diumenge, 30 d’agost de 2009


George Lamming was born on June 8, 1927 in Barbados where he attended Combermere High School. He left for Trinidad in 1946, teaching school until 1950. He then emigrated to England where, for a short time, he worked in a factory. In 1951 he became a broadcaster for the BBC Colonial Service. He entered academia in 1967 as a writer-in-residence and lecturer in the Creative Arts Centre and Department of Education at the University of the West Indies. Since then, he has been a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Pennsylvania and a lecturer in Denmark, Tanzania, and Australia.

Lamming is one of the most highly regarded contemporary Caribbean writers. His works about the decolonization and reconstruction of the West Indies following the end of British colonial rule are commended for their nationalistic spirit and poetic prose style. Lamming's writing focuses on finding new political and social identity and the long-lasting effects of early colonialism on the minds and actions of the Caribbean people. His use of allegory and metaphor give deeper political meaning to stories of people newly freed from the oppression of colonial rule. Lamming's writing style is experimental, often containing circular plot structures and abrupt shifts in narrative. Through his direct confrontation of old colonial rule and his inventive writing style, Lamming has become a groundbreaking writer who has paved the way for younger Caribbean authors.

Lamming's first novel, In the Castle of My Skin, was published in 1953 and it as an "autobiographical novel of childhood and adolescence written against the anonymity and alienation from self and community the author experienced in London at the age of twenty-three." There is no conscious linkage with African influences. This partly autobiographical novel about growing up in poverty in the Barbados and Trinidad gained a huge success. The story moved between allegory and realism and at the same time traced rapid changes of a colonial society on its way to independence.Lamming also employed its shifting point of view in the second novel, The Emigrants, deals with a group of West Indian expatriates who, like Lamming, reside in England. His more recent works depart from this semi-autobiographical format. Again the story was partly autobiographical, focusing on a group of West Indian emigrants in Britain, who try find their identity in the hostile environment of the "mother country."Of Age and Innocence, here Lamming created his own Yoknapatawpha or Macondo, the fictional Caribbean island of San Cristobal. and Season of Adventure take place on Lamming's fictional Caribbean island of San Cristobal and represent an attempt "to rediscover a history of himself by himself."Also set in San Cristobal, a middle-class woman explores her mother's background and undergoes self-transformation. His next novel, Water with Berries, describes various flaws of West Indian society through the plot of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Natives of My Person, his final novel, is an account of the voyage of a slave-trading ship on its voyage from Europe to Africa to the North American colonies.

A highly political author, Lamming is credited, along with Vic Reid, Wilson Harris, V.S. Naipaul, Everton Weekes, Derek Walcott, Garfield Sobers, Mighty Sparrow, and others, with making the emergence of a Caribbean identity possible. Lamming sees the lack of cultural identity in this region as a direct result of thehistory of colonial rule. Lamming, who opposes colonialism as well as neo-colonialism, recognizes that language is a means of colonization and encourages resistance to cultural imperialism.

In the collection of essays, THE PLEASURES OF EXILE , Lamming examined the Caribbean colonial past, decolonization, and his own identity. Lamming identifies with Caliban, Prospero's slave on a remote island in Shakespeare's play The Tempest. Their much examined relationship mirror the opposition between colonizer and colonized. Caliban is not only exiled from his nature but also colonized by language. The Caliban symbol has also inspired such Caribbean writers as Jean Rhys, Aimé Césaire, and Sam Selvon. Lamming's language is compassionate and intense, full of lyrical images. In dialogue he has used Creole extensively. Lamming's West Indian immigrants repeatedly face prejudices in their new circumstances in England. Sometimes the rejection is mutual as in the short story 'A Wedding is Spring'', in which a sister doesn't accept that her brother marries a white English woman, and plots against the wedding. But also the bride's parents refuse to attend the occasion. When Beresford, the brother, arrives with his friend to the church on a bicycle instead of riding in a limousine, which his sister Flo had canceled, she realizes that she cannot humiliate him before the idle crowd outside the church. The wedding has lost importance to her, it is a trifle compared with his disgrace.

dissabte, 29 d’agost de 2009


DEREK WALCOTT was born in St. Lucia, British West Indies, in 1930. He lived there till he went to the University of the West Indies, the Jamaica campus, in 1950. After graduating, he went to Trinidad, wh ere he worked with the Trinidad Theater Wor kshop, writing plays anddirecting them. In the past few years he has spent more, if not most,of his time in the United States writing and teaching.

