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The Caribbean Novel since 1945

The Caribbean Novel since 1945: Cultural Practice, Form, and the Nation-State

Michael Niblett
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Caribbean Novel since 1945
    Book Description:

    The Caribbean Novel Since 1945 offers a comparative analysis of fiction from across the pan-Caribbean, exploring the relationship between literary form, cultural practice, and the nation-state. Engaging with the historical and political impact of capitalist imperialism, decolonization, class struggle, ethnic conflict, and gender relations, it considers the ways in which Caribbean authors have sought to rethink and re-narrate the traumatic past and often problematic 'postcolonial' present of the region's peoples. It pays particular attention to the role cultural practices such as stickfighting and Carnival, as well as religious rituals and beliefs like Vodou and Myal, have played in efforts to reshape the novel form. In so doing, it provides an original perspective on the importance of these practices, with their emphasis on bodily movement, to the development of new philosophies of history.

    Beginning in the post-WWII period, when optimism surrounding the possibility of social and political change was at a peak, The Caribbean Novel Since 1945 interrogates the trajectories of various national projects through to the present. It explores how the textual histories of common motifs in Caribbean writing have functioned to encode the fluctuating fortunes of different political dispensations. The scope of the analysis is varied and comprehensive, covering both critically acclaimed and lesser-known authors from the Anglophone, Francophone, and Hispanophone traditions. These include Jacques Roumain, Sam Selvon, Marie Chauvet, Luis Rafael Sánchez, Earl Lovelace, Patrick Chamoiseau, Erna Brodber, Wilson Harris, Shani Mootoo, Oonya Kempadoo, Ernest Moutoussamy, and Pedro Juan Gutiérrez. Mixing detailed analysis of key texts with wider surveys of significant trends, this book emphasizes the continuing significance of representations of the nation-state to literary articulations of resistance to the imperialist logic of global capital.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-248-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. VII-2)
  4. Introduction: Cultural Practice, Creolization, and the Nation-State
    (pp. 3-26)

    In January 1946, President Élie Lescot of Haiti was toppled in a revolution that, for at least some of its participants, drew its inspiration from surrealism. The visit of the surrealist writer André Breton to Port-au-Prince a month earlier had encouraged the radical student newspaperLa Ruche—edited by, among others, René Dépestre and Jacques-Stéphen Alexis—to dedicate a special edition to Breton in which, galvanized by his lectures, they called for national insurrection.¹ The authorities promptly seized the newspaper and imprisoned the editorial team, sparking student protests and, on the back of this unrest, a general strike. The rapidity...

  5. 1 The Promise of National Independence: Modernity, Allegory, and Sacrifice
    (pp. 27-60)

    I begin this chapter with a brief consideration of Jacques Roumain’s seminal novelGouverneurs de la rosée(Masters of the Dew) (1944), a work that could be said to mark a period of transition in Caribbean literature. Roumain’s tale of the protagonist Manuel’s return to Haiti from Cuba and his attempt to reunite the drought-stricken peasant community of his native village of Fonds Rouge was an international success and represents the high point of Haitian indigenism. LikeCésaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal(1939), Reid’sNew Day(1949), and Carpentier’sEl reino de este mundo(1949), Roumain’s novel is...

  6. 2 “The people living a life every man for himself”: Problems in the Postindependence Body (Politic)
    (pp. 61-96)

    In the previous chapter, I touched on the issue of national allegory, arguing that for all the controversy surrounding Fredric Jameson’s theorization of this concept in relation to Third World literature, it remained a useful perspective from which to begin to consider the narrative codification of social experience in contexts of imperialist domination. Of particular interest was Jameson’s related emphasis on the importance of cultural revolution. Such a revolution is a necessary element in the decolonization process, enabling colonized peoples to divest themselves of the habits and psychic structures implanted by colonialism, the vectors of which penetrate to the level...

  7. 3 Literary Deliriums: Cultural Expression, Commodity Fetishism, and the Search for Community
    (pp. 97-131)

    In Patrick Chamoiseau’s 1986 novelChronique des sept misères(Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows), the decline of the Fort-de-France market in Martinique is signaled by the descent into madness of itsdjobeurs(market porters or odd-job men). When one among them, Bidjoule, suffers the loss of a wheel from his barrow, for instance, he becomes delirious, “rubbing the same ten words together in a furious discussion with himself.” Later he is discovered “in the brushwood of Bois-de-Boulogne … buried up to the waist and claiming to be a yam.”¹ Underlying this insanity is the destruction of thedjobeurs’ social world...

  8. 4 From Breakdown to Rebirth: Ritual Reconfigurations of the Nation-State
    (pp. 132-174)

    Toward the end ofA Singular Modernity, Fredric Jameson calls for the continuation of attempts to elaborate an ontology of the present, remarking that a “true ontology would not only wish to register the forces of past and future within that present; but would also be intent on diagnosing … the enfeeblement and virtual eclipse of those forces within our current present.”¹ Recalling the way both Ezra Pound and Walter Benjamin scrutinized the public sphere for signs of modernist energies, Jameson concludes: “We need to combine a Poundian mission to identify Utopian tendencies with a Benjaminian geography of their sources...

  9. 5 “No Pain like This Body”: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in a Time of Crisis
    (pp. 175-208)

    Although Lovelace’sSaltconcludes with the Independence Day parade and the utopian desire for a new, genuinely inclusive form of nationalism, it is nevertheless careful to highlight the ongoing difficulties with achieving this goal.¹ Even as the narrator expresses his hope that the white creole farmer Carabon and the Indo-Trinidadian politician Sonan Lochan will join Alford and Bango on the march, the reader has already witnessed Sonan’s attempts to articulate a less narrowly identitarian style of politics eclipsed by a rising tide of ethnic triumphalism. Sonan has long exhibited discomfort with the idea of representing Indian interests alone: during his...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 209-242)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-254)
  12. Index
    (pp. 255-260)