Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Caribbean Poetry and Fiction - An Introduction

I've realized that outside of certain circles, Caribbean fiction isn't very well-known so today I'm launching what will be an occasional series featuring books by Caribbean authors.  The Caribbean has a vibrant literary tradition that started back in the 1800s and continues today.  Some of the books I'll be listing are classics while others are destined to become classics.  If you haven't already, I hope you'll use the books in this series to launch your own exploration of Caribbean literature.

The Farming of Bones

From Amazon - 

The Farming of Bones begins in 1937 in a village on the Dominican side of the river that separates the country from Haiti. Amabelle Desir, Haitian-born and a faithful maidservant to the Dominican family that took her in when she was orphaned, and her lover Sebastien, an itinerant sugarcane cutter, decide they will marry and return to Haiti at the end of the cane season. However, hostilities toward Haitian laborers find a vitriolic spokesman in the ultra-nationalist Generalissimo Trujillo who calls for an ethnic cleansing of his Spanish-speaking country. As rumors of Haitian persecution become fact, as anxiety turns to terror, Amabelle and Sebastien's dreams are leveled to the most basic human desire: to endure. Based on a little-known historical event, this extraordinarily moving novel memorializes the forgotten victims of nationalist madness and the deeply felt passion and grief of its survivors.

(This and The Dew Breaker are my favourite books by this brilliant Haitian author.  These books are a must-read for anyone wanting to understand Haiti and its people.)

In the Castle of My Skin (Ann Arbor Paperbacks)

From Amazon -

George Lamming's, In the Castle of My Skin, skilfully depicts the Barbadian psyche. Set against the backdrop of the 1930s riots which helped to pave the way for Independence and the modern Barbados, through the eyes of a young boy, Lamming portrays the social, racial, political and urban struggles with which Barbados continues to grapple even with some thirty-three years of Political Independence from Britain. Required reading for all Caribbean people. The novel also offers non-Barbadians and non-Caribbean people insight into the modern social history of Barbados and the Caribbean. 'A writer of the people one is back again in the pages of Huckleberry Finn_ the fundamental book of civilisation Mr Lamming captures the myth-making and myth-dissolving mind of childhood' NEW STATESMAN 'Its poetic imaginative writing has never been surpassed' TRIBUNE 'A striking piece of work, a rich and memorable feat of imaginative interpretation' THE SPECTATOR 'He produces anecdote after anecdote, rich and riotous.' THE TIMES 'There is not a stock figure in the story fluent, poetical, sophisticated.' THE SUNDAY TIMES

(This was required reading in high school and I've never forgotten it or its protagonist.)

By Love Possessed: Stories

From Amazon -

By Love Possessed - With this highly praised collection of short fiction, Lorna Goodison demonstrates why she may be one of literature's best-kept secrets. In the Pushcart Prize-winning title story, humble Dottie thinks her luck has turned when she meets Frenchie, the best-looking, if not most reliable, man in the whole of Jamaica. In "The Helpweight," an accomplished woman must bear the burden of an old flame's renewed affections when he returns from a life abroad with his Irish bride in tow. And in "Henry," a young boy turned out of his house to make way for his mother's lover sells roses on the street to survive. On a whim, he bites off a bloom, which he can feel burning inside his mouth like a red pepper light, hoping it will take root and beautify his own life. Poetically rendered, these and over a dozen other evocative stories create a world in which pride can nourish a soul or be its ruin and where people are in turn uplifted and undone by love.

(I haven't read this yet and am looking forward to cracking open the pages!  I love her poetry so I'm sure I'll love her fiction.)

1 comment:

  1. Another great post Eugenia ! My Aunt was a fan of Caribbean writing and authors. I never found the time to follow in her footsteps. I am however a fan of Cuban writers, don't know if that fit in with what you're telling us here. Anyway, thanks for the information, I will be following your posts and have hopes to read all things. I would probably order By Love Possessed first because it is short stories which would work better with my schedule. The Farming of Bones sounds fascinating as well as In The Castle of My Skin. I'm learning so much from you ! -- Also, don't laugh but my daughter and I love the Jamacian movies. They are so raw and real. Talk to you soon !