He has had at least two lives. One of them, acknowledging his white English grandfather, has kept in touch with the Empire, the classics, English literature, but also the insignia of Greece and Rome. The other has stayed in the streets of Port of Spain, speaking the patois, Creole. It would be wrong to say that his first life has issued in poems, his second in plays, but the error is venial, because the plays are Walcott's effort to give his people what they have lacked or forgotten, a sense of themselves in historical and dramatic terms. His poems have been more intimate meditations, crossing into public issues only by necessity and rarely for long.

Walcott has published more than twenty plays. The majority of these plays have been produced by the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, and have also been widely staged elsewhere. Many of them deal, either directly or indirectly, with the liminal status of the West Indies in the postcolonial period. Epistemological, ontological, economical, political, and social themes make regular appearances in Walcott's plays.

In his 1970 essay on art (and specifically theatre) in his native region, What the Twilight Says: An Overture, Walcott bemoans the lasting effects of over 400 years of colonial rule. He reflects on the West Indies as colonized space, and the problems presented by a region with little in the way of truly indigenous forms, and with little national or nationalist identity. Walcott shifts his poetic language between formal English and patois to highlight the linguistic dexterity of the Caribbean people. While recognising the profound psychological and material wrongs of the colonial project, Walcott simultaneously celebrates the hybridisation of Antillean cultures. His epic poem Omeros exposes the complex cultural strains that converge in his native St. Lucia, celebrating at once the European, Amerindian, and African heritage shared by the islanders.

Discussions of epistemological effects of colonization inform plays such as Ti-Jean and his Brothers and Patomime. One of the eponymous brothers in Ti-Jean and his Brothers (Mi-Jean) is shown to have much information, but to truly know nothing. Every line Mi-Jean recites is rote knowledge gained from the coloniser, and as such is unable to be synthesized and thus is inapplicable to his existence as colonised person.

Walcott probes the colonial dialectic in his two-hander Pantomime. In the play, Walcott revisions the story of Robinson Crusoe / Man Friday in an effort to destabilize the colonial power constructs. Reversing the roles of master / servant, Walcott temporarily lends to Trinidadian Jackson, a guest house factotum and calypso singer, the role of Crusoe, with Harry, a British ex-patriate and owner, the identity of “Thursday,” thus resetting Daniel Defoe's legend in pre-colonial days. Recalling his fascination with the Edenic concept on naming, Walcott highlights the problem that faces the Caribbean writer by having Jackson re-appropriate the material objects around him, re-christening them in a pseudo-African language, calling the table “patamba,” the chair “banda,” etc, recalling the poesía negra's use of jitanjáfora mentioned earlier. The scene at first reflects Jackson’s agency: he has the ability to resurrect the language of his ancestors and regain ownership of the material of his island, teaching his minion Harry, the Anglo Thursday, his new tongue and establishing authority over his surroundings. Jackson's inability to resurrect a dead language reflects the Caribbean's lack of a single, discernable cultural history; Harry's retort reveals the violence inherent in the linguistic indoctrination of the colonial powers: language through the barrel of a gun. Walcott writes in English, the language of Trinidad, but he also makes full use of the local dialects, or what Barbadian writer Edward Kamau Brathwaite calls “nation language,” and portrays Jackson as code-switching throughout the play to reveal his culture’s linguistic dexterity.

Walcott's plays weave together a variety of forms; including those of the folktale, morality play, allegory, fable, ritual and myth; as well as using emblematic and mythological characters to address issues in non-realistic ways.

divendres, 28 d’agost de 2009


Arguably his most popular novel to date, Crossing the River exemplifies the restlessness with which its author is concerned. The novel dramatises the experience of diasporic dislocation by evoking a black Atlantic contact zone at which Africa, America and Europe uneasily encounter one another. Framed by the narrative of an African ancestor, Crossing the River details a series of 'crossings' or journeys. The opening section follows Nash, an emancipated slave, as he travels from America to Liberia and from 'The Pagan Coast to the interior. The second section centres on Martha, whose journey across America has come to a stand still, but whose memories of the past and dreams of the future evoke a series of arrivals and departures. The penultimate section conjures the trade routes of Captain James Hamilton, while in the final section a provincial Yorkshire landscape becomes the unlikely setting for a transatlantic black/white encounter during the war. In its serial accounts of journeying, (not to mention the journeying between journeys that the move from section to section of the novel inaugurate), Crossing the River shares certain similarities with the work of other key diasporic writers of the 1990s, including David Dabydeen and Salman Rushdie. Like Dabydeen, Phillips is interested in how narratives of slavery inform the contemporary migrant condition. Like Rushdie, Phillips is preoccupied by the rhetoric and narrative structure of migration, from the formal dislocations of Crossing the River, to the recurring images of vegetation roots and rootlessness running through his fiction as a whole.

