American -writer has always been a
little more embattled, so to speak, with
issues of the country than his English
equivalent would be. This is the first point
I would make about that.
The second is that there are different
ways in which we can use the term "function,"
this function as a writer. One is to say that
any writer who's making a certain kind of
critical interpretation of the society is
functioning on behalf of the society--irres-
pective of how the interpretation comes out.
You might not agree with his orientation and
so on, but he's likely to be saying something
which is very true about certain aspects of
the society.
But there is another kind of function
that in a way separates some writers from
others. There are certain writers who, by
virtue of their associations in a particular
territory, have found themselves engaged in
what you might call a certain kind of extra-
literary activity. I think in the case of
Jamaica, when you think of novelists like
Roger Mais or Vic Reid: they happened to
be developing as writers at a time when the
nationalism of Jamaica is also emerging in a

Lamming/Lewis Interview

very powerful way. And they are going to be
very closely associated with a political
institution like the people's national move-
ment and see themselves, in a way, as voices
of that kind of movement. Or if you go down
to Guyana where you get the most explicit
example of it, in the poet Martin Carter, who
again, is developing at a time when Guyana
is going through very fundamental political
change and upheaval, and who would find him-
self functioning as the voice of a political
movement [and] who would then be a member of
the executive of a political party. It is
that sort of concrete function that in a way
sometimes separates certain writers from
others; that you would get them [this second
type of writer] functioning in a more
general sense of observer and critical
analyst, but not identified in an activist
movement type of way--the way in which, for
example, a Carter in Guyana, or a Mais in
Jamaica have done. And we do have a certain
argument going on about that: there are a
number of writers who see their role as really
only functioning in that first sense (the
observers and interpreters) but who do not
really believe--either by reasons of temperament
or whatever--that the more activist role is
their concern.
This raises another distinction between,
if you like, the metropolitan influences on
the colonial territory, the English-speaking
Caribbean. It's very interesting in the
sense that it has tended, sometimes, to produce
a type of writer who is concerned with
exploring and interpreting but has always
avoided the category of being a political
person. This, I think, is tied up with this
[English Metropolitan] influence. Whereas
it's very different in the French situation
where it's not at all uncommon to find the
creative writer as also a very active and
practising political man. The outstanding
example would be Cesaire, of Martinique--
leading poet, but also mayor and deputy to


the National Assembly. There's always been a
slight distinction, I think, between writers
of the English-speaking Caribbean and the
French-speaking Caribbean, where that kind
of political question is concerned.

Stella L6pez: Ever since I read your novel, In the
Castle of My Skin, I've had the image in my
mind about the little naked boy, he's 9 years
old, and his mother was giving him a bath in
the backyard. And while this is happening,
the neighborhood children are watching and
laughing. And all this time, the little
naked boy who is so shy and sensitive is
watching everything that is happening. And
I just wondered, how does it feel to have
been such a boy and to have come from that
moment in life to where you are?
If I can guess, it's an autobiographical
experience. How does it feel to come from
there to now and have experienced everything
that you've experienced?

GL: Well, it's always difficult to answer that
accurately or reliably because what happens
is that when you're looking back on an
experience you give it a lot more order and
coherence than it probably had. Everything
that has happened to me now seems to have
been quite logical development, whereas at
any point in that early past I might not have
been able to foresee the movement in that way.
It seems "logical" because--with
whatever modesty I can summon--I always, very
early (and my mother may have been responsible
for this in a way) always felt that I had
been "chosen"--very specially "chosen"--for
some important function; we did not know how
that would manifest itself. I think a lot
of the shyness and so on in that situation
has to do with a certain privacy and isolation,
because of what was happening in the village
when I was growing up (that was a poor village
and a very difficult sort of life) and every
attempt was really being made to separate me
from it and protect me from it. I was,of

Lamming/Lewis Interview

course, an only child; that was the other
aspect of it, and therefore the entire world
was made to revolve around the destiny of
this experiment. This was an experiment
which had to work and therefore had to be
protected from any of the, you know, toxic
influences and so on of that

SL: Your mother...

GL: ...very protective, yes; I would on occasions
have to steal away and so on to be part of
that collective world. She was never too
happy to see me too close to it because it
was a time--it was a period when eighty
percent, ninety percent of people would not,
perhaps, get very far in life. The ones who
did would be the ones who got away, and if
you had no special privilege, then, in fact,
very special efforts had to be made to rescue
you from sinking into what would be the
ordinariness that would catch up with most
I think that sense of having some special
destiny was there very early.

SL: Do you think that is the clue to the men or
women that have the idea that they are
"chosen"? Because I read that and I saw that
in Richard Wright's autobiography also--that
he felt that he had a destiny, that he had
something to do. Do you think that that's
something that has to exist?

GL: Well, now that you mention Wright: I suspect
that (and Gordon may have examples here) that
it's probably something that happens to certain
individuals who are the products of a cultural
poverty, that there is no reason why you should
have been the one that got away, and it there-
fore has to be explained by some force and
so on that you cannot locate unless--my mother
would be very clear that that was the work of
God; all that happened was that I was the
vessel and nothing more. If you don't have


that faith, I suppose you just have to
attribute it to Fate and so on.
But I suspect that--now you mention it--
I imagine that in the context of English
literature and the social life out of which
it came that a man like D. H. Lawrence may
have felt very much the same about being a
"chosen one," to have come from the depth of
that kind of mining village experience:
without connections, without privilege, to
battle your way through the rigidities of an
English class system and to make an entire
life a struggle with origins, and so on.
I would think that Lawrence would have seen
himself as, in-a way, very specially "chosen."
So that notion of being "chosen" may
in some way be tied up with people who come
out of a culture of poverty and deprivation.

LF: Gordon, were you "chosen" in any way similar
to that? You've devoted most of your adult
intellectual life to the exploration of the
Caribbean, and yet your own formation and
childhood was in an entirely different

GKL: George mentions "forces." There is a variety
of forces at work here.
In George's case there is the force of
(if you will allow me to say so) the famous
Barbadian self-conceit.' Barbadians are
notoriously heliocentric; they think the
world revolves around that little island
society. There is that force. There is the
force of the impact of childhood; it has
frequently been pointed out that many of the
typical Victorian novels are novels about
childhood, like David Copperfield. And then
it's the same thing in the Caribbean:
In the Castle of My Skin is about childhood;
Jan Carew's novel Black Midas is about child-
hood in colonial British Guiana. There's
that force.
There's another force: the metropolitan
force. George mentioned modesty; well,
Santayana once said that the English people

Laming/Lewis Interview

are the only people in the world who boast
about their modesty. And so there is the
metropolitan modesty of English society.
And then, ultimately, there's the force
of geographical and social locale. George
comes out of the poverty of colonial Barbados;
I come out of the poverty of the south Wales
minefields--which is also a colonial condition,
as much as the West Indies. George says he
was the only child. I was one of ten, and I
was "chosen" in the sense that it was the
tradition in the English working class and the
Welsh working class in which everybody would
slave and work hard in order to send the
bright boy or the bright girl to university.
And, by chance, that happened in my family,
that happened to be myself. So after grammar
school I got the county scholarship to the
University of Wales. After the war I got a
scholarship to Balliol at Oxford. I am what
they call "the scholarship boy." And it's
rather like the old Island Scholarship system
in the colonial West Indies: one was chosen,
and all of those who failed: that in itself
is a literature of the despair and the
disappointment of those who failed. And so
there are all these forces that I think are
at work. I think George is right. I see him
as a novelist and an essayist keeping company
with Garcia Mgrquez, Mario Senedetti, or
Juan Bosch, or (in our own the Puerto Rican
case) Jose Luis Gonzalez. All of them,
because of the environment that has shaped
them, are indulging in a creative literature
which is also a literature of protest,
whether it's done in a magical, surrealist
fashion, or whether it is done in a more directly
descriptive, "English" fashion. It is all
there, and as George says, some are more
committed than others. I like Jose Luis
Gonzalez's phrase in his Conversaciones in which
he says, "Soy marxista sin iglesia." So we
have all these forces which--because they are
congregated here in this small regional
society--I think help to explain the amazing
fascination and richness of the magie


And as for being "chosen," I have no
Judaic sense of being "chosen" or one of the
Chosen People. It's just that Fate was kind
to me.

LF: What other writers have most influenced your
development and production as a novelist?
Who do you see as the antecedents to your own

GL: Well, when you come to the conscious influence
now, as distinct from the influence on you of
a particular environment, that, too, is some-
times not always easy to locate, because
influence is a process. And what is happening
to you in that process is that you're absorbing
things, and sometimes you're not even aware of
the weight which they will have upon you.
As a writer, I would say that from the
point of view of language, probably the earliest
and most powerful influence was the Bible--my
association with the Bible. So, I think there
is in my prose a music and a patter of metaphor
and imagery, that may, indeed, have had its
origins in that very early absorption of
the language of the King James Bible. That
was the collective literature of my childhood,
and I used to know that book very well.
Then, later, in a more formal sense
(because, coming into the language that was
English--and its literature) one recalls
having a very strong preference for certain
kinds of writers, even without being aware of
why that was so. And I would say that very
early I recall discovering Hardy (but that
is, Hardy the poet) as being something very
very special to me. And then, in prose
narrative, Conrad. That has something more
to do, now, not with message or meaning but
the way in which language was working--the
music of language and the metaphor of language.
I think these would have been early formations.
But I was very grateful because I was
taught by a man called Collymore, and it was
he who really, in a way, brought alive my
curiosity, who made me feel that there was a


Lamming/Lewis Interview

world of literature that was a very real world,
and a world that contained immense wealth, that
one could never exhaust, and so on. So that
very early he had encouraged me in a kind of
reading that was not now only the reading of
imaginative work but very wide. I mean, I was
--at 16 or so--I would have read, say, something
like Wells' Outline of History two or three
times as well as The Science of Life; I remember
those two enormous books, reading them through.
And that very early developed in me a great
interest in history and in the history of ideas.
And then, coming on a little later, a man whom
I met somewhat later, I would say C. L. R. James
was also very important in that, in that I was
very struck by the range of his interests and
by his capacity to correlate what would appear
to people to be distinct disciplines: that
James was not only interested in politics and
history but he saw those as inseparable from
literature and music and the arts and--above
all--from philosophy. I was always very struck
by that, and found myself responding to that in
a very natural sort of way. So, I would say
that even most of my readings--if one had to
assess in volume--that most of my reading is
the reading of non-fiction; I read more non-
fiction than I probably do fiction, particularly
in areas of history and philosophy.

GKL: I think there are two influences we're talking
about here. The first is the influence of time
and place, and second is the influence of person.
As far as time and place are concerned,
both George and I come out of traditional Bible
belts. His is the Bible belt of Anglican
Barbados; mine is the Bible belt of Baptist
south Wales. We both go through that experience
and at some point we emancipate ourselves from
that kind of narrow-minded Protestantism to be
exposed to different influences. Being the
Bible belt, there is the influence of the Bible
--fortunately, the King James version and not
the modern Revised version--which gives us a
sense of rich language. And the King James
version of the Bible is the only book I know


of that is a successful book written by a
committee, whereas most modern social science
literature written by committees is dismal.
That's the influence of time and place.
There's the influence of person. In the
1930s it was, of course, the intellectual
ferment of the Europe of that day which
influenced me directly and indirectly. When
I was in the sixth form at grammar school in
south Wales there was a history master, Walter
Tidswell, who compelled all of us in the sixth
form to join the Left Book Club, whether we
wanted to or not. And we trace influences to
people like that, who demand that you do things,
you expose your mind to new intellectual horizons.
And I've always wondered why Eric Williams, who
was at Oxford during that period, could go
through that whole Oxford experience without
having any mark of intellectual ferment being
left upon him. And when I was at Oxford, being
a scholar at Balliol, the first college incidental-
ly that opened its doors to black African students,
it was the Balliol of then Master A. D. Lindsay,
who talked of the relationship between Socialism
and Christianity. And then of course, you did
the school of.Modern Greats, which is politics,
philosophy, and economics. So, you got a sense
of the intermixture of different social and
historical disciplines which George tells us
he learned from C. L. R. James. I learned it
from Modern Greats at Oxford.

GL: On Williams: I must mention him specially,
though, because he does fit into a history of
influences where I am concerned.
I was very lucky that I didn't go from
Barbados straight to England. I think my
development may have been very different from
what it has had to be if it had happened that
way. But when I left Barbados, the first piece
of the world I saw after Barbados (at the age
of eighteen) was Trinidad. And that is going
to be in the late 40s, a period when a generation
--my generation-- is coming to an awareness
through the concept of the Caribbean as one.

Lamming/Lewis Interview

And one of the most important voices promoting
that concept was Williams': it was Williams who,
talking to me at that time, first brought the
name Cesaire of Martinique and Nicolds Guillen
of Cuba to my attention. I have no recollection
of ever having heard of Cesaire and Martinique
until I was talking with Williams in the late
40s. So, the other influence (using Gordon's
example of the time and place) is going to be
Trinidad and Williams in the forging within me
of a sense of not just being something called
"Barbadian," but being a part--an integral part--
of a much wider world, that was the world of
the Caribbean. So that by the time I arrived
in England in the 50s, I would arrive with the
seeds of that.
And then, of course, the isolation there
had to reinforce that; that I then discovered
corners of the Caribbean in England. That is,
I met Jamaica for the first time in England;
I met Guyana for the first time in England.
I met the eastern Caribbean for the first time
in England and was able to reinforce that sense
of a Caribbean continuity which had really been
given to me by Trinidad, not by Barbados. When
I left Barbados, I would have said I was purely
Barbadian; by the time I left Trinidad I was in
the process of being very much a Caribbean

GKL: It's important not to set too deterministic
interpretations of what happens because we are
shaped also--apart from the forces we've already
mentioned--by fate and chance. And it was fate
and chance that brought me to the Caribbean in
the summer of 1949. But to come to Puerto Rico
--and not, as you might have expected from an
Englishman, to have gone to Barbados, or
Trinidad, or Jamaica--I've always been grateful
for that, because if I'd gone to the University
of the West Indies in Jamaica in 1949 instead
of the University of Puerto Rico, I can easily
imagine that I would have become trapped in that
narrow, insular world which still exists in the
English-speaking intelligentsia, and in the


university-crowd, where it is still difficult
to identify a compulsive regional sense.
Fortunately, here in San Juan, which is a
metropolis in a way that Kingston or Bridgetown
cannot hope to become, here you came into a
society which opened up for you the Latin-
Hispanic aspect of the Caribbean of which most
professorial mandarins in the U.W.I. are still
dismally ignorant. It also meant that you were
living in San Juan which was intimately in touch
with the rich intellectual life of American
society: you could go to New York easily
in a way that you could not go to New York"
easily from Barbados or Trinidad. And this,
I think, helps.to explain why, from the very
beginning, I was not only in the Caribbean but
I was also self-consciously a regionalist.
And I cannot see that any man or woman in his
right mind can live in the Caribbean and not
sooner or later become a regionalist.

LF: That brings up a very interesting topic,
something that George has talked about in a
variety of situations and something that you,
Gordon, have written about very effectively
--and that is the notion of the Caribbean as
a geopolitical region, and finding more
similarities than differences between the
various island nations, societies, and cultures.
And I'm very interested in Gordon's statement
about Puerto Rico opening that sense up because
I get the sense of a degree of isolation--a
strong degree of isolation--here as well:
people knowing very little about the English
and the French-speaking islands. What I'm
trying to lead into, I think, is the whole
notion of "linkage" and developing a Caribbean
sense. How does one go about that?

GKL: Well, in the first place, I thirk (which is an
elementary statement, but necessary) you have
to travel. I like the comment of one Victorian
traveler in the West Indies on another: "There
goes old Trollope, banging around the world."
And you have to "bang" around the Caribbean,

Lamming/Lewis Interview

as the first requisite for the development of
this sense of regional unity and identity.
So, apart from any other things that we might
say--and there are a lot of other factors--
the first factor I think is quite literally:
you have to travel.

GL: Yes, travel is important, but it will not be
the good fortune of a very large number of
people to be able to travel.
But I think it is so possible to be
influenced (in a regional direction) even with
a minimum of travel. So that what I think we
need to do is to emphasize the regional function
of every important institution in every particular
territory. Now, the history of each territory
has been, for a long time, the history of
isolationism. That is, there will have been
a period when Barbados was as indifferent to
Jamaica (and vice versa) as Barbados and
Jamaica would have been to either Martinique
or Puerto Rico. And Martinique would have had
a much closer relation to Paris than it would
have had to Port of Spain. That is, the history
of each territory was the history of an outward
glance, of looking from where you are to whatever
was the particular metropolitan center that
organized that life. And each institution was,
in a way, shaped to fulfill that function of
looking outward. It is really only within
recent times that the region has been trying
to look across and within itself. And this
has taken--that outward look has taken--some
very extreme forms. I will give you a story
that illustrates it.
In nineteen--I think it was 1955--I was
returning to the Caribbean for the first time
after I had left [in 1950] and I went first to
Haiti. And I discovered that there was in
Haiti a very bright, sophisticated, intellectual
class. There was a Haitian intelligentsia,
there were poets, and novelists, and so on.
And I had been introduced to them. And it
pleased me very much to learn that the book
that was a kind of Bible for them was the book
The Black Jacobins, by C. L. R. James. So I


told them that I would communicate this to
James; I'm quite sure that he wasn't aware
of this and he would be very pleased to hear it.
And they were amazed: they said, "How did
you come to know James?" And I said, "Well,
James- is from Trinidad," and there was total
stupefaction, because they all believed that
James was a white man and that he was English.
Now, how did this happen? French books don't
carry any pictures; they're all paper-covered
and they have no biographical notes. So what
happened is that here is this product of
Trinidad who goes to England, who writes
The Black Jacobins which ten years later is
translated in Paris (in French) and then
reaches Haiti. That is that almost triangular
kind of trip. It reaches Haiti in a French
translation (that is of M. Jean, as they call
him) who automatically, instinctively they
said was English.
You see, I think it's probably only a
post-war phenomenon and the whole experiment
in federation of the English-speaking Caribbean
that started to force this glance across the
region. The establishment of the University
of the West Indies was very decisive in
reinforcing this looking across and within
the region. And I think we have started to
expand that, and that will go on expanding.
That I don't think will contract now.
But the pace of its expansion is still
slow and very much slower than it need be.
I think that one of the immediate objectives
--which is also manageable--is to have people
inside existing institutions who function
almost as evangelists, really, would function.
To establish regional emphasis and regional
character in the specific institution, wherever
that institution may be. That is the first
thing. And also to try and see how you can
make the institution an integral part of a
wider communal life. Because what has really
happened to our institutions (particularly
our institutions of learning) is that they have
tended to (because of the way they were
designed and conceived) to exist as autonomous

Lamming/Lewis Interview

worlds, feeding upon themselves and only using
the wider community as a sort of raw material
on which they feed but without any re-routing
of that body of knowledge and analysis back to
where it derives.
So those are the two stages, I think;
to regionalize the existing institutions and
also to get the institutions to function in a
more democratic manner, in a more communal way
than they function at present.

GKL: I've got a dissenting opinion on this.
It has come to achieve the status of a
fact, almost, to say--to emphasize-- the
colonial-metropolitan relationship and how
it divides Caribbean peoples one against
another. I mean, I know that it's a socio-
cultural fact. But I have always been impressed
--ever since I came to the Caribbean--by the
fact that because of intra- and extra-regional
migration (and George didn't write The Emigrants
for nothing) because of that, for the last
eighty years or more, there has been a vast
amount of work and travel by the working
underclass of Caribbean society. You can find
Barbadian workers who speak Spanish because
they've been to the Dominican Republic or they've
been to the Panama Canal Zone. And that explains
to me, I think, why--looking at social changes--
frequently it is the working class that is the
most widely traveled; it is the working class
that has a command of the three working
languages of the Caribbean (certainly English
and Spanish) rather than the middle class or
the elite white. And I place this as a counter-
force to the traditional and conventional
argument that's always been this metropolitan-
colonial relationship which divides rather than
Apart from that, I think George is
generalizing from his English-speaking Caribbean
experience when he's talking about the
institutions. Take the institution to which
we all belong: the institution of the university.
That is true of the University of the West Indies,
founded in 1947. It's not true of the University


of Puerto Rico, founded not by the Spanish but
by the Americans in 1903 and which the Americans
brought here, which was quite new to the
Caribbean: the whole American conviction of the
education of the masses. So that almost from
the -beginning the University of Puerto Rico was
a university for the masses. The University of
the West Indies was a university for the classes.
And I think it is important to make this
distinction. And that is why (to come back to
the point I made earlier) I'm glad I came to
the University of Puerto Rico and not the
University of the West Indies.

GL: I think my point about the role of institutions
remains, though--that while it is true that
there has been a certain amount of movement by
working-class people, the fate of working-class
people who move is that there is not a return
that influences at the original point. That if
you were, for example, part of a movement, let's
say, that would have gone to Panama, or that
would have gone to Cuba, and so on (either to
do work on the Canal or work on sugar estates)
you are not going to find, on the whole, any
significant proportion of that migrant body
returning in a permanent way to their original
What quite often happens is that the
movement may have extended itself: that they
may have gone on from Panama or Cuba or what-
ever to the United States. Or, as late in the
forties, you have had the oil refinery attractions
in Aruba: a lot of people of my generation came
to Aruba, and then when that was over you'd run
into them in Toronto. So although there was
that movement at that level, there were people
who were never in a position to determine
movement back in that way. And then what you
might find are these pockets of regionalists
who are outside the region. As a matter of
fact, one of the things I'm very interested in
is that when I happen to be with certain types
of Puerto Ricans in the United States, I dis-
cover that there is a much more developed
consciousness of region and of being in some

Lamming/Lewis Interview

way connected to region than I, say, discover
among Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico. That is,
that the Puerto Rican in that continuing
connection and dealing daily with Panamanian
and Jamaican and Barbadian acquires that sense
of region which is not acquired in quite the
same way by the Puerto Rican at home. We don't
have the example of significant numbers of such
people returning in a permanent way back to
their original place. So that the regionalists
of that class from the Caribbean are usually
not in the Caribbean. They're at some point
outside of the Caribbean.

LF: We're going to change things just a little bit.
George heard me ask a very long and convoluted
question to Pedro Juan Soto a few weeks ago
about a self-definition in ideological terms.
I think I've posed the question in a somewhat
briefer context here. And it's really a
question that I wanted to ask George, but
since we've been going at this in different
ways, I'd like to get Gordon's view on it
first and then have George fill in.
The question itself is: how do you, as
a writer, define yourself ideologically, as
you face the friction between the First and
Third Worlds--that seems to characterize the
Gordon, as you look at writers and as
you see the region itself, is that characterization
of friction between the First and Third Worlds

GKL: Well, I can only speak autobiographically.
Speaking for myself, as someone who ideological-
ly comes out of the European democratic socialist
tradition (so that's part of the First World)
and coming into the Third World, I did not find
friction for a variety of reasons.
In the first place, I came to the Caribbean
in the late 1940s and early 1950s when you
had the movement of black anti-colonial
nationalism, of which Williams was of course
the leading protagonist, so you could easily


identify with a society which was highly
politically conscious and in which there were
causes that you could embrace. And this is very
different from coming from England after 1945
(which was a fatigued society because of the
war experience) and also coming from the
United States where Americans, on the whole,
ideologically still live in the Victorian period.
That is why fundamentalist Christianity seems
to play a role, even in the American presiden-
tial campaigns, quite unlike any other leading
industrial society.
So, coming to the Caribbean made it easy
for me to assimilate my European socialism with
the causes that were proliferating at that time
in the region. So there was no friction. There
was a natural harmony (now I'm speaking auto-
biographically). There are some people who
come from the States or from England who bend
over backwards in order to try to be more West
Indian and more Caribbean than the Caribbeans,
which often leads to farce and absurdity.
John Hearne has written something about this in
his characteristic figure of the white
expatriate. I myself didn't fall into that
category because, possessed by an assured
ideological identity, I did not need to
discover another one.

LF: Is there a way to look at it from a broader
political perspective in terms of the actual
clash--that at least I think I see--taking
place between forces here? the fact of a
First World presence or First World preten-
sions on a large social scale and Third World

GKL: Well, as far as the Caribbean intelligentsia
is concerned, there is certainly that. I mean,
if one reads Aim6 Cesaire's famous letter in
1956 to Maurice Thorez in which Cesaire
announces his resignation from the French
Communist Party, that is a remarkable document
which announces, for Cesaire, the statement of
a Caribbean writer-artist-intellectual who is

Lamming/Lewis Interview

now completely disillusioned with what he calls
the European "Copernican" attitude to the Third
World which, he says, is a disease of condescen-
sion, which is as bad on the European left as
it is on the European right.
So, I think we have that conflict. I mean,
in the Caribbean intelligentsia, the whole
debate about the applicability of the so-called
"Westminster model" is a particular example of
that general conflict of intellectual colors.
This, again, is what makes the region so
exciting, because I fail to note that intellec-
tual excitement in England or the United
States of 1984.

GL: I think we may arrive at similar ground, but
the journeys are very different. And it
emphasizes the importance of the colonial
experience. The difference between my
growing-up, ideologically, and Gordon's, is
that I would have been growing up in a society
which didn't use the word but it certainly had
an ideology, and that was the ideology of that
Christian fundamentalism. And it was an unfree
society; that is, it was a society which did
not allow deviation from that. And it succeeded
in socializing its product to the point where
they too would not have felt very much desire
to move out of that particular cage. If you
grew up in Gordon's world, you would have been
growing up in a world where even though that
Christian ideology may have been dominant, it
was a tradition that also co-existed with a
very strong nonconformist response to that
tradition. So that even within the context
of a Christian ideology there would be a great
variety of strains and intellectual tensions
within it. Those strains and tensions would
not have been part of my world, and quite
often the first experience that we would have
had of that kind of skeptical, intellectual
inquiry--the questioning of things that had
been taken for granted--would, only, in fact,
be arrived at in the metropole. Things that
had seemed "set," things that had seemed quite
stable, we discovered should also be put under


Now, to be more specific about ideological
corrections: this is very sharp at the moment
in the Caribbean. Gordon mentioned the black
nationalism, voiced by Williams. This was
almost inevitable given the racist nature of
the colonial experience. I mean, if you came
out of a situation in which the worth of being
black was negated, by dictateand by institution,
the only counter to that was the asse rtion of
blackness. The assertion of blackness is
really a creation of the racist nature of the
society. That has percolated and influenced
a great number of people. And now it has led
(because there has been a little more opening
up intellectually in the region) it has led to
a new kind of tension, the tension between
people who believe that the black cultural
nationalism, valuable as it is (in the sense
that it restores and redeems the dignity of
people who have been trained to feel that they
were not worthy of consideration)--valuable
as that is, it is not a sufficient key for
resolving the problems of the society and
that one may have to look at the society
more in terms of its social formations, or
its classes, and the particular function of
those classes. That is what raises the
problem between cultural nationalists, on the
one hand, and those who--in a very wide way--
may be defined as Marxists. (I don't like
using the word because it sometimes means a
variety of things to different people.)
But the distinction between the two is one
about priorities; where there's still a very
strong current of what you might call that
black cultural nationalism and there is a
growing current of analysis which looks,
really, at the society in terms of its class
stratifications, the function of its classes,
and takes the view that it is only when you
can resolve that problem of class that you
will be able to put the cultural nationalism
in its correct perspective.
As far as my own case is concerned, I
function in two ways: there is a quite
visible distinction, as Gordon was saying

Lamming/Lewis Interview

earlier, between, say, the emphases of the novels
and, say, the emphases of essays or public
statements. There is not a contradiction
between them; it's simply that the forms are
quite different. If you are writing an essay
or you're giving an address, the function is to
state very directly how the head is working
and to make that statement with a view to
persuading or converting. That is the language
of statement.
When you are working within the context
of fiction, you are really exploring individual
consciousness. You are really trying to find
out- not so much where people are at but how,
in fact, they got there--what particular journeys
have people made to the point that they say
they are at? So the world of the novel is
bound, therefore, to be more complex a world.
It is a world that is dealing with a greater
variety of feeling; it is dealing with the
nature of contradictions between feelings, and
so on, which would not be in the direct state-
ments. But I think some of the critics are
beginning to see that the fictional world that
I have created is really no different in its
actual directions from the statement, the essay.
The rendering is very different, but not perhaps
the essential themes and the essential

LF: I would like to (if you can hold out a little
while longer) try one final thing that is not
in this framework. You have known each other
for a long period of time. George, is there
any question that you would like to direct to
Gordon, anything that you would like to find
out or somehow elicit from him which you have
not, until this point, had the opportunity
to do?

GL: Well, what I'd like first of all to say is that
Gordon has been, for some of us in the English-
speaking Caribbean, a very remarkable phenomenon.
Earlier this year we had a conference of
intellectual workers in Trinidad, and there


was a man--a very distinguished political
activist and a man with a long reputation as
a cultural nationalist of Guyana--who chaired
one of the sessions and introduced Gordon.
And he said a remarkable thing about Lewis.
He said that he [Lewis] was a West Indian
by choice, and that was a very important
thing. That some people may be born there
but there was no conscious decision about
that. But that he [Lewis] was a West Indian
by choice. And when you see it in his work,
it is an example not of the "visiting scholar";
it is of the Caribbean scholar who is
completely identified intellectually and
emotionally with the terrain--that is not now
only subject matter but actual human predicament.
I would like to emphasize that that has been
a very very rare occurrence for us.
And the question that I would perhaps
like to ask him is:
One, what is his own evaluation of
Caribbean scholars in his own field? How does
he see the direction of their work, what would
he say have been the limitations of that work,
where does he think that it should be going
that it has not gone so far?
And the second is, how does he see his
continuing involvement in the liberation
struggle of the Caribbean region?

GKL: Well, there's been a whole transformation of
the intellectual climate in the Caribbean
since I came, obviously, and the scholarship
of the region has contributed a lot to that.
What I still find a little disturbing is that
too many Caribbean scholars are still writing
within terms of their own island society or a
group of island societies, and they are still
not writing the sort of more regional scholar-
ship that I would like them to see. I think
this is in part due to linguistic laziness.
I don't think you can write about the Caribbean
as a whole unless you have some kind of control
--a mastery--of the three working languages
of the region: French, English, and Spanish.

Lamming/Lewis Interview

And I find that when I go to an annual meeting
of the Caribbean Historians Association, it is
an absurd spectacle. We still have to put on
a whole computerized mechanism of translation
in order that they can understand each other.
That, I think quite frankly, is linguistic
And so, you've still got a scholarship
which, on the whole, is still very insular
--like Clive Thomas's latest book on Guyana
(on the rise of the authoritarian state in
peripheral societies) which is really, basically,
a book which has as its central core the
analysis of the rise of the one-party state in
Mr. Burnham's Guyana over the last twenty-five
years. That's an example.
Here, it is extremely difficult to get
someone from there to come here, or to get
someone from here to go there, because it's
either Canada or England or the United States
where you can further your career structure
much more readily than you can do if you
decide to spend a sabbatical year in a
university within the region.
The second question--my further contribu-
tion. Well, I think it's quite simply that I
keep on doing what I have been doing. And I
see no reason to agonize that I'm at a cross-
roads here.
I think when I first came to the
Caribbean there was a problem. In England,
nobody talks about a problem of identity for
the very simple reason that because of the
massive self-confidence, traditionally, of the
English ruling classes, every Englishman knows
who he is. By conviction, he is the master of
the world! He doesn't have to argue about it.
And coming into the Caribbean, I think the
first real challenge that confronted me was
that I had to understand that there was a
pattern of identity, that the colonial person
--and this is something very valuable, important,
fundamental--that it meant a conscious effort
of will: you had to put aside certain percep-
tions that you inherited (moral and social
values) in order to understand and confront


that problem. I think I've succeeded in doing
that. I'm still trying.

LF: To close the interview, then: Gordon, do you
have any question that you would particularly
like to ask George Lamming?

GKL: Yes. If I want to understand the problem of
the English working-class boy who is denied
entry into the university, I read Jude the
Obscureif I want to understand the counterpart
of the problem in the Caribbean, I read George
Lamming. And so, it is this kind of reading
which has helped me as a political scientist
and historian to enlarge my vision of what's
going on in the Caribbean.
What I'd like to ask George is perhaps
a delicate question: coming back to the
point where we started, the function of the
novelist: how do you regard yourself in
comparative terms with the elder Naipaul?