The allegorical qualities of Phillips's carefully crafted prose are most tellingly present in recent fiction, such as The Nature of Blood. This novel centres on the survivor of a Nazi death camp, an enigmatic figure whose tale is entangled with those of others in a narrative that ranges from fifteenth century Venice to present day Israel. Beneath this dark tale of personal suffering and exile is a larger narrative of borderlands, crossings, movements and migrations. In the introduction to his recent selection of essays and journalism, A New World Order, there is a refrain which is reiterated through the collection as a whole: 'I am of, and not of, this place'. This ambivalent sentence captures the essence of Phillips's work, which is concerned with the tensions between home and the unhomely; between migration and settlement; strangeness and familiarity; arrival and departure. Phillips is a writer who appears most at home when he is away, journeying between places. Born in St. Kitts before moving to England, Phillips is a child of the Diaspora who has remarked that he wishes to be 'buried' in the Atlantic, at the crossroads between Britain, Africa and the Caribbean.

Finally, and as the historical range of his writing would seem to suggest, Phillips is a writer who refuses the idea that migration is merely a contemporary condition. In his brilliant edited collection, Extravagant Strangers: A Literature of Belonging, Phillips brings together 200 years of writing by 'outsiders' to Britain in a way that reveals the extent to which English literature has been 'shaped and influenced' by those beyond its shores for centuries.

dijous, 27 d’agost de 2009


Caryl Phillips was born on 13 March 1958 on the Caribbean island of St Kitts. He grew up in Leeds, England, and read English at Queen's College, Oxford. He is the author of six novels, several books of non-fiction and has written for film, theatre, radio and television. Much of his writing - both fiction and non-fiction - has focused on the legacy of the Atlantic slave trade and its consequences for the African Diaspora.

The Final Passage, his first novel, won the Malcolm X Prize for Literature. It tells the story of a young woman who leaves her home in the Caribbean to start a new life with her husband and baby in 1950s London. His second novel, A State of Independence, is set in the Caribbean and explores the islands' growing dependency on America. Higher Ground consists of three narratives linking the lives of a West African slave, a member of the Black Panther movement and a Polish immigrant living in post-war Britain. Cambridge, his fourth novel, is set in the first half of the nineteenth century and centres on the experiences of a young Englishwoman visiting her father's plantation in the Caribbean. Crossing the River follows the separate stories of two brothers and a sister from slavery to a dislocated emancipation. His most recent novel, The Nature of Blood, draws parallels between the persecution of Jews in Europe and the black victims of slavery.

Caryl Phillips' non-fiction includes a travel narrative, The European Tribe, winner of the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, and The Atlantic Sound is an account of a journey he made to three vital hubs of the Atlantic slave trade: Liverpool in England, Elmina on the west coast of Ghana, and Charleston in the American South. A New World Order: Selected Essays was published in 2001, and A Distant Shore in 2003, the latter being an exploration of isolation and consolation in an English village.

Although Phillips is best known today as a novelist, his initial artistic leanings were towards drama. Phillips's first play, Strange Fruit centres on a Caribbean family that has lived in Britain for the past twenty years. Followed by Where there is Darkness and The Shelter, these plays reveal an early preoccupation with many of the key themes within Phillips's fiction. For example, his attention in Strange Fruit and The Shelter to female characters leads to an exploration of the sexual politics of migration that is also a key concern of the novels.

The gendered nature of journeying is particularly prominent in his first novel, The Final Passage . The book follows the story of Leila, a young mother and her selfish, unsupportive husband Michael as they travel from the Caribbean to England in the 1950s. At the time of its publication in 1985, the novel broke new ground as the first 'second generation' black British novel to return to the experience of the so-called 'Windrush generation' (the first post-war West Indians to arrive in England on the SS Empire Windrush in 1948). Although Leila's lack of urgency in the novel has been criticised by some, it is by placing a female character at the centre of his narrative, that Phillips manages to disturb the male-centred narratives associated with early settler fictions by the likes of Sam Selvon, George Lamming and V.S. Naipaul.

The Final Passage is more than a reference to the ill-fated journey of Leila and her husband Michael, it is also an allusion to the middle passage of the slave trade. Beyond the surface realism of this deceptively simple narrative the reader is confronted with the kind of formal and linguistic experimentation of later work such as Crossing the River. Structured around five sections ('The End', 'Home', 'England', 'The Passage' and 'Winter'), The Final Passage is a disorienting, discontinuous narrative where the beginning is 'The End' and the end suggests a new kind of beginning (for Leila and her child).