GL: Well, I think that there is a fundamental
difference between us in the way we conceive
Caribbean society that is very fundamental
and it is very polarized.
Naipaul sees it [Caribbean society] as
a permanent and irreversible extension of
some other world and therefore incapable of
any creative alternatives of its own. I see
it as a world that is unique in its formation,
and that is really entering almost its first
chapter of the conscious discovery of itself.
That we do not yet know what this Caribbean
is, and all of the work that is now being done
with that regional consciousness is simply
aiding the process of realizing the discovery
of the Caribbean. These are two very polarized
positions on that.
One of the challenges which has always
confronted us is that we have been writers
without a substantial reading class in our
region. This reading class has expanded a
little in recent times, again due to the
extraordinary influence that an institution
can have--the fact that there is a generation

Lamming/Lewis Interview

in the English-speaking Caribbean who knows
West Indian writers has to do with the insistence
of the university that they have to be known.
This.is the importance of an institution: it
has a certain kind of prestige; the entire
society looks to it for a certain guidance and
a certain direction. So the university has
played a very critical role in helping to
create and widen that reading class.
And yet it remains constricted. So it
seems to me that in order to bring the substance
of the writer's work to a larger and larger
body of the community, I think we're going to
have to try and make more creative use of other
media of communication. And here I think that
the television becomes a critical function,
that the only hope I can see of a mass of West
Indian people getting to share how their lives
have been interpreted in novels will be the
televisual translation of those novels. That
people may become as aware of those novels
via television as today many English people
for the first time have become aware of books
that were once thought extremely difficult or
impossible to get through or may not even have
been on their agenda of reading at all. So
one of my extra-literary functions is always
trying to see how one can identify certain
agents of authority within the wider media to
bring about some form of marriage between the
writers and these media of communication for
a wider kind of dissemination. This is our
real problem: how to disseminate and to
distribute in the widest possible way a whole
body of knowledge and perception that remains
very restricted to a few.

Thank you very much.



I live with Anna M. Ellerbe. "That nice writer,"
people around here call her, though she's only published
three thin volumes of short stories and a few poems.
There are those (I am not one of them), who, seeing her
name at the head of a story, widen their eyes and smile
in anticipation. So certainly she has a reputation,
but it would be more correct to say she has a small
following. She is taught in a few schools around the
country, enough to keep her paperbacks in print and her
in not quite enough money to live as she wants. She
requires very little, her biggest expenses now being
this house with a view of the mountains and her bourbon.

About two years after they moved in, I came to live
with them. My landlord turned me out into the street.
A fiasco--"modernization," he said. Anna laughed at
my ire; "Come stay with us till you get settled," she
invited, and I've been here ever since. "Of course not;
don't be silly," Anna said when I offered to pay (I did
so immediately). She gets more than rent out of me, so
don't feel sorry for her. I cook and clean; she depends
on me absolutely, though she is oblivious to this fact.
I do everything, even to suggesting new furniture when
it's sadly needed (Anna has a peculiar and rather
embarrassing disinterest in material objects). Once
when I rearranged the living room, she seemed to
bristle, then shrugged and laughed, "Really, Margaret,
I don't know what we'd do without you." She's right,
too; all she cares about is the writing.

I teach in a nearby college, three morning classes
and one early evening adult education class (my divorce
settlement being not so large as hers). I'd have to be
gone during those hours anyway; Anna writes then, wants
me out of the house. Usually she sleeps in the after-
noon, an uneasy, jerky sleep. I sleep, too, but not
so long. Otherwise, I would not be able to stand the
strain of late nights, blurry with bourbon, when she
wants me, needs me here. She's going to kill herself
one night on these mountain roads, coming back from
publishers' parties (to which I am not invited). The
first few times I was shocked, yet she had the audacity


to claim,"I am in perfect control, Margaret, of my
senses. Thank you for your proffered help, but I am
quite capable of taking care of myself. I do not need

But she does, because her head is haunted by people:
characters, hundreds of them, the words they may or may
not say, the things they might do, what could happen to
them. She cannot write, cannot tell their stories fast
enough to gain any peace. Always there are new charac-
ters. Some sneak up sideways, she says, tap her on the
shoulder, and beg, "Here. Me. Do me."

Because she lives with these people, she has
difficulty finishing one story before starting another,
has trouble leaving a character alive. If the charac-
ter survives, she wonders at odd times what he's doing
now, and her work underway suffers from a lack of focus.
She pays me the fine compliment of asking me to read
all the stories. I like them, but I do not see myself
as making a contribution to world literature by living
with her. I live with Anna because I find her compel-
ling, or perhaps because I find Anna's characters more
compelling than Anna.

Her life.consists of dealing with the people who
inhabit her head, with her daughter Mandy, and with me.
Mandy retains her father's name, Simpson; Anna has
always written under her maiden name, had already
published several things before she married. "Alan
gave me two things," she has a habit of saying, "Mandy
and background." The second is in no way complimentary.
She merely means he took her to countries on which she
can draw for a sense of place. Alan worked for a well-
drilling company; for six years they lived, as Anna
says, "in every unheard-of pueblo in Central and South
America." Alan now owns the company; he is a rich and
lonely man, who sometimes writes me halting letters full
of questions about his wife and daughter, largely
because Anna never writes to him.

It was all her fault--the marriage and its break-
up; she admits it as readily as she does all her faults.
A wildly physical attachment that ran its course some-
where between Belen, Panama and Puerto Coyle, Argentina.


A disruptive succession of moves in and out of barely-
habitable concrete and wooden shacks, or, when they
were lucky, houses. Alan lay snoring while Anna wrote.
While she drank. That's what Anna gave herself during
those years.

She has since thrown out almost everything she
wrote during that time. The stories were full of
anger, of hurt and self-accusation. She says she came
to in the Miami airport, standing in front of the
Varig counter. "I looked at the agent and suddenly I
was asking him which airline flew to Lynchburg, Vir-
ginia. Why did I think of you?"

But we both know the answer to that, though at
that time we had never met. I was her only connection
with real life, even though I was merely a name at the
bottom of letters, the first of which invited her to
lecture, to read some work in progress, at the small
college where I teach. I was one of those few who
taught her, if her stories can be taught. I sent the
letter to her publisher; I was curious to see what kind
of woman Alan had married the second time. Curious to
see if she had fared better than I. Her answer came,
six months later, from some place in Brazil. "Dear
Margaret," it began--not even "May I?"--just "Dear

I know who you are. I can't decide if you're
interested in my work or in me, but allow me
to be the first to inform you that the former
is much more interesting than the latter.
There's no way I can come lecture. In
addition to my daughter Mandy, who's just two
--or maybe, partially, because of Mandy?--
my "work in progress" seems to get torn up
more often than sent off to the agent.

I won't quote the whole letter, because it's not
interesting; most of it pertained to my teaching of her
work. At the end she asked (I thought it forward of
her) if I would mail her a copy of Faulkner's The Town.
I sent it as a gift; she thanked me only brusquely.
Our correspondence lasted three years, without one single
reference to Alan.


So when Anna wanted to return to the core of
herself, she thought of me. The years since have been
a plodding, often unsure, return to work. Anna writes
slowly, in longhand first; that fact and her menagerie,
those characters in her head, are responsible for her
small output. She must evaluate every word and set
her approval upon it. She is seldom satisfied with
the whole of a story; the ending worries her, is not
exactly right, or an incident in the middle is perhaps
not the one which will illuminate the character as she
wishes. She exists in a state of anguish until she
becomes accommodated to the story and can begin the next
one. Like all writers, she wishes to be great. (Really,
sometimes she is such a twit.) She loves writing, but
it also dismays her, terrifies her. It is her whole
life now that Mandy is gone.

Mandy was five when they came. Already her own
person, not needing me for anything. She calls me
Tia Margaret, pronouncing it distinctly, for distancing.
People often mistake her for my daughter since we share
the same last name; Mandy has always hated this fact.

The child had few playmates, for we live apart.
She never seemed at loose ends because of it, and she
sometimes had friends over for a weekend. She became
bored quickly with childish games, then was at odds
with what to do until time for the visitor to leave.
If she got desperate, she'd suggest, "Tia Margaret
will play with you. Go ask her." Once, at sixteen,
icily arage, she called me carrion crow; "You'll never
feed off me," she spit. As if I had any such desire.
Mandy obviously has not Anna's manners, her malleability.

Anna loves Mandy with all her heart. While Mandy
was growing up, Anna was different. She wrote non-stop,
like a demented woman, while Mandy was at school. But
when Mandy came home, Anna was hers. They studied
together, shopped; Anna even cooked then, the two of
them giggling in the kitchen like kids, playing word
games over the chicken and cheese. Lynchburg, the
nearest city, is not rich in cultural activities, but
we went to everything--community concerts, artists'
shows, lectures. Occasionally we went to Charlottes-


ville for something. (Faulkner was there then. Anna
thought him a "genius"; I found him careless and contra-
dictory. Also vulgar.) During those years Anna fell
into bed when Mandy did; there was no drinking because
there was no time.

Mandy is a talented child. Anna gave her art and
Spanish lessons at the college where I teach; she took
piano lessons from a teacher who has retired to a house
similar to ours here in the mountains. Anna directed
her reading, allowing her the usual romances as she grew
older, but giving her the Brownings and Dumas at the
same time. (Mandy hated Elizabeth --"puke," she said--
but adored Robert's dramatic monologues.) During her
summers with her father she discovered the South American
writers, like Borges and Neruda, and brought them to us
in translation. That last summer she came home with
two well-worn paperbacks, the same book in Spanish and
in English, telling us to read it, that it was the
greatest book she'd ever read. I had heard of Garcia
Mdrquez, but Mandy's evaluation seemed to me, and still
does, childish hyperbole.

When I think of Mandy, I picture her two ways.
First, with her sketch pad, sitting on the grass beside
the creek. Her drawings of creek life were, I must
admit, literally alive with movement. She often said
"underwaterness"--that was her word--fascinated her;
she claimed she actually got down in the creek and looked
up in order to change her line of vision. She succeeded
in her way; those drawings express the eeriness of her
point of view. An eeriness which yet possesses a
strange reality.

The other picture is of Mandy at the end of the
sofa, feet tucked up, a book in her lap. She read as
intensely as she did everything else, but often I have
watched her musing out the window over the darkening
peaks and valleys. So, like her mother, Mandy. has
ghosts in her head. I almost heard them at times, and
often in her eyes I saw them warring with each other.

From the time she was eleven, she wanted to read
everything Anna wrote. Some stories were forbidden
her at that age, but none as she grew older. Anna came


to depend on Mandy's judgment as well as mine. Mandy
liked every single story, always found in it some person
or incident she could discuss with Anna. If I questioned
something, anything,Mandy glared at me with absolute and
pure hatred. Her mother was perfect; who was I to
question her genius?

When Mandy was a senior, the drinking began again.
Anna dreaded Mandy's leaving, but it was more than that.
All those years Mandy was growing up, Anna knew she
would drink again. In her absurd way Anna was preparing
Mandy so when the child came home to visit, she would
not be shocked. Strangely, Mandy never questioned the
drinking, never argued with Anna about it, never hinted
as its destructiveness.

We thought she would go to college, of course, but
Mandy had other plans. She informed Anna she was
going to her father. Anna tried half-heartedly to
dissuade her but eventually let her go. I believe she
felt Mandy could repair some of the damage done to Alan's
life by their having left him. A ridiculous notion,
but typical of Anna.

Mandy spent three years with Alan, who was still
criss-crossing South America. Somehow, Mandy and Anna
managed to keep up a vast correspondence, though we
never knew from one letter to the next where she would
be. She seemed to thrive on the life that had stifled

When Alan decided to retire and run the company
from home, Mandy went to Europe. She studied painting
for a term at the Sorborne, frittered away a summer and
fall travelling. But Spain drew her, that motherland
of South America. For the last six months she has
been living in a small hostel near Malaga. She writes
us highly descriptive letters that speak of "adobe
houses painted sugar-white, with round-tiled roofs
red as boiled shrimp, the sea a shocking blue, deeper
than the Caribbean. "But," she concludes, and Anna
is vastly pleased, "there is no blue here like the
blue of our mountains just after sunset."


I should say we thought she was in Malaga. One
afternoon early last week Mandy was at the front door,
laughing, hugging, and shushing me all in the same
breath. She tip-toed to the door of Anna's room, opened
it quietly, and stood for a moment watching Anna sleep.
Then she walked over to the bed, touched Anna's shoulder,
and woke her, calmly announcing she was home.

They were radiant when I left for class, inter-
rupting each others' stories, laughing at themselves.
I called to say I would stay in town; Anna never even
thanked me. She said they were almost out of breath
from talking so much, that Mandy had a pile of her
stories to take to bed with her. Anna was not drunk.

Mandy stayed almost a week. Then one morning at
breakfast she informed us she was going to visit
friends she'd met in Malaga, that she'd be gone maybe
a week. That afternoon when she stood at the door
with her suitcase, she hesitated. Returned to her room.
Came out with a huge manuscript, stuttering that she'd
planned to let us find it after she'd gone, that the
manuscript was hers, and would Anna please read it for
her. Before either of us could recover from our
surprise, she'd kissed Anna and gone.

Anna stared at the manuscript. Astonishment,
delight, and a touch of fear worked in her face. She
sat on a stool in the kitchen while I fixed dinner, her
hands carressing the manuscript incessantly. The title
page read 1016!

That was Saturday. Sunday afternoon Anna was still
in her room. The house was so quiet that when she began
talking to herself, I heard her clearly. She was over-
wrought--excited, depressed, amazed, and puzzled all at
once. Then she began to cry. I could hear her walking
up and down, sobbing.

Some time after she quieted, I knocked on her door.
Her "Come in, Margaret" was full of exhaustion. She
stood looking out the window, and after waiting for her
to turn to me, which she did not, I walked over beside
her. Her eyes were swollen but not red, as though she
had not bothered to wipe at the tears.


38 Taylor

"There it is. It's your turn now," she sighed.
The manuscript lay on her rumpled bed; I went over and
picked it up. "It's...." She failed to come up with
a word. As I turned to leave, she stopped me by
speaking. "One time Faulkner--he was probably drunk--
got mad at his daughter for interrupting him. Do you
know what he said to her?"


"He said, 'Nobody remembers Shakespeare's children.'"

I stood still, digesting the cruelty of the remark.
Then I understood.

"Now, Anna, really," I began, "your stories...."

She put her hand out toward me, a sign of dis-
missal, graceful almost. As I closed the door behind
me, she had not moved.

I read part of 016d! (whoever heard of such a
title?) that night. The next morning when I went to
get it, it was not where I'd left it. It has been that
way every morning for three mornings. I, too, have
been rereading parts of it. I still have not seen Anna,
nor have I left the house.

Anna writes stories about people in turmoil, people
paralyzed by fear and confusion. She writes other
stories about the poor, their lives of hunger, rats,
grime. So how shall I describe Ol6!? It is a gleeful
romp through Central and South America, full of joie de
vivre. It overflows with characters (too many, actually),
some vividly painted with a two-sentence brush stroke,
others richly developed, running pell-mell one into the
other. The land, which Anna and I remember well as
cluttered and depressing, comes alive with a bright
intensity that is tinged with mysticism. Though quite
possibly what I have termed mysticism is nothing more
than the idealism of youth.

Yet even I acknowledge it as an unusually good first
novel (Pope: be not the last ...). I find myself


staring out the window, shaking my head in disbelief.
Until I remember Anna.

I have fixed trays and put them at her door,
knocking and announcing, "Food, Anna." She ate nothing
until last night. This morning I heard her shower; it
is a good sign. Something else Anna inherited from her
years in South America, a fetish for cleanliness.

She came into the kitchen this afternoon and gave
me a quick hug. But her thoughts were elsewhere; she
had nothing to say to me. She laughed, a laugh that
sounded happy, as she poured her bourbon.

I can tell she is scouring her mind for new words
to use when Mandy returns.

Actually, considering her whirlwind whims, there's
small chance of her returning at all. I don't want her
here. Can you imagine the insanity of their trying to
live together? Who would do the cleaning, the cooking?
Who would keep the world at bay?

Nancy Dew Taylor
San Juan, Puerto Rico


On my way to work this morning

I saw

One hen and six chicks
crossing the road.

Two birds by their nests
swooping and clucking at cats.

A dog
munching on. bones.

One horse
tied to a tree

Two goats
behind wire.

One very long line of ants
making its way through the grass.

One sea-girt island rising
in low-level dawn cloud.

And myself in a mirror
that a man carried
on his shoulder on his way
to work
this morning.

Tony Hunt
University of Puerto Rico
at Mayaguez
MayagUez, Puerto Rico


Introduction: From South Wales to Rio Piedras

When I first started to teach at the University of
Puerto Rico in the late 1950s, I immediately realized
that I had entered into a new experience for which very
little in my previous experience either as a university
student in Britain or as a teacher in various North
American universities had prepared me. As I came, by
travel and residence, to understand the Caribbean island
archipelago, its societies seemed strange, although not
alien. There was a new language, Spanish, which I had
to pick up slowly. Ethnographically, this was a regional
society of a multi-layered pigmentocracy so utterly
different from the white-majority societies of America
and Europe. They were, in addition, small island
societies, so different again from the continental sizes
of the United States and even Great Britain. Size,
social psychology, political condition, they were all
different; it would take me some twenty-five years or
more of travel, study, research and writing to comprehend
it all. It was almost as if, like the colonizers and
conquistadores after 1492, one had wandered into a new
world that by its very strangeness and complexity
challenged every moral and intellectual assumption that
the newcomer brought to it as part of his inherited
intellectual baggage.

It was at once a challenge and an opportunity. A
challenge because it made me re-examine my general moral
and political philosophy in the light of a different
society; an opportunity because it opened up for some-
one like myself who had been trained in the fields of
history and political science at Oxford and Harvard a
whole new field of inquiry. Had I remained in England
after 1947--when I first came to the United States to
teach at the University of Chicago--I might have written
yet another book on the British cabinet system; had I
remained in the United States after the 1950s I might,
I suppose, have written yet another book on the American
presidency--both of them overcrowded fields in terms of
their respective literatures. The Caribbean, by compar-


ison, was a comparatively undercrowded field, for it is
only since the 1960s that Caribbean studies, as a
recognized discipline, has staked out its claim as being
a respectable academic discipline. I was, I suppose,
lucky to have been in at its birth, and I decided from
the beginning to make the most of it.

It is not quite true, of course, that I was com-
pletely unprepared for the encounter. The British
socialist tradition, out of which I grew, had always
taken an active interest in the colonial problem. A
whole school of English progressive opinion, influenced
as much by Burke as by Marx--Hobhouse, Cole, Laski,
Tawney--had argued the incompatibility of democracy
with empire; it was thus easy for me to identify
immediately with the struggle of colonial nationalism
that engulfed the Caribbean after 1945. That tradition
has not existed in the United States, which is why so
many of my American liberal friends in Caribbean studies
have never really understood, for example, the Puerto
Rican struggle for national independence. Even today,
they argue for the "liberal alternatives": autonomy,
limited transfer of powers, a sense of imperial respon-
sibility, economic aid to the colony; all of which
ignores the fundamental issue that, as Burke put it
magisterially, "This servitude, which makes men subject
to a state without being citizens, may be more or less
tolerable from many circumstances, but these circums-
tances, more o less favorable, do not alter the nature
of the thing. The mildness by which absolute masters
exercise their dominion, leaves them masters still."
It is because America has never really had a real
philosophical tradition in either the conservative or
the socialist sense that even the best of its liberals
have rarely been able to understand either the conser-
vative or the socialist case against capitalism, not to
speak of the case against colonialism and imperialism.

Yet all this, in my own case, growing up as a
young grammar school boy in the South Wales of the 1930s,
were theoretical apperceptions at the best. Like all
such apperceptions, they required the blood and bones of
experience. In my own case, again, that meant a number
of things. It meant getting to know the non-white
population of the old "colored quarters" in the Cardiff


seaport, segregated almost next door to the University
College, where I took my undergraduate degree in Modern
History, and where you could see the early beginnings of
racism in English life. After 1947, it meant living on
the colored South Side of Chicago, also next to a white
segregated university; I stayed at the Settlement House
run by Horace Cayton and St. Clair Drake, the authors of
the classic book, Black Metropolis. Living there as a
white intruder on "the other side of the tracks," I not
only began my apprenticeship in the study of the American
democracy but also my understanding of how Africa, as
well as Europe, had helped shape it. To spend almost
whole nights listening to jazzin small, rundown night-
clubs, often to the detriment of my eight o'clock
classes on the Midway, was to feel a passion for Dixie-
land jazz that I had imbibed from a radical Yorkshire
schoolmaster in grammar school in the West Ebbw valley;
and when later I came to readthe literature negro-
phile of Ortiz, Price-Mars, Cesaire, Fanon and its
celebration of africania, that experience came in good
stead. Although I did not know it, I was already
learning about the Caribbean even before I came to it.

There were other tributaries to this general stream
of influence and experience. During my teaching
residency at the University of California at Los Angeles
(where I in turn enlarged my American knowledge by
coming to know the seedy Los Angeles subculture so
finely revealed in the detective novels of Raymond
Chandler) Russell Fitzgibbon, probably the dean of
Latin American scholarship, opened up Latin America for
me, so that later it was not difficult for me to place
the Caribbean within its proper sub-continental frame-
work. Teachers like Karl Friedrich at Harvard taught
me the importance of constitutional rules in the modern
democratic state, although I could never agree with his
"middle way of freedom" thesis on Puerto Rico,
since it seemed to me to exaggerate the absorptive
capacity of American federalism. Colleagues like Lester
Seligman and Morris Janowitz at the University of Chicago
helped me to understand the new American sociology, a
difficult task enough with its temptation to mistake
obscurity for profundity, tempting me to believe that
American academics, as a class, do not know how to
present their scholarship with grace and flair.
Colleagues again, this time at Michigan State University


where I taught a brief summer course, introduced me to
a lasting passion for college football, in itself an
important sociological lesson, because if you do not
understand how a people play you do not understand how
they work. Above all else, in all of these different
American academic centers the visiting Englishman came
to comprehend, in immediate detail, the startling and
attractive heterogeneity, the multi-ethnicity, of the
American experience, so different from the hermetic
homogeneity of English life, and which even fascinated
an earlier visitor as critical as Marti. Much more
than England, this was a rich and exciting multi-racial,
multi-religious, multi-cultural society. There was much
truth to the standing witticism that the Hutchins Great
Books experiment at the University of Chicago was a
place where Jewish teachers taught Protestant students
how to become good Catholics. Even Balliol at Oxford,
where I had earlier been one of the last students of
its great Master, A. D. Lindsay, and from whom I had
learned the vital connection between Christianity and
socialism, had not been that. The lesson of multi-
ethnicity was important. For if America is multi-ethnic,
the Caribbean is even more so. The American experience
was, so to speak, a dress rehearsal for any European
seeking to understand the Caribbean. Without it, he
might have been too much disturbed, even possibly

Life and Work in the Archipelago

Once, then, in the Caribbean, how does the visitor,
soon to become permanent resident, come to grips with
the Caribbean reality? How does he, or she, unravel the
secret of the magie antillaise, if indeed that is

The answer is, I think, not easy. So much depends
on human nature; on the quirks of personality, on
inherited assumptions. Each person will choose the
methodology of research peculiar to his own discipline
or his own liking. It goes without saying, of course,
that basic to everything is getting a complete mastery
of the literature, both past and present; that is why
I myself have collected a large personal library over
my years of Caribbean travel, raiding incessantly govern-


ment warehouses, private collections, party headquarters,
for everything one could lay one's hands on: books,
government documents, party pamphlets, personal memo-
rabilia. It goes without saying, again, that the serious
Caribbeanist must have a knowledge and command of the
three working Caribbean languages: English, French, and
Spanish. Any deficiency there only helps to perpetuate
the fragmentation that has characterized Caribbean
scholarship as much as Caribbean history. The conven-
tional methods will help: the personal interview, the
less structured the better; the sociological question-
naire, although it has serious limitations, not the
least that what people say is often very different to
what they do and believe; the prolonged residence of
the field anthropologist among his chosen group of
people, a method from which we can all learn, for it
provides an intimacy not otherwise easily obtained.
In all of this, the inquirer must be a learner. He must
not talk so much as learn to listen. He must eschew
condescension, garrulity, loose expression of his own

None of this can be done satisfactorily at a
distance. Too much of Caribbean studies is done by way
of the quick, grant-aided research trip from some North
American or European campus. In an age of jet travel
there is still something to be said for the leisurely
inter-island schooner trip (now unfortunately taken
over by the boat-charter tourist trade) which permits
time to observe, look, talk, meet people on their own
ground and at their own pace of life. It does not have
to be Borrow on his donkey in Wales or even the English
eighteenth century nobleman doing the European Grand
Tour in luxurious splendor. But it must be, surely,
as it were, a familiar tour, even better if you can
burrow your way into a creole family and see from the
inside. Here, a Caribbean wife or husband can always
help; I doubt if I could ever have come to know so well
the West Indian middle-class family if I had not had
from the beginning a Trinidadian wife. More than any-
thing else, the outsider needs the insider. It is, I
repeat, the leisurely tour that is preferable. It can
produce the sort of rich imaginative book, like Patrick
Leigh-Fermor's The Traveller's Tree, or the various
books written by the Roths, father and son, who pioneered


anthropological study in the British Guiana of the
1920s as they wandered through the interior in their
capacity as Government land inspectors; such books tell
us more than half-a-dozen doctoral dissertations composed
in the coma of research.

My own Caribbean itinerary over some twenty-five
years has, I trust, observed these guidelines. That
itinerary has taken me from the out-islands of the
Bahamas to the Guyana interior forest, with much in
between. It has meant incessant conversations with
colonial governors, civil servants, trade unionists,
political leaders, housewives, canecutters, dockworkers,
religious cult devotees, schoolteachers, as well as, of
course, academic people in the various regional univer-
sities. Not least of all, it has meant the long
discussions in the ubiquitous West Indian rumshop, so
different from the English pub and the American saloon
bar. Manning in Bermuda, Brana-Shute in Paramaribo,
and Lieber in Port of Spain street life have shown us
what can be done with this engaging method alone. My
own encounters would cover a whole book of memoirs. I
can remember talking as early as 1958--three years
before the Jamaican academics became interested in the
phenomenon--with Prince Emanuel of the Rastafarian cult
in a broken-down cult family center on the road to
Spanish Town and understanding for the first time the
rich apocalyptic vision of the Rasta theology; or
talking with that grand old man, Teddy Marryshow, in
his beautiful little house overlooking the Grenada
Carenage, and from whom I obtained, oddly enough, a
French edition of Abbe Raynal's once-famous Histoire
des Deux Indes; or talking in a dilapidated hut in
Roseau, Dominica, with the now aged and blind trade
unionist who had been the secretary of the important
1932 Dominica conference on early West Indian political
leaders, and who gave me copies of its report; or talk-
ing with a vodoo houngan in a tennelle in a Port-au-
Prince slum district, trying to understand vodoo, for
it is the most difficult of all Caribbean cults to
understand, possessed of a theology as complex as that
of Catholicism itself; or hearing the late Robert
Bradshaw of St. Kitts telling me how, as a young factory
hand, he had been fired up by listening to a public


lecture by Marcus Garvey as Garvey passed through the
region in 1937; or talking with those fine old union
militants, John Rojas and Adrian Rienzi, in a hillside
restaurant overlooking Port of Spain, telling me about
the old political struggles for socialism and indepen-
dence long before Eric Williams arrived on the scene;
or listening to the late Sir Grantley Adams in Bridge-
town, telling me how he had been blackballed by the
white Bajan oligarchy for his progressive leadership
in the 1930s; or chatting at five o'clock in the morn-
ing with St. Lucian black porteuses as they loaded the
banana boats before that iniquitous system of cheap
female labor was ended; or, indeed, just the fine
simple pleasure of climbing the Soufriere in St. Vincent
in the company of the Forest Rangers; not to mention
endless talks with old-timns like Ariel Melchior Sr.
and Geraldo Guirty in the U. S. Virgin Islands who
filled me in on the details of their early struggle
against the old U. S. Navy administration in those
islands. My only regret is that I came too late to talk
with Captain Cipriani of Trinidad (who died in 1945) and
don Pedro Albizu Campos of Puerto Rico (who was already
in prison by the time that I arrived in San Juan in

It is perhaps worth noting that in all of this I
was possessed of two advantages, in retrospect to be
seen as of enormous importance. In the first place,
there was the advantage of place. Being permanently
stationed in San Juan after 1955 (due to the generous
welcome of good friends at the University of Puerto
Rico, including its enterprising young Chancellor Jaime
Benitez and the Dean of the College of Social Sciences,
Pedro Muioz-Amato) I was strategically located, with
San Juan being set within the very center of the archi-
pelago. When the modern cheap aviation travel system
was only just beginning, travel into the rest of the
region was easy and comparatively cheap; you could not
do the same from New York or Chicago or even Gainesville,
Florida. Secondly, there was the advantage of time. A
residency beginning temporarily in 1949 and permanently
after 1955 meant undertaking the adventure of Caribbean
studies in a vastly undercrowded and almost non-com-
petitive field. So-called "area studies" were only just
beginning in the U. S. universities. Like the members


of the Julian Steward team who wrote up their work on
Puerto Rico based on their fieldwork of the late 1940s,
I was, so to speak, in on the ground floor, so much so
that people like Robert Manners and Eric Wolf and Sidney
Mintz, like myself, may properly claim to be pioneers
in the systematic and scholarly study of the region.
There were others, too, of course, notably men like Paul
Blanshard and Eric Williams who, located in the old
Anglo-American Caribbean Commission, used their position
to start their own contribution. But, at best, we were,
all of us, only a handful. In those early days, as a
result, you could conceivably be the very first univer-
sity person who arrived on an island.-and especially
the smaller islands--to look at it and its people.
You were thereby almost automatically guaranteed a sure
welcome. Today, as we all know, it is different. From
being an almost totally neglected region thirty years
ago, the region, today, has become probably one of the
most overworked social-sciences laboratories of the
world. Visiting scholars are a dime a dozen; so much
so that when they now arrive, replete with their grant
funds, their sophisticated technological equipment, and
sometimes even an assistant or two, it is not perhaps
too much to say that the local inhabitants view them
with alarm. It is also perhaps not too much to say that,
as the published scholarly work has immeasurably accumu-
lated, much of it has seriously declined in quality.

Social Science Research in the Caribbean:
Perils and Pitfalls

What, then, makes the good Caribbeanist? As one
chooses this field of study, either by accident or design,
or a combination of both, what should be its desiderata?
What are its pitfalls? What, not least of all, are its

Any attempt to answer such questions must surely
start with a full recognition that the Caribbean still
remains pretty much a Third World region suffering from
a grim heritage of conquest, colonialism, poverty,
economic underdevelopment, cultural oppression, and
political immaturity. The European colonial powers and
after 1898 the United States have used it as a pawn in


their struggles, so that the historic role of the Carib-
bean peoples has been to accept and adjust to those
struggles; as C. L. R. James has put it, they have been
peoples who hca had things done to them by others
rather than doing things themselves. That political
and economic colonialism has been at times followed by
an intellectual colonialism, in which metropolitan
academic work has sought to justify the colonial condi-
tion; as good an example as any is the work after 1945
of the school of British academicians, imbued with the
English social-welfare mentality, who argued that the
root cause of the Caribbean problem was an imperfect
and disfigured family structure, going back to the
curious judgment of the Moyne Commission Report of 1945
that the transfer of African slaves to the region mean-t
that the transfer "did not involve the transfer of any
important traces of their traditions and customs, but
rather their almost complete destruction." An equally
apposite example comes from the French metropolitan
cultural tradition, seeing the solution for the French
Antillean peoples as their complete assimilation into
the French mission civilatrice, whether of the French
Right or the French Left; and it received its m9st
damning Antillean critique in the noble Lettre a Maurice
Thorez of Aim6 Cesaire in 1956 in which he resigned from
a French Communist Party that shared that Eurocentrist

It is, first and foremost, the intellectual obliga-
tion of the serious Caribbeanist to divest himself or
herself of such ethnocentrist assumptions, whether he,
or she, is a European socialist or an American liberal,
or even just a self-proclaimed value-free social
scientist; or even if, indeed, he or she is a Caribbean
person (for it is the worst evil of slavery that at
times it can even induce the consent of the slave him-
self). He must seek to identify those values that,
shaped by the historical evolution of the Caribbean
peoples, can be seen as Caribbean values sui generis;
then, having identified them, to attempt to give them
some reasonable sympathy.

Let me be careful to clarify what I mean by this.
I use deliberately the term "reasonable sympathy." For
I do not mean that the outsider must engulf himself in


some sort of romantic psychological transformation in
which he attempts to become more West Indian than West
Indians themselves. We have met the type, usually
radical in some way or another, both European and
American, who suffer from white, middle-class guilt;
in their radical chic manner they turn not against
European or American policies but against European and
American cultures as such; they are instant revolution-
aries, eager to advocate Fanon's war of "holy violence"
against imperialism and colonialism; they even attempt
to "go native" in their life styles, oftentimes to the
amusement of the natives themselves. In many ways,
they are absurd yet tragic figures, for like Peter on
the morning of Calvary they deny their own selves.

Clearly enough, sympathetic identification with
the Caribbean cause does not, and oughtnot, to mean this.
It means, rather, that the practitioner in Caribbean
studies, whether insider or outsider, is at the same
time a citizen, with civic responsibilities. He has
the right--and indeed the obligation--to speak his
mind on the various issues of public life, and especial-
ly those that are related to his academic interests
and concerns. In my own case--if I may again speak
autobiographically--that has meant that at various
times I have spoken on the Peoples National Movement
platform in Trinidad in 1956, supported the early social
progressive policies of the Popular Party and government
in Puerto Rico, identified myself with the trade union
movement all over, and openly criticized every colonial-
ist intervention in the region from Mr. Churchill's
gunboat diplomacy in British Guiana in 1952 to President
Reagan's invasion of Grenada in 1983. Not to so speak
and act seems to me to be the real betrayal of the

There are two arguments that are usually heard,
often in academic circles, in criticism of this position.
The first argument is that it is not the business of the
academic-citizen of one country or island society to
intervene in the affairs of another. The answer is,
surely, that however legitimate the doctrine of non-
intervention may be in the area of foreign policy it is
inapplicable in the area of political and social dis-


cussion. The academic belongs to an international
community of scholarship and in the Caribbean to a
regional community of scholarship. The University of
the West Indies itself is a regional institution; it
follows logically that its contribution must be regional.
That, certainly, is the one reason why every Caribbean
scholar should be a regionalist. Indeed, the most
persuasive argument in favor of regional integration
and political federation is that they become the
institutional bases for the growth of a regional public
opinion, in which the open discussion of what goes on in
any one single member country is not regarded as the
jealously-held privilege only of the citizen body of
that country. To reject that argument is to open the
door to the worst form of mental insularismo. %

The second argument against mixing academic research
with political commitment is that it dangerously com-
promises academic "objectivity." The answer, quite
simply, is that this argument confuses objectivity about
method with neutrality about purpose. It is one thing
to insist upon honest and careful methods of research,
for everybody knows (as the recent case of Sir Alan Burt
in educational studies in England shows) that cheating
is not impossible even at the level of the eminent
professor. It is quite another to say that research does
not have social purposes, for all knowledge is socially
conditioned and cannot escape the impact of its social
environment. It is quite true that an academic with an
outspoken political philosophy may become simply a
propagandist for his ideas. But the real antidote for
that is not to create an artificial separation between
knowledge and life but to encourage, in each one of us,
a self-imposed discipline that avoids intellectual
abuse. After all, the fact that I might support the
Cuban Revolution does not mean that I am obliged to
ignore all of its aspects with which I disagree. The
ultimate safeguard is the intellectual integrity of the
scholar himself, summed up in John Locke's fine admoni-
tion that "no path whatsoever in which I tread against
the dictates of my conscience shall ever lead me into
the mansions of the blessed."

I am not quite certain myself that much of this
counter-argument does not stem from the fact that

52 Lewis

Caribbean studies today have become almost an American
monopoly. Most of the published books on the region
come from the United States, although there are
increasing numbers from Europe and of course from the
Caribbean itself; the overwhelming majority of the mem-
berships of the relevant associations are North American.
I do not say this from any xenophobic spirit, for I
myself after all am an outsider. I mention it because
the fact seems to explain the general quality of much
of what passes for Caribbean "scholarship" today. For
American higher education is based upon the murderously
competitive pursuit of the doctoral degree. Despite
protests against the system, of which the acid essay of
William James, "The Ph. D. Octopus" is the most famous,
it has become the very center of the university life.
Combined with too early specialization at the graduate
level, it has produced a veritable avalanche of books,
articles in the learned journals, edited volumes of the
endless academic conferences, of which it is perhaps
not too unfair to say that they are at once indigest-
ible and unreadable. Typically, there are minute
researches on a minuscule topic or a small theme. Many
of them are written because they are necessary certifi-
cates in the business of promotion. They rarely approach
their subject matter in any original way. They rarely
see the bridge between their particular field of study
and the next field. They are afraid to make large
generalizations or to consider issues beyond their set
boundaries. The system, altogether, develops habits
of its own; it begets what the French call the fureur
de l'inedit. It begets the obligation not to write
upon a topic, however important, upon which someone else
is known to be writing. It begets the passion for foot-
noting, the conviction that no statement will be believed
unless it can be referred to an earlier document or

All of these traits are evident enough in the
Caribbean studies literature. You will meet the
researcher who will tell you that he is concerned only
with his specialty or "particular interest" or "concern."
His ambition is to become the recognized authority in
his "field." He will do his research, certainly pains-
takingly and conscientiously, in, say, the indices of
relationships between incest and juvenile delinquency


in Puerto Rico slums, or the detailed diplomatic corres-
pondences that preceded the abolition of slavery, or the
life-history, with every conceivable detail, both
relevant and irrelevant, of some minor figure in the
Cuba of the 1840s, or the complex patterns of family
"yards" in a small Dominican village, or the pattern
of friendship networks in a small Barbadian hamlet, or
the mathematical percentages of acceptance and non-
acceptance between migrants and locals in a Bahamian
or Virgin Islands township. All of these, of course,
are in and of themselves respectable enough topics for
investigation. But they are all written up with very
little regard for the larger picture that envelops them.
In this way the great classical tradition of humnanism
in the scholarly endeavor is seriously compromised.

There is even more to it than all this, however.
As Caribbean studies scholarship becomes more specialized
it also becomes more institutionalized. This again is
part of the larger American pattern. The field is taken
over by the research center, the "think tank," the
wealthy philanthropic foundation. The younger scholar,
who is just starting his career, is increasingly depen-
dent upon its funding and its patronage. The founda-
tions will publish areas of their own selection in which
they announce they are willing to receive applications
for financial aid, so that many candidates do not work
on topics of their own choosing so much as on topics in
which they consider they may obtain funding. The goal
is to be invited to present a "paper" to a prestigious
conference, or to contribute an article to an edited
volume in which the editors will take care that no one
view prevails, or to spend a six-month fellowship in a
comfortable hostcenter in Washington or Chicago. A heavy
premium thus comes to be placed on "contacts" in the
upper reaches of the general academic Establishments,
mainly composed of bureaucrats, administrators, and se-
nior professors in what amounts to a closed elite club.
It would be unfair to claim that they exercise ideo-
logical conformity, for many scholars of left-wing
persuasions get published, including those local Carib-
bean scholars who have begun to learn the rules of the
game. But it would not be unfair to say that this
conglomerate of powerful institutions helps decide the
direction of research; they promote "fads," of which the


heavy emphasis upon migration in recent years--now a
heavily overpublished field--is only one example.

As an "old hand" in the field I am tempted to view
this growing "Americanization" of Caribbean studies as
a clear and present danger. I do not mean this in a
silly anti-American spirit, for American scholars as
much as any others belong to the international learning
fraternity. Nor is it amiss to remind ourselves that
in recent years the American universities have become
welcoming havens for Caribbean scholars who have left
because they are political exiles or because they are
unemployed persons in the restricted Caribbean higher
educational field. Nor should we forget that, from the
Herskovits on, American scholars have made their own
seminal contribution to Caribbean studies, including,
to name a few only, Oscar Lewis, George Simpson,
Sidney Mintz, Richard and Sally Price, Henry Wells,
Wendell Bell, and many others.

What I mean, rather, is that the general institution-
alist character of American higher education is likely
to have deleterious effects as it expands its influence
into the Caribbean region; for if trade follows the flag,
so does intellectual enterprise. It is a system based
on collective, organized research, and it is arguable
that no good book was ever published by a committee,
except, perhaps, the King James version of the Bible.
It may not penalize the "loner," the scholar who can
only work within the dictates of his or her own private
intellectual passions, and who will write the great
book whatever the obstacles and difficulties; but it
certainly does not much encourage him. Too much of its
published academic literature is sanitized informational
data which exhaustively analyzes a problem but offers
little help in solving a problem in satisfactorily
theoretical terms. As a conceptual tool for solutions,
then, it is inadequate in a region, like the contemporary
Caribbean, which over the last few decades has been
researched almost to the point of death; so much so that
one is tempted to say that what we need now is not yet
more information but rather a sociology of solutions and
final purposes set within the existential conditions of
Caribbean reality.


Toward a New Caribbean Sociology

Such a sociology, of course, is already apparent in
much of Caribbean studies. As it grows and matures, it
ought, ideally, to have some clear purposes in mind.

First, its institutional base, that is, the univer-
sity, must be genuinely democratic. Too many Caribbean
universities, like the University of the West Indies,
are elitist, isolated from their common citizen body.
Even the University of Puerto Rico, which graduates
some 3,000 students a year, does so as a service-institu-
tion for government and the middle-class professions,
doing very little to modify or challenge the spirit of
bourgeois acquisitiveness so characteristic of those
professions (the calamitous decline of the sense of
public service in government is only one index of that
failure). In this sense, the University has followed
the pattern of the large U. S. state universities (and
even the private foundations) that in their personal
and institutional relationships are more geared to big
government and big business than they are to organized
labor, not to speak of the vast unorganized underclass
of American industrial society. We need to invent a new
peoples' university, marked by the alliance of the worker
by hand and the worker by brain. What I have in mind
is something like the old Workers Educational Association
in Britain, in which sympathetic university teachers
taught evening workers' classes for free; I myself can
remember, as a young undergraduate, teaching classes of
unemployed South Wales miners, among the best students
I have ever had. It is suggestive that I can hardly
think of one UPR faculty member today who lectures in
his free time to union audiences, although there are a
few more who lecture to their political party audiences.
It is in this sense that the socially-conscious scholar
carries his learning to those denied a university educa-
tion by the system. In the Caribbean, of course, Eric
Williams did it tremendously in his "University of Wood-
forde Square"; Walter Rodney did it before his death
with the Guyanese working class; Trevor Munroe continues
to do it with his Workers Party in Jamaica. We need
much more of this: in adult education; in trade union
education; in consumer education.


Secondly--and this is really part of the first
point--Caribbean studies must adopt a more humanist
spirit. Too much of it lacks that spirit. In part,
that is because of the departmentalization of the
modern academic disciplines. In part, it is because
the social sciences, in particular, have uncritically
borrowed the investigative tools of the natural sciences.
The result is that there is a sort of Caribbean studies
in which we see, not human persons, but units, models,
aggregate numbers. We see work, but not the worker;
trade unionism but not the trade unionist; imperialism
but not the imperialist; migration but not the migrant.
It is the rare book, like Oscar Lewis' La Vida or Sidney
Mintz's Worker in the Cane, which allows us to hear the
report of the victims of the system in their own words,
with their own voices. The distinction here being made,
between the study of institutions and the study of
people, was well phrased by Professor Alfred Zimmerman
some 75 years ago when describing the origins of British
sociology at that time. "The difference between the
Webbs and Graham Wallas," he wrote, "is that the Webbs
are interested in two councils and Wallas is interested
in town councillors." So if Caribbean scholarly enter-
prise needs democratizing it also needs humanizing.
Perhaps the first step in that direction should be to
begin a philosophic revolution designed to bring back
the fragmentalized disciplines into a new, human
totality; to go back, as it were, to the older nineteenth
century conceptualizations of Political Economy and
Culture History.

Along such a road it is possible that there lies
the path to a new phase of Caribbean studies. We perhaps
sometimes forget that the study of the Caribbean has an
old and honorable tradition. Far from being a modern
phenomenon, as many seem to think, it in fact goes
back to the very beginnings of post-Colombian experience.
As early as the sixteenth century Fray Ram6n Pane is the
first Caribbean ethnologist, Padre Las Casas the first
Caribbean anthropologist, Oviedo and Peter Martyr the
first Caribbean historians. The eighteenth-century
planter historians like Long and Edwards continued the
tradition, albeit from a pro-slavery viewpoint. The
great schools of Haitian and Cuban writers and biblio-
graphies laid the foundations of modern African studies


in the nineteenth century. And in the modern twentieth
century the great amateur-scholars like Ortiz and Price-
Mars, trained in the European anthropological tradition,
made us understand the deep roots of africania and
ndgritude. All of these schools, moreover, saw the
Caribbean society and the Caribbean person in holistic
terms; they did not assume that they could cut them up
into separate slices, with each slice having an indepen-
dent life of its own. It is to that tradition that we
should seek to return. As we do that, we shall possibly
be able to arrive at an imaginative image of what the
true Caribbeanist really should be.


What, then, finally, should the Caribbeanist be?
There is, of course, no magic formula for success in
any field of intellectual endeavor. Eaeh intellectual
worker is different, for the eccentricity of human
nature will always assert itself. The seminal influences
will be different in each case; Eric Williams was shaped
by Oxford, Fanon by Paris. Locale will also make a
difference; there is a world of difference between those
writers, like Lamming and Walcott, who decide to remain
in the Caribbean and those, like Naipaul, who opt for
the life of the voluntary exile. Fate and Chance, as
always in life, will play their role: C. L. R. James
lives to a ripe old age, Walter Rodney dies tragically
young. The circumstances of private life will take
their toll, for health and happiness are not automatical-
ly vouchsafed to any of us; the genius of a Caribbean
historian like Elsa Goveia was cut short by a terrible
illness that haunted her all of her life.

Within the framework of these necessities, then,
what could be regarded as the duties and obligations of
the professional student of the Caribbean? I say
"professional," of course, advisedly. For during my
own time-span in the region it has been possible still
to meet the Victorian type of the gentleman-scholar, not
related to the university life, yet at the same time an
assiduous student of the region. There was Richard
Moore, for example, whose library on the general history
of the Negro is now at the Barbados campus of the Univer-


sity of the West Indies. Another was the remarkable
Jamaican Ansell Hart, lawyer by profession, who over
a lifetime became the leading authority of the Morant
Bay Rebellion of 1865, edited his own monthly scholarly
letter, and built up two vast private libraries of
Caribbeana which he donated, in turn, to the University
of the West Indies, all before dying at the age of 93.
But these, obviously, are exceptions, and most Carib-
bean scholars today will be related in one way or the
other to university life and teaching. They are the
academic clerisy.

As such, the duties and obligations almost impose
themselves. There is teaching, where the Caribbeanist
must at once seek to impart his enthusiasm for the
subject to his students and help recruit those, who as
potential scholars, will follow in his footsteps. There
is reading, where he must keep up, as best he can, with
everything currently published. If he is in the general
area of developmental economics and planning he will
find himself involved with governmental consultancy
work which, because it pays well, may well distract him
from original research and writing; the discipline is
full of people whose final contribution has been that
of technical reports lying unread and unimplemented in
agency office filing cabinets. But this of course does
not make that kind of public service invalid, and I
myself over the years have made reports for various
territorial governments, as well as regional bodies like
CARICOM, not to mention serving as External Examiner to
the University of the West Indies.

Yet in the final analysis we judge the scholar, in
every field, by what he or she publishes; more parti-
cularly, by the publication of the really seminal book
which either significantly enlarges the body of know-
ledge or, by the sheer power of its analysis, sheds new
light upon what we know already. Caribbean scholarly
literature is rich in such titles: Ortiz' Contrapunto
Cubano, Price-Mars' Ainsi Parle l'Oncle, James' Black
Jacobins, Williams' Capitalism and Slavery, Goveia's
fHistoriography of the British West Indies, Moreno
Fraginals' El Ingenio, Ragatz's The Fall of the Planter
Class in the British Caribbean, Debien's Les esclaves
aux Antilles Francaises, Fouchard's Les marrons de la


libertY, and others. Individually and collectively, they
constitute the yardstick by which we must measure each
new contribution. They are at once an encouragement
and a warning. An encouragement, because they demons-
trate how a tiny region like the Caribbean can produce
an intellectual output out of all proportion to its size.
A warning, because they tell us that such work is the
fruit of toil and effort sometimes almost crucifying
in the demands that they make upon the individual author.

For how the individual author creates the great
book, in Caribbean or other studies, is of course a
Delphic mystery. The Brontg sisters created their
novels out of a turmoil of Romantic passions; Trollope
wrote his novels--as he tells us in his autobiography--
based on a carefully planned utilitarian daily work
schedule that almost reads like an accountant preparing
an income-tax return. In Caribbean studies, Eric
Williams turned his back on the distractions of his own
Trinidadian hedonistic society, while C. L. R. James
seems to have seen himself as some sort of creole Byron.
Whatever the case, it is surely certain that the writer,
starting, of course, with his own intrinsic genius,
without which nothing else is possible, must possess
dedication, industry, method, and an almost masochistic
readiness for hard work. He must have the stern self-
discipline that makes the great pianist like Serkin or
the great guitarist like Segovia or, for that matter,
that makes the great heavyweight boxing champion or the
great cyclist who can win the Tour de France. He must
be prepared to face the loneliness of the long distance
runner. He must, in a way, be the Puritan in Babylon,
so that he can put aside all of the distractions that
beset him in the kind of pagan, acquisitive society in
which he lives; that might even mean--and it is a hard
saying--putting aside even wife or husband, children
and friends; for he or she, if worth their salt, will
be possessed of a demonic urge to write that nothing
else will satisfy or allay. Every worthwhile writer,
in brief, is possessed by an addiction that no doctor
can ever cure. His final reward is that he will leave
behind him a body of work that age shall not wither nor
time condemn.

Gordon K. Lewis
University of Puerto Rico


Humacao of the hills
Looked out of the eyes
Of Alvarez, the jibaro.

(His hair was wild
With the wind of the earth
That rush through it.)

And suddenly saw--
From all its primeval years that,
After all, the world IS barbarous,
That nature cannot control the
World to its end, and
Civilization was moving in!
All nature's efforts
Were filled with a new plague
Called "man's progress."

Mendoza came out of the barberia
With his moustache shaved,
And Mendoza saw the world with dazzled eyes;

And Alvarez sprung up on his paso fino
And shouted Mendoza down
With superior lungs.

Humacao of the hills
Looked out of the eyes
Of Alvarez, the jibaro.

Dante Pasquinucci
Colegio Universitario Tecnol6gico
de Arecibo
Arecibo, Puerto Rico


Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Comrades
and Friends. As most of you know I have never been a
Minister of Government. Nor have I ever held public
and distinguished office in any of the institutions of
this region; and I own no wealth which would qualify me
to be a donor of aid to the needy. It is reasonable to
assume, therefore, that the University's decision to
confer this honour must be related to the facts of my
working life as a West Indian writer and their genuine
recognition of this work as a possible contribution
towards the cultural and political future of our people.
I would like to express my appreciation of their judg-
ment, and to do so on behalf of all of my colleagues,
dead and alive, who have.engaged in the art and labour
of creating a literature on behalf of the peoples of
all languages in the Caribbean. I think in this
moment especially of Roger Mais of Jamaica, Edgar
Mittelholzer of Guayana and E. M. Roach of Trinidad
and Tobago. My debt and eternal gratitude to Frank
Collymore of Barbados are already on permanent record.

Men make their own history but we can only make
that portion of it which our concrete circumstances
allow. We do not choose the time or place of our
birth, nor the parents who make this possible; but the
process of our thought, the hidden nature of our needs,
the character and quality of our imagination may be
decisively influenced by these origins. Our struggle
towards freedom is experienced always within the
external constraints of Nature and the invisible
limitations of our own consciousness.

I was born in a small village where the women were
mothers and servants. The men worked by chance--casual
labourers, house painters, shoemakers, sharpeners of
knives, and messengers for a great variety of occasions.
And since the island was small and could be viewed as
one large cane farm, we lived within the shadow of the
plantation and at the rigorous mercy of the merchant.
Our relation to bread, our relation to God, our
relation to the courts of law were influenced daily by
these demons. We were the children of an old and
enduring servant class.


Small size offers here, in its most extreme form,
a social order which prevailed elsewhere in these
islands. If culture is the means whereby people feed
themselves and the ways in which they experience their
existence, then poverty and the calculated impoverish-
ment of the mind were essential ingredients of our

For we had inherited a region which was not
designed for social living. It was intended exclusively
for production. Men and women and children were common
hands summoned or ordered to create wealth, a source of
fortune for hostile strangers. They were a reservoir
of cheap labour, the material base on which kingdoms
of luxury or convenience would be constructed else-

A dominant class, exclusively white, laid the
foundations of a cultural force that would influence
all our lives. It was the ideology of racism; a
morality whose guiding principle was the excessive
privilege of the skin. To be black was to be a
commodity identified with the cheapest of labour. White
was the symbol and source of all authority. The priest
and the planter, school and church, legislation and the
law, all gave the weight of their authority to this
social and economic arrangement; and they did so in the
name of decency, honour, and Christian democracy. And
I want to emphasize that in spite of the modifications
which we observe in contemporary West Indian society,
we have never, never been truly liberated from the
persistent legacy of this system.

This system of economic and cultural imperialism
remains in profound conflict with the struggle of
labour for an alternative society, a national dwelling-
place which would be the material reward and the
spiritual symbol of that labour: how to transform
production into creative forms of social living that
derive from the free and informed choice of those whose
labour makes our survival possible. But the power of
the system prevails.

You do not have to be a Marxist to recognize these
truths, although, in my view, Marxist analysis provides


us with the most penetrating insight into the formation
of this system and the purpose which it serves. It is
clear to me that no institution of learning, be it
University or Labour College, in the modern world,
especially in that vast area e name underdeveloped, and
by which we mean exploited, can do its duty with honour
and not come to terms with the fundamentals of Marxist
thought. Just as you do not have to be a Christian to
recognize the importance of coming to terms with the
history and the radical significance of that great
religion--only one, I remind you, among others. For
oil, you will have noticed, has restored the authority
and respect of Islam, even among bankers.

What are you new graduates really doing here this
evening? What will be your business when you leave?
Where shall you stand in relation to that system which
will offer you a market-place for the highest bidder
for your skills? These questions have their origin in
my novel, Season of Adventure, in which I offered the
prediction that the new independence arrangements would,
inevitably, fail; and in which I examined the predica-
ment of a political assassin, Powell, whom I called my

"Until the age of ten, Powell and I had lived
together equal in the affection of two mothers. Powell
had my dreams; and I have lived his passion. Identical
in years, and stage by stage, Powell and I. were taught
in the same Primary School.

"And then the division came. I got a public
scholarship which started my migration into another
world, a world whose roots were the same, but whose
style of living was entirely different from what my
childhood knew. It had earned me a privilege which now
shut Powell and the whole village right out of my
future. I had lived as near to Powell as my skin to
the hand it darkens. And yet! I forgot the village as
men forget a war, and attached myself to this new world
which was so recent and so slight beside the weight of
what had gone before. Instinctively I attached myself
to that new privilege; and in spite of all my effort,
I am not free of its embrace even to this day.


"I believe deep in my bones that the mad impulse
which drove Powell to his criminal defeat was largely
my doing. I will not have this explained away by talk
about environment; nor can I allow my own moral infirmity
to be transferred to a foreign conscience called
imperialist. I shall go beyond my grave in the know-
ledge that I am responsible for what happened to my

"Powell resides somewhere in my heart, with a
dubious love, some strange nameless shadow of regret,
and yet with the deepest, deepest, nostalgia. For I
have never felt myself to be an honest part of any-
thing since the world of his childhood deserted me."

And here we encounter one of the sharpest
contradictions of our inheritance. You are a minority;
and you are a minority because education is scarce;
and was intended to be a scarcity so that it might
serve as an instrument of continuing social stratifica-
tion, an index of privilege and status, a deformed
habit of material self-improvement. This has created
acute problems for all forms of leadership. The
political leader is the educated one. He leads from
above. It has also complicated the role of the
intellectuals in their relation to the mass of the
population. These are men and women who live and work
in an orbit of privilege, and share in those material
interests which bind them to the dominant ruling group.
Their relation to the mass of the population is a
dubious relation; it is a fragile relation; and in some
circumstances it is an utterly fraudulent relation.
This scarcity of education amidst the mass of our people
has given this minority an easy access to comfort; it
confers a superficial and sometimes tyrannical authority.
It breeds a dangerous self-importance.

The power of the old white planters derived from
what they owned. The power of the new black planters
derives from what they know. To explode the mystique
of the educated one while retaining a genuine respect
for the creative power of learning: that is the task
of organised labour.


Our recent exercise in sovereignty may yet degener-
ate into an electoral pantomime, a four- or five-year
party go-round, orchestrated by foreign interests, un-
less organised labour throughout the West Indies can
eliminate this obstacle of disparity in practical
learning between a technical and bureaucratic elite and
a labouring mass whose main argument is confined to
questions of wages and conditions of service.

Whom does your labour serve? And towards what
vision of mankind?

The symptoms of this minority class extravagance
have already received attention from the most
distinguished of your writers across more than one
generation, and have been recorded with bitter regret
by so humane a poet and person as Derek Walcott of
St. Lucia. The time is night; the ritual is the party
assembled in one of the new temples built to the glory
of the Prophet, Hilton.

In our upside-down hotel, in that air-conditioned
roomful of venal vengeful party-hacks,
lunch-drunk, scotch-drunk, cigar and brandy-stoned,
arguing, insulting till incoherence cracks....

....Guilt, sweated
out in glut, while outside, a black wind
circles the room with jasmine, like a whore's
perfume or second secretary's lotion. Fear those
which ex-slaves praise with passion. Pissed, dead
drunk, I soar to hellish light. In the lobby,
cigars with eyes like agents drilling me.

Throughout the literature of the Caribbean, this theme
of spiritual dispossession and self-mutilation remains
central to the thought and perception of your writers;
and it's no wonder that the gradual infiltration of
their books into the education of our youth is made a
cause of grave concern.

But it is the function of the writer to return a
society to itself; and in this respect, your writers


have been the major historians of the feeling of your
people. To separate them by open or hidden forms of
censorship from a generation which needs to be provided
with a firm sense of historical continuity, would be to
inflict upon us a second stage of isolation.

We started out as men, some of us younger than you
graduates, who had to conduct the most bitter struggle
simply to retain a minimum of confidence in ourselves,
and in our feeling that we could, with a little luck
and a fair chance, do what our instincts and our gifts
demanded. Ridicule and a habitual neglect were the
social barriers which always threatened us with
destruction. And in desperation we started on that
fateful journey which had always been the saving doom
of our people. We took flight; hence the phrase and
paradox which would become a continuing source of
argument, my own "Pleasures of Exile".

But it is often forgotten that we did not leave as
men, certificated and equipped to bargain in the intel-
lectual market-places of Europe. Like other forms of
migrant labour, we were journeying, hopeful and power-
less, towards an expectation. This exile was, then, a
historical necessity, and the logical consequence of
that social and economic order I have asked you to
consider and reject.

But such are the contradictions of this imperial
arrangement, that this same power which had organised
the castration of our creative energies, would be
responsible for returning our names where they belonged.
The enemy had rescued us from total anonymity. That is
the pleasure and paradox of that exile. And our modest
achievement has been that, in spite of this separation
from the sources we needed for our survival, we were
able to produce a body of work which would, in time,
become the base from which other men would carve their
own careers as teachers and critics in this University
and similar places throughout the world.

Which brings us back where we began: to the
charmed circles of the educated ones, and the obstacles
of disparity in practical learning between that minority
and the starved mass of our populations. One stage


towards a solution would be to use the communications
media in the service of your literature and on behalf
of those whose lives have made it possible.

But the media, as it functions today, is the major
agency of that cultural imperialism we would escape; a
major obstacle in our progress towards the liberation
of this region.

These reflections are not spontaneous. They have
a certain origin; they have grown out of a particular
soil. They have been fertilised, so to speak, by a
certain reservoir of experience; and they travel with
me like a passport everywhere.

Half a century is long and not so long. For it
was the triumph of the Cuban revolutionary response
that alerted many of us to the fact that a new chapter
had begun in the politics and cultural life of the
Caribbean people. And Cuba is an integral part of our
historical reality. In 1960 the economic and cultural
boycott of that country was total. In 1979 all the
island parishes of the Caribbean had met in Havana to
participate in the Third Caribbean Festival of Arts.
Caribbean literature in English had discovered through
Cuban publications in Spanish a new intellectual and
blood connection with the reading classes of the Spanish-
speaking Americas. The Jamaica National Dance Company
had become a regular and prestigious feature in Cuban
cultural life. Half a century is really not so long!

And we have now a criterion of achievement in the
miraculous birth and flowering of the Cuban revolution;
the most profound and creative political event in this
region in my lifetime, and in the lifetime of all of
you here this evening. It was fought by the Cuban
people; but it was not won for the Cuban people alone.

Such a battle against the exploitation of your
region is also your battle. The victory is one you can
honourably share. And it must always be rewarded by a
pan-Caribbean embrace; and defended, whenever necessary,
by a pan-Caribbean resolution. Yet Cuba must not be
applauded for the wrong reasons, or taken as the final
prescription for change. Out of the concrete circum-


stance of our reality each must forge the appropriate
method towards the model which transforms.

So that when the question is asked again "What were
you really doing here in this Cave without a Hill, and
what was your business when you left?" Your answer may
be taken from Martin Carter of Guyana, the truest, the
purest, and the most authentic poetic voice of my

And so
if you see me
looking at your hands
listening when you speak
marching in your ranks
you must know
I do not sleep to dream
but dream to change the world.

George Lamming


Cesar Andreu Iglesias, ed.; Juan Flores, trans.
Memoirs of Bernardo Vega: A Contribution to the
History of the Puerto Rican Community in New York.
New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984.

"Memorias" in Spanish or "Memoirs" in English
inspire the image of an experienced and perhaps genial
individual recalling and recreating the past from which
he has emerged. And while this is true of the informative,
poignant, and, yes, comic Memoirs of Bernardo Vega, I
would further assert .that to remember one life is to
resurrect many others. As such, the lengthy subtitle,
A Contribution to the History of the Puerto Rican
Community in New York, accurately cues the reader as to
the book's scope and intention. The Memoirs of Bernardo
Vega is a broad portrait and detailed documentation of
the people, the political and social events, and the ideas
and attitudes of the Puerto Rican enclave in New York
City known as "El Barrio" from the late 1850s to the
early 1950s.

Edited by the novelist and labor activist Cesar
Andreu Iglesias from a semi-autobiographical novel which
Bernardo Vega had worked on during the last decade of his
life, the book was first published in Spanish in 1977.
It was instantly recognized as a unique work, a classic
of its kind now available to English readers in this
finely turned translation from Juan Flores. Apart from
a few stumbles with idiomatic phrasing and the lack of
a helpful glossary, the translation is very readable and
faithfully parallels the down-to-earth quality of Vega's
style. But more about the translation later.

Beyond the valuable information on the relatively
undocumented lives of the early Puerto Rican and Cuban
emigrants in New York City, the Memoirs is good reading
because Vega, a dedicated advocate of Puerto Rican
independence and a feisty socialist, lived through much
of what he wrote about. As a consequence, he imparts a
sense of pride and urgency to his writing.

,u Book Reviews

At two different points in the text, Vega states
reasons for writing, reasons which prefigure ideas towards
the re-writing of history often found among Afro-American
writers and feminists. He says, "In order to stand on our
own two feet Puerto Ricans of all generations must begin
by affirming our own history. It is as if we are saying
--we have roots, therefore we are." In a segment on his
adventures in the Postal Censorship Office during World
War II, he further notes, "I write what follows because
it pained me deeply to see so many good, cultured people
subjected to shameful treatment and forced to accept
injustice in order to stay alive." The Memoirs of Bernardo
Vega is, then, not simply a social history but also Vega's
expression of ethnic pride and cultural affirmation.

While the narrative of the book is largely
chronological over its six parts, Vega does not begin
his portrait of the community's evolution until the
second part. In Part I, "The Emigrant Life," we first
meet Bernardo Vega, "heavy of heart but ready to face a
new life" on the eve of his departure from Puerto Rico
in August, 1916. Vega's good humor comes through
immediately in such self-description as, "All in all,
I suppose I was rather ugly, though there were women
around who thought otherwise."

One thing which may strike a few readers as
curious is Vega's decision to omit telling us anything
of his life prior to leaving for New York. A few things,
however, are generally known. Vega was a grown man of
some thirty or thirty-one years when he boarded the
steamer Coamo for northern shores. He came from Cayey
which, along with San Juan, Bayam6n, and Caguas, was
known for its local tobacco industry. Being a tabaquero
or cigar-roller, he was a member of a relatively select
group of an emerging artisan working class in Puerto
Rico. Other artisans at the time, distinct from the
masses of land-working jibaros or country folk, were
the hatmakers, carpenters, breadmakers, plumbers, masons,
tailors, and printers. The tabaqueros were further set
apart from other artisans by their tradition of
socialist and utopian thought, their high regard for
debate and study, and their labor activities.

Moreover, at the time of his departure, Puerto
Rico as a whole was experiencing a radical change in the


shape of its economy. This was a direct result of the
sudden access to the U. S. markets for Puerto Rican
products as well as the input of U. S. expansionist
entrepreneurs and dollars into the sugar, coffee, and
tobacco industries. Consequently, while the economy
was shifting, so was the nature of work and the
relations between workers, owners, and product. In the
midst of all this, the tabaqueros were very active in
calling for strikes to better their salaries. But, at
the same time, the number of available tabaquero jobs
was dwindling. It is from this mixed environment of
exciting, progressive labor politics, a changing
economy, and a paucity of jobs for those in the tobacco
industry that Vega takes his leave.

Arriving in .New York on the eve of World War I,
he experiences a commingling of fear and fascination,
disillusion and delight so often found in accounts of
the immigrant experience. He has a love affair, learns
English in a crazy hodgepodge of different nationalities,
stumbles into his first and nearly last job in a
munitions plant, later lands a series of tabaquero jobs,
and finally ends Part I with the propitious discovery
of his long lost Uncle Antonio.

In the chapter on "The customs and traditions
of the tabagueros and what it was like to work in a cigar
factory in New York City" Vega draws a fascinating sketch
of the tabaquero workshops. In the hispanic workshops
of New York, as in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Key West, and Tampa,'
the workers would hire a reader. In the mornings, he
or she (many readers were also women) would read aloud
from newspapers and other sources of current events.
The afternoons were devoted to novels on social themes,
tracts on socialism, anarchism, pacifism, and then
literature in philosophy and the sciences. Once the
reader finished, the tabaqueros would summarize and
debate the validity of the ideas while continuing to
roll cigars. One can see, then, why the tabaqueros
were a select group, as they often spent their days
discussing writers such as Bakunin and Jules Verne,
Marx and Flaubert, or Hugo and Darwin. This chapter
alone is a marvelous contribution to the history of
labor in the U.S. and Caribbean. The mere image of
cigar-rollers in a dusty room, with voices raised in
debate over the nature of man, work, and social change,

Book Reviews

with occasional asides from the shop's resident jokester,
is itself a thing to behold.

In Part II, "Historical Background," Vega uses
one of the few consciously literary devices of the book.
By claiming to summarize a series of conversations with
his Uncle Antonio, Vega takes us back to the 1820s
into the lives of his smuggling great-grandfather and
grandfather, both Spaniards. In turn, the narrative
flows up through Uncle Antonio's early life in New York
and out into the political events of the hispanic
community of the late 1880s In so doing, the reader
has the feel of both historical report and eyewitness
account. And, of course, the witnessing goes beyond
his uncle's immediate life into the early struggles for
independence in Latin America and the Caribbean.

During these early years of struggle, Vega notes
that New Orleans was the center of "Antillean exile
activity." Not until the late 1860s when the famous
abolitionists and independence advocates Segundo Ruiz
Belvis and Ram6n Emeterio Betances arrived in New York,
did New York become important for the Antillean liberation
movements. Vega portrays the New York-based version of
the Antillean struggles as a series of stirring,
patriotic meetings where those involved attempted to
organize armed invasions of Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Unfortunately, all attempts failed clumsily and the
community fell into despair. However, with the arrival
of Cuban poet and luminary, Jose Marti, the movement
gained impetus once more. For those interested in Marti's
life in New York, the book offers a wealth of eyewitness
accounts and gossip which reveals Marti as a startling
orator openly debating a scandalous love affair along
with his dreams for a liberated Cuba.

Part II ends with Marti's death upon returning
to fight in Cuba. A few years later, the U. S. invaded
both Cuba and Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American
War, thereby changing the New York hispanic community's
perspective on the actors and issues in the Antillean
liberation movement. Of interest here are Vega's
accounts of the debates, even in the last century, between
those advocating independence and those in favor of
annexation to the U. S. He also underscores the


apparent collaboration of such upper-class Puerto Ricans
living in New York as Dr. Julio H. Henna and Roberto H.
Todd with President McKinley and General Miles, who led
the U. S. takeover of Puerto Rico.

Whereas Part II presents the Antillean exile
community as an extension of the struggles for independence
from Spain, the rest of the book focuses on the Puerto
Rican community as it grows into a recognizable element
within the ethnic mix of greater New York. In Part III,
entitled "After 1898," we see the community begin to
establish its own set of social clubs and ways of
responding to pressures--both racist and economic--from
the larger North American society. It is a time of
crushing poverty and minimal participation in local
politics. Nonetheless, Vega reveals the community as a
definite group with identifiable concerns. He mentions
such preposterous ideas as that of establishing a second
Puerto Rico somewhere in Asia or South America so as to
relieve the so-called Puerto Rican population problem.
He also discusses the little studied migration of field
workers from Puerto Rico to Hawaii at the turn of the
century. And being the social chronicler, he also
comments on the community's music, entertainment, and

In particular, three figures make their appearance.
The young Luis Muioz Marin, who was to become a central
figure in the political definition of modern-day Puerto
Rico, wins honorable mention in the "Juegos Florales" of
1919 for his poem, "Yo soy tu flauta." Luisa Capetillo,
the first woman suffragist of the Antilles, also appears.
A woman who compares with Mother Jones and Emma Goldman,
she worked as a reader in the tabaquero workshops while
advocating both workers' and women's rights. Finally,
Vega presents Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, the black Puerto
Rican who made a number of remarkable contributions to
the history of Afro-American culture in the states.

Parts IV and V stretch through the 1920s and
the Depression years of the 1930s These were times both
of consolidation of the Puerto Rican community and of
internal divisions over the politics of Puerto Rico's
relationship with the United States. Organizations
such as La Liga Puertorriquena, La Alianza Obrera, and
the Puerto Rican Brotherhood of America arose to define

/4 Book Reviews

and defend community interests. In turn, "There arose a
culture typical of that common experience of people
fighting for survival in the face of hostile surroundings.
In the long run, that culture was to bear fruit in its
own right."

But with that consolidation came a divisive issue
still current in discussions about the parameters of Puerto
Rican identity. In particular, Vega analyzes the conflicts
between two major groups advocating independence for Puerto
Rico at the time. The Nationalists, headed by Pedro
Albizu Campos, felt that all Puerto Ricans in New York
should place their efforts into the struggle for independence
and not concern themselves with improving the quality of
life in exile. The Communists, with whom Vega sided,
argued that such an exclusive concern for independence
ignored the daily lives and necessities of those living
in "El Barrio." Moreover, it .implied a rejection of the
fact that "El Barrio" was a genuine Puerto Rican community,
albeit outside the geographical boundaries of Puerto Rico
itself. For many Puerto Ricans even today this remains
a matter of dispute. In simple terms the question is,
"Are you still a Puerto Rican if you are born of Puerto
Rican parents in New York and consider New York City
your home?"

Woven among the reports on social issues and
community meetings, which are Vega's primary concern
as a chronicler, we read of his own exploits in a series
of jobs. In part, his personal adventures serve to
illustrate the range of the community's tragicomic
experiences. First, he cleans metal pipes in an under-
water version of Dante's Inferno. Next, he works as the
master of ceremonies in a disreputable speakeasy which
he describes with amusement and shame. Later, he returns
to the tobacco industry as a salesman of tobacco leaves and,
for the first time, he "came into some big money."

But Vega's focus on himself is relatively brief.
What he does do well in these parts- of the book is to
clearly document a number of civil rights concerns which
would come to the forefront during the Vietnam era in many
large cities across America. He discusses the role of the
movie industry's malicious stereotypes of Mexicans,
Puerto Ricans, and Blacks in perpetuating the racism
inherent in so much of North American life. He notes how


discrimination in housing leads to ghettoized communities
which, in turn, may result in an array of health hazards
for the residents. The stigma of tuberculosis was much
an issue then. He also denounces the use of culturally-
biased intelligence testing as a means of denying Puerto-
Rican children an equal education.

Part IV extends from the close of the Depression
up through World War II and into the late 1940s. Where
Vito Marcantonio, the controversial New York politician,
had fought to defend the Puerto Rican community during
the 30s we now read of Vega's admiration for Henry A.
Wallace, who was to form a third party attempt at the
Presidency in the late 40s. These years were the times
of the Ponce Massacre in Puerto Rico, the lean and
frightening years of war, and the subsequent redefinition
of Puerto Rico's status under the tutelage of Luis Mufoz
Marin as an "Estado Libre Asociado." As such, the Puerto
Rican community headed into a new phase. Vega, who had
lived outside of the city in relative tranquility for a
few years prior to the war, returned anxious for political

In the best writing here, he describes his
misadventures while working in the Postal Censorship
Office during the war. After the war he returned to
Puerto Rico for a brief visit, the first such visit in
many years. There, much to his puzzlement, he encountered
on Puerto Rican soil the first phobias towards communist
sympathizers which flourished in the McCarthy years.
Finally, the book ends with Vega back in New York
pondering a return to Puerto Rico and weighing that against
the idea of working in the presidential campaign of Henry
A. Wallace.

Although I enthusiastically recommend the Memoirs
of Bernardo Vega, there are a few things which may either
perplex or perturb the reader. For example, Vega was
indefatigable in chronicling the innumerable community
organization meetings. However, the long lists of names
which accompany every meeting's notation grow tiresome.
Community genealogists are well served, but the rest of
us could do with fewer lists.

Moreover, Vega does seem periodically overzealous
to protect the good name of the Puerto Rican community.

/1 Book Reviews

As a consequence, he could write such humorous sentences
as, "Felix Munet, the son of a distinguished family from
Ponce, held up a commercial establishment at 532 West
22nd Street."

At other moments he implies that most crimes in
"El Barrio" were perpetrated by the riffraff from other
Latin American countries posing as Puerto Ricans. So
much for solidarity with our Latin brothers! Such
tendencies, of course, must be seen in Vega's context
where a great deal of groundless slander was hurled at
the Puerto Ricans living in New York. However, we also
hear Vega claiming that, for example, no tabaquero would
ever attend the wild rent-parties people threw in Harlem
to help pay the rent. We can accept such pronouncements
from a cigar-smoking moralistic uncle, but not from a
social analyst.

Vega reveals other questionable attitudes which,
one may argue, reflect some of the social prejudices of
his times and place. For instance, I would cite his
decidedly acerbic portrayals of the supposed homosexuals
who were his immediate superiors in the Postal Censor-
ship Office. Quite the macho, he claims, "...as far as
I know there were no Puerto Ricans among the homosexuals."
And, contemporary feminists may wonder aloud why Vega
so explicitly gives us the name of his first lover in
New York (who was not Puerto Rican), along with the
details of their romantic denouement, without ever once
mentioning the names of his two wives and children (who
were Puerto Rican).

Vega would probably argue that he included only
that information he deemed thematically relevant to his
portrait of the community's life. Indeed, at one point
he says, "Of my personal life, I shall say nothing as
that is of little importance." The point is, however,
one's personal life includes the life of family and home,
both of which are central to any community's evolution.
Yet, Vega chose to omit these.

Finally, I would like to indicate a few short-
comings in the planning of the book and its translation.
While the translation is fine, some readers may be
distracted by Flores's abundant use of original Spanish


terms such as tabaquero, bodega, amalgamados, piragUero,
pasteles, and cuchifritos. In addition, there are a
large number of newspapers, magazines, and social
organizations mentioned in their original Spanish such
as Dos Antillas or El Porvenir. The meaning and poetry
of these names is all but lost to the reader who knows
little Spanish. And, among all of the hundreds of names
the reader will find such important figures as Santiago
Iglesias, the father of the Puerto Rican labor movement,
and Julia de Burgos, one of Puerto Rico's finest poets.
However, very little background information is given which
could help the reader see the significance of these
people. I suggest either a glossary of terms and names
or the addition of a few more footnotes to lend guidance
to those not on intimate terms with Spanish and Puerto

Having read the Memoirs first in Spanish and
then in English, my impression is that Vega would be
intrigued by the few negative things I have to say about
the book. He was, as his Memoirs prove, a man with a
great appetite for ideas and debate. Any future
researchers of the Puerto Rican experience will most
certainly feel his spirited impulse to say, "We have
roots--therefore we are."

Richard Cameron
University of Puerto Rico
Rio Piedras, P. R.


George Lamming.
The Pleasures of Exile.
London, 1960; Allison and Busby, 1984.

Caliban had got hold of Prospero's weapons
and decided that he would never again seek
his master's permission.

George Lamming views Language, with its
ability to shape and interpret reality, as Prospero's
principal weapon, and The Pleasures of Exile consists
of a series of interrelated essays exploring the
transfer of the power of the Word from Prospero to
Caliban. After identifying (1) discovery and colonization
and (2) emancipation and new immigrant populations,
Lamming then asserts that the far more recent emergence
of the novel--the development of self-revealing,
self-interpreting language--is the third important event
of West Indian history. At first the proposition may
seem absurd--the far-fetched notion of an arrogant
young "writer-in-exile." But given Lamming's unique
position in 1960 as a representative of a generation of
West Indian writers who felt driven to the metropolis
by the same sense of insular suffocation, the idea
deserves closer consideration in terms of its cultural
and geopolitical implications.

The Pleasures of Exile was first published in
1960, when Lamming, then 33 years old, had attained a
measure of critical acclaim unequalled by other West
Indian writers. The success of In the Castle of My Skin
(1953) elevated him to that position, and The Emigrants
(1954), Of Age and Innocence (1958), and Season of Adventure
(1960) followed in rapid succession. Names such as
V. S. Naipaul, Derek Walcott, and Edward Kamau Brathwaite
were still virtually unknown, and perhaps only Aim6
Cesaire and Frantz Fanon matched Lamming as Caribbean
writers recognized and accepted by Europeans. Thus, in
1960, before the collapse of the West Indian Federation,
before independence, and just after the initial triumph
of the Cuban Revolution, Lamming's comments record the


power then still held by England to valorize the work of
writers who found no audience within their native colonial
environment. His thesis contends, however, that the
success encountered by West Indian writers significantly
contributed to the identification and undermining of the
influence Prospero could wield over Caliban.

The new edition of The Pleasures of Exile comes
24 years after the first, and with the exception of a brief
introductory statement, it remains unchanged. But the
literary and political context in which the book must
now be received is very different. First, Lamming's
productivity as a creative writer has suffered--only
Water with Berries (1971) and Natives of My Person (1972)
have appeared, and neither gained the acclaim of earlier
work--and a new generation of West. Indian writers has
established itself on ground where Lamming once seemed
dominant. Second, the former British colonies are now
independent island-states with internal class, color,
and culture distinctions probably not as clearly defined
in 1960 as they appear today. Third, the political
presence of the United States plays an increasingly
prominent role in the West Indies, and financial support
and recognition for writers as well as for governments
frequently become tied to U. S. institutions. Fourth,
the need to flee the islands in order to write about
them is not as apparent as it was three or four decades
ago. Do Lamming's observations retain their value when
viewed within those redefined parameters?

The character of Caliban--at times, Caliban in
revolt--remains. He burst onto the scene in a new role
in Cuba, and his features are clearly discernible in the
neo-colonial structure of U. S. economic aid and resort
tourism. The rise of the New Jewel Movement and the
subsequent invasion of Grenada record the complexity of
the character and the range of his possibilities for
both self-affirmation and subservience. Thus, although
political status has changed, the West Indies continues
to live with what Lamming calls Caliban's "unstated
history of consequences, an unknown history of future

Roberto Fernandez Retamar's Caliban: Apuntes
sobre la cultural en nuestra America (1972) is probably

Book Reviews

the most articulate account of the cultural and political
implications of Caliban's current dilemma. Fernandez
Retamar indicates that 0. Mannoni's Prospero and Caliban
(Paris, 1950: New York, 1956) "probably for the first
time" characterized Caliban as the colonized subject.
But he finds that text grounded in theories of paternalism
and dependency--positions soundly refuted by Frantz Fanon
in Black Skin, White Masks--and claims that Lamming's
view in The Pleasures of Exile fails to break the circle
of Mannoni's analysis. Fernandez Retamar then quotes
Lamming on language:

Prospero has given Caliban Language; and
with it an unstated history of consequences,
an unknown history of future intentions.
This gift of Language meant not English, in
particular, but speech and concept as a way,
a method, a necessary avenue towards areas
of the self which could not be reached in
any other way. It is this way, entirely
Prospero's enterprise, which makes Caliban
aware of possibilities. Therefore, all of
Caliban's future--for future is the very
name for possibilities--must derive from
Prospero's experiment which is also his
Provided there is no extraordinary
departure which explodes all of Prospero's
premises, then Caliban and his future now
belong to Prospero. . Prospero lives
in the absolute certainty that Language
which is his gift to Caliban is the very
prison in which Caliban's achievement will
be realized and restricted.

When asked in 1984 about the interpretation, Lamming
responded that he felt quoted out of context, and in
fact, Fernandez Retamarzanalysis overlooks the intention
of The Pleasures of Exile to detail "an extraordinary
departure which explodes all of Prospero's premises"
--the West Indian novel as an act of cultural self-affirm-
ation. Also, isolating the idea that Prospero's gift of
language "is the very prison in which Caliban's
achievements will be realized and restricted" does not
fully account for the emphasis Lamming places on Caliban's


view of himself, the possibilities of his future, or his
ability to use Prospero's gift, change it to meet his
own demands, and destroy the prison which Prospero has

But Fernandez Retamar's inclusion of Lamming's
depiction of Prospero's "gift of Language" pinpoints a
crucial contradiction at the thematic core of The Pleasures
of Exile: the concept of "language" remains an abstraction,
and issues concerning language's role as part of ongoing
social processes, and language for whom--for writers and
readers?--and for what--for literature only?--are not
fully addressed. The real question, then, becomes not
one of metropolitan paternalism per se but of the
functions language serves.once it is free from the prison
of Prospero's control.

Lamming insists that real-life Calibans can take
Prospero's language, master and control it, and shape a
vision of self and reality that explodes[] Prospero's
old myth," "christen[s] Language afresh," and shows[]
Language as a product of human endeavor." To do that
means to recognize that Caliban does not arrive naked on
the scene and that he has a pre- and non-Prosperian being.
Lamming emphasizes the point when he describes his
experience watching a Boy Scout ceremony in Ghana. Once
the ceremony was over, the boys broke into their native

They were talking all at the same time.
The voices clashed like steel; and their
hands were like batons conducting the
wild cacophany of their argument. . .
They owed Prospero no debt of vocabulary.
English was a way of thinking which they
would achieve when the situation required
it. But their passions were poured
through another rhythm of speed.

Passions "poured through another rhythm of speed,"
even when the language spoken is that imposed by Prospero,
serves as an apt definition of what Lamming sees as the
role of the West Indian writer: the re-invention and
re-christening of language to incorporate a remembered
but unwritten past--Africa, the passage, slavery, India,

Book Reviews

China, servitude, the submerged structures of other
languages, religions, and customs--and to bring it to
bear on the interpretation of Caribbean reality and the
formation of future possibilities. But that characteriza-
tion begins to approach the function Fernandez Retamar
assigns not to Caliban but to Ariel--the intellectual
who mediates between the worlds of Prospero and Caliban.
Whether dealing with Boy Scouts or writers, the problem
arises of creating a hybrid mediating class--a class of
Ariels-once-Calibans to rule in Prospero's absence.

Of course, that is not Lamming's intent, and he
provides the key to resolve the issue when he prefaces
"A Monster, A Child, A Slave"--the chapter devoted to
The Tempest--with a poem by Aim6 Cesaire:

Eia for those who never invented anything
Eia for those who never conquered anything
But who in awe give themselves to the essence
of things
Ignorant of the shell, but seized by the
rhythm of things
Not intent on conquest, but playing the
game of the world
True and truly the first born of this world

But whereas the subjects of Cesaire's poem know no
"pleasures of exile," Lamming's Calibans are the
splendid individuals, the nationalist leaders, the
chosen ones--the principal examples are Toussant
Louverture, C. L. R. James, and George Lamming himself--
those adept because of historical accident or extra-
ordinary effort or talent in the use of Prospero's gift
--who can overcome personal history and rise to assume
Prospero's powers.

Yet Lamming's approach is not so much flawed
as it is truncated. He focuses on a specific stage of
colonial development--a kind of creole enlightenment
more characteristic of the nineteenth century but delayed
in the British West Indies. That perhaps accounts for
the "paternalism" of Fernandez Retamar's description.
Furthermore, along with being the first Caribbean writer
to identify himself directly with Caliban, Lamming also
places Prospero within a broad political context:


His imperialism is like an illness, not
only in his personal relationships, but
in his relations to the external and
foreign world. This island belongs to
Caliban whom he found there; yet some
privilege allows Prospero to assert--
and with an authority that is divine--
that he is the lord of the island.

That authority--the prerogative of metropolitan power--
circumscribes Caliban's being. But even in the context
of The Tempest, it is not necessarily divine: a superior
knowledge of sorcery is the governing technology that
informs Prospero's authority, and the access to that
knowledge is language.

In that sense, Lamming also sees language as
serving a rhetorical function within the context of
political authority:

Today, the traditional Prospero has been
seen. Moreover he has been seen by the
help of the very methods which he
introduced, the very language of motive
and intentions which were once his most
guarded secret. The old blackmail of
Language simply won't work any longer.
For the language of modern politics is
no longer Prospero's exclusive vocabulary.
It is Caliban's as well; and since there
is no absolute from which a moral
prescription may come, Caliban is at
liberty to choose the meaning of this

In 1960, it was no doubt possible to conceive nationalism,
political independence, and the affirmation of cultural
identity provided in forms such as a national literature
as a means of sufficiently substituting for the structures
of metropolitan authority. By 1985, after the accomplish-
ment of those goals, that view of West Indian society and
literature seems myopic.

Lamming's interpretation of the textual roles of
Prospero and Caliban serves as a valid indicator of

Book Reviews

political and cultural impulses in the 1950s and provides
a record of the last stage of direct metropolitan involve-
ment. But "A Monster, A Child, A Slave" concentrates on
literary metaphor and the rhetorical function of
language and not on the concrete social circumstances
which would govern the West Indies after 1960. The seeds
of such developments are clearly apparent--as they are
in Lamming's novel Season of Adventure (1960)--but Lamming
decides to approach the situation from a different
direction. One of his purposes in writing is "to make
available to all the results of certain enterprises
undertaken by men . still regarded as the unfortunate
descendants of languageless and deformed slaves," and
"Caliban Orders History"--the chapter that follows
"A Monster, A Child, A Slave"--condenses C. L. R. James'
The Black Jacobins to celebrate the history of Toussant
Louverture and the Haitian slave revolt and the intellectual
stature of James himself as examples of Caliban's
ascendency. The examples are well taken, but they do not
entirely substitute for an analysis of the ability of
contemporary Calibans to order history and a future of

One of the problems of reading The Pleasures of
Exile 25 years after its initial publication is the
recognition that it is not really a "book" in the
ordinary sense. Rather, several book fragments become
intertwined, and the text often reads like what I
suspect it really was: the exercise of a young writer
in search of a narrative form applicable to non-fiction
as well as to novels. But this also constitutes one of
the pleasures of reading The Pleasures of Exile and
among the imbricated segments, two strike me as
particularly interesting. The first characterizes the
reactions of young Ghanians in front of the Hotel Kingsway
to American cowboy films. The scene Lamming creates
approaches the kind of vivid recollection of experience
that Bertolt Brecht achieves in his famous "Street Scene,"
where a spectator acts out the roles of the principals
in a traffic accident. The second comes very near the
book's end and ignites an ongoing literary and cultural
debate. The characters are Lamming, Sam Selvon, V. S.
Naipaul, and shortly thereafter, Derek Walcott. The
comments on Naipaul are the most telling:


When such a writer is a colonial, ashamed
of his cultural background and striving
like mad to prove himself through promotion
to the peaks of a "superior" culture whose
values are gravely in doubt, then satire,
like the charge of philistinism, is for me
nothing more than a refuge. And it is too
small a refuge for a writer who wishes to
be taken seriously.

The Pleasures of Exile is an important
historical/literary document that charts the course of
George Lamming's career as a writer and indicates
fundamental changes that have occurred in the cultural
and political development of the West Indies in the
past four decades. Furthermore, the book probably
reveals more about the contemporary George Lamming than
do any of his novels, since he is no longer an active
writer of fiction and seems to have comfortably shifted
into an important role as teacher and ideologue. The
arrogant tone that sometimes surfaces in The Pleasures
of Exile has disappeared from the style of the
contemporary George Lamming, and he seems to relish his
return from "exile" and his position as a kind of
traveling statesman speaking on behalf of cultural
interchange and unity between English, Spanish, and
French-speaking islands. One final factor requires
mention. The new edition of The Pleasures of Exile
comes at a time when U.S. economic and political interests
in the Caribbean have increased dramatically. Heightened
tension between Havana and Washington and U. S. involve-
ment in Nicaragua make the West Indies particularly
attractive as a staging area for both financial and
military purposes. It is a time when Caliban's relation
to Prospero needs to be seriously re-examined.

Lowell Fiet
University of Puerto Rico
Rio Piedras, P. R.

Pedro Pietri.
The Masses Are Asses.
Maplewood, New Jersey: Waterfront Press, 1984.

The Player:

Pedro Pietri creates for performance, from poetry
written to be read out loud, to plays, to cameo appearances
on subways where he carries on make-believe telephone
conversations with whomever happens to be riding along.
One of the most prominent Nuyorican poets, Pietri turns
poems into theatrical productions in which he acts all
major roles and provides the necessary accents, rhythms,
punctuation, phonetic pronunciations, and dramatic
situations. In the case of "Suicide Note from a Cockroach
in a Low Income Housing Project," for example, Pietri
ends the poem by voicing the main character's personal

Goodbye cruel world
I'm thru being screw
by your crossword puzzles
When the bomb comes down
I will not be around
Forward my mail to your conscience
when you get one

Pietri also creates ritual atmospheres that
alternate narration and choral chant. The funeral dirge
in "Puerto Rican Obituary," perhaps his best known poem
and the title of his first published collection, varies
to include other well-known barrio rites as well:

Is time
to visit sister 16pez again
the number one healer
and fortune card dealer
in Spanish Harlem
She can communicate
with your late relatives
for a reasonable fee
Good news is guaranteed


Rise Table Rise Table
death is not dumb and disable
Those who love you want to know
the correct number to play
Let them know this right away
Rise Table Rise Table

The dramatic nature of "Puerto Rican Obituary" became
particularly evident when it was staged for theater and
television audiences in Puerto Rico and the United States
by director Pablo Cabrera.

Writing plays, then, seems a natural extension for
Pietri's talents. The Masses Are Asses is the most
recent, but in 1976 he staged The Livingroom with the
Puerto Rican Bilingual Workshop, directed by actress
Carla Pinza. The play deals with the everyday life of
a younq man living in a tent in the middle of his mother's
apartment. The Livingroom was later restaged Off-Broadway
by Jose Ferrer on a double bill with Pietri's Lululu,
a kind of West Side Story of crossed loves in a New York
housing project. It is this same ever present housing
project that frames the action of The Masses Are Asses
and produces the setting for Pietri's incisive critique
of Puerto Ricans who aspire to American upper-middle-class

The Play:

A couple sits in a room that at times is a tiny
apartment in a lower-income New York City housing project,
and at others becomes a plush Parisian restaurant--it all
depends on the characters' moods. Appearance versus
reality is the theme Pietri seems to be exploring in this
one-act, two-character play in which the couple embodies
a separate universe of deceit.

Theatre is make-believe, a fictitious game of
complicity between actors and audience. In The Masses
Are Asses, an actor and an actress play the roles of a
destitute husband and wife who, in turn, want to deceive
their neighbors by pretending to be wealthy, but who
really deceive only themselves as they play at being a

Book Reviews

Lady and Gentleman drinking fake champagne in a Paris
restaurant as they await the never-to-arrive first
course. For the neighbors, the couple is supposedly
savoring their economic success by vacationing in Europe,
but for us, a slightly confused audience, they sit, hide,
and drink at a small table flanked by a toilet and the
bathtub from which they emerge elegantly dressed as the
play begins. The "truth" is that they spend the Lady's
welfare checks on servants' salaries to maintain the
pretense of wealth. The "fact" is that they are alone,
isolated, accompanied by the sound of their own voices
pleading despairingly from off-stage both for help and
for their rights.

The bathroom/restaurant is also attacked by the
sounds of sirens, shootings, the ringing telephone, and
knocks on the door, all of which are echoed by the
couple's throat clearing, coughing, farting, and their
recorded exaggerated mutual compliments. The constant
use of sound effects establishes the themes and rhythm
of the play as the plot advances. The couple speaks
and, through Pietri's acute reproduction of language,
shifts linguistically back and forth between Lower East
Side jive and sophisticated jargon; their aim is to
attack each other's social class through the use of the
opposite's dialect, thus revealing two worlds in conflict.
The Lady attempts an escape: jiving, she alleges that
she cannot sustain the farce and put up with the smelly,
unflushed toilet any longer. She runs for the door.
Yet like Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot, she
remains locked in with the Gentleman, and both disappear
into the bathtub from which they originally emerged.

The Masses Are Asses owes much to the Absurdists:
a circular plot, the isolated environment, lack of
communication between characters, clownish games. But
it is not existential anguish that Pietri permits us to
reflect upon. Rather, it is a play about the decadence
and false values of a particular segment of Puerto Rican
society that prefers to create a false universe in order
to avoid facing a very concrete and complex social reality.
Although at times a bit long, the situations created are
imaginative, surprisingly funny and sharp


as the audience is skillfully guided back and forth
between truth and fantasy.

Pedro Pietri, one of the most distinguished of
Puerto Rican poets, is certainly at ease in the world of
theatre, and The Masses Are Asses attests to that fact.

Rosa Luisa Mgrquez
University of Puerto Rico
Rio Piedras, P. R.


Richard Cameron is an Instructor in the Department of
English at the University of Puerto Rico. He is cur-
rently on leave to finish Ph. D. work in Linguistics
at the University of Pennsylvania.

Lowell Fiet teaches in the English Department at the
University of Puerto Rico and is the editor of Sargasso.

Tony Hunt is a Professor of English at the Mayaguez
Campus of the University of Puerto Rico. He currently
has a Fulbright award and is teaching outside Puerto
Rico during the 1986-87 academic year.

George Lamming, one of the Caribbean's most noted
novelists, was a visiting professor at the University
of Puerto Rico in the first semester of the 1984-85
academic year.

Gordon K. Lewis, Director of the Caribbean Studies
Institute at the University of Puerto Rico, is one of
the region's most astute and distinguished scholars and
socio-cultural analysts.

Stella L6pez Davila currently teaches at the Cayey
Regional Campus of the University of Puerto Rico. She
participated in the Lamming/Lewis interview when she
was still a graduate student at the University of Puerto

Rosa Luisa Marquez teaches in the Drama Department of
the University of Puerto Rico.

Dante Pasquinucci is a Professor of English at the
Arecibo Regional Campus of the University of Puerto Rico.

Nancy Dew Taylor devotes as much time as possible to
writing. In recent years, she has taught writing courses
at the University of Puerto Rico, but is currently doing
Ph. D. work in the United States.



Edward Kamau Brathwaite: Jazz Music .........

Susan Homar: Luis Rafael Sanchez: Interview.

Lizabeth Paravisini: Luis Rafael Sanchez and
Norman Mailer: Puerto Rico and the
United States as Heard on Radio ........

Kevyn Arthur: Poems ........................

Mary Beth Pringle: A Lesson in Tradition:
Katherine Anne Porter's "Holiday" ......

Carole Fragoza: Poem .......................

Valerie M. Babb: Panama Story ..............

Milton Medina: Poem ........................


Eugene V. Mohr: Gordon K. Lewis's
Main Currents in Caribbean Thought:
The Historical Evolution of Caribbean
Society in Its Ideological Aspects,
1492-1900 .............................

Edward Kamau Brathwaite's Third World Poems ..

Stella L6pez Ddvila: Paule Marshall's
Praisesong for the Widow ...............

Thomas Sullivan: Eugene V. Mohr's
The Nuyorican Experience:
The Literature of the Puerto Rican
Minority ...............................

NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS ........................

Volume 1, Number 1, 19

Volume I, Number 1

















Sargasso Volume I, Number II, 1984



Rosa Luisa Mdrquez: Pedro Juan Soto:
Concomitances (Interview) .............. 1

Reinaldo Arenas: (selection from)
Now the Ocean ......................... 17

Clare Goldfarb: V. S. Naipaul's Narrative
Art: Salim in A Bend in the River .... 22

Kevyn Arthur: Poems ......................... 38

Andrew Hurley: Some Onces Upon A Time....... 42

Robert D. Hamner: Poem ..................... 46

Edward Kamau Brathwaite: Jah Music (Poems).. 48


Myrsa Landr6n Bou: V. S. Naipaul's Finding
the Center: Two Narratives ........... 55

Joan M. Fayer: John Holm, ed. Central
American English ....................... 58

Stella L6pez D&vila: Paule Marshall's
Reena and Other Stories ................ 60

Daisy Santos Guzman: Michelle Cliff's Abeng. 65

NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS ........................ 67

TABLE OF CONTENTS, Sargasso Volume I,
Number 1 (1984) ........... .......... 69

Volume I, Number II, 1984


FORTHCOMING in Sargasso 4

The Caribbean


the Woman Writer

(a special issue)

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