The return 'home' that is anticipated at the end of The Final Passage became the subject of Phillips's next novel, A State of Independence . Like Moses, the archetypal character of Selvon's 'London' fictions, Bertram's return to a newly independent CaribbeanEngland and the Caribbean, A State of Independence ends with Bertram poised between the Caribbean and England. Phillips is a diasporic writer, whose work rejects investment in national belonging, preferring instead the border spaces of the black Atlantic.

dimecres, 26 d’agost de 2009


Chinua Achebe (born November 16, 1930) is a Nigerian novelist, poet, and literary critic. A diplomat in the ill-fated Biafran government of 1967-1970, Achebe is primarily interested in African politics, depictions of Africa and Africans in the West, pre-colonial African culture, and the effects of colonialism on African societies.

Achebe's 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, which explores colonialism and Igbo society, is the most widely-read book in modern African literature, translated into over 50 languages. He generated controversy and praise in 1975 for his classic critical text on Joseph Conrad, and his 2000 essay collection Home and Exile reiterated his long-standing belief that Africa and Africans were being unfairly marginalized by European and Western-oriented intellectuals.

Things Fall Apart

It is a 1959 English-language novel, a staple book in schools throughout Africa and widely read and studied in English-speaking countries around the world. It is seen as the archetypal modern African novel in English, and one of the first African novels written in English to receive global critical acclaim. The title of the novel comes from William Butler Yeats' poem, "The Second Coming."

The novel concerns the life of Okonkwo, a leader and local wrestling champion throughout the nine villages of the Ibo ethnic group of Umuofia in Nigeria, his three wives, his children (mainly concerning his oldest son Nwoye and his favorite daughter Ezinma), and the influences of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on his traditional Igbo (archaically spelled "Ibo") community during an unspecified time in the late 1800s or early 1900s.

Literary history

Things Fall Apart is a milestone in African literature. It has achieved the status of the archetypal modern African novel in English, is read in Nigeria and the rest of Africa where it is a staple in schools; it is read and studied widely in Europe and North America where hundreds of articles and scores of major studies have been written about it; in India and Australia it is probably the most famous African novel.

It annually sells more than a million copies and is considered Achebe's magnum opus.

It was followed by a sequel, No Longer at Ease (1960), originally written as the second part of a larger work together with Things Fall Apart, and Arrow of God (1964), on a similar subject. In addition, Achebe states that his two later novels, A Man of the People (1966) and Anthills of the Savannah (1987), while not featuring Okonkwo's descendants and indeed set in completely fictional African countries, are spiritual successors to the previous novels in chronicling African history.

Things Fall Apart is written in third-person omniscient; the reader experiences the novel through an outside narrator. This way, the reader is able to not only see all that is happening, but the thoughts and motives of different characters as well. This allows dramatic irony to occur. The perspective of the novel was appropriate because of the language barrier; Achebe has peppered pieces of the Igbo language throughout the book (with an appropriate glossary for the terms at the back of the novel in some editions) proving that it is too complex for a complete English translation. By having a third-person narrator, it allows the reader to understand what is going on at all times. Things Fall Apart has relatively limited dialogue, because the language is so different from English; in order to understand the whole plot the reader must know what the characters are thinking and their motives.

dissabte, 15 d’agost de 2009


Margaret Laurence wrote with a sense of vocation. She experienced writing as a “gift of grace.” Her Christian faith taught her respect for the “unique and irreplaceable” nature of each character in her fiction. Those familiar with Laurence’s autobiographical writings may already know these facts . However, those who know Laurence through having read a novel or two, or simply by reputation as an activist, feminist author whose works some have wanted withdrawn from high school classrooms will be intrigued to learn how deep the spiritual dimension runs in her work. Laurence’s books often use scriptural allusions and present characters who converse with God. Yet, Laurence betrays her Christian religious framework on an even more profound level by the way she treats the downtrodden, outcasts and sinners.

Ultimately, most of Laurence’s characters (although less true of the privileged ones) are treated sympathetically. More importantly, they are treated in a manner that is fundamentally optimistic. Despite their moral upheaval, their success as human beings is often greater than those who conform to conventional ideals. Rachel’s willingness in A Jest of God to bear a child out of wedlock despite what people will say contrasts favourably with the pious respectability of her mother whose control over Rachel masquerades as solicitousness. In The Fire-Dwellers, Rachel’s sister Stacey falls short of her ideal as wife and mother, and yet, after acting out her feelings of failure and insecurity by having an affair, she rekindles her love for her husband, evokes his forgiveness and keeps her family together. In The Diviners, the generosity of Christy and Prin Logan — looked down upon by the rest of Manawaka because of their poverty, Christy’s job as garbage collector and Prin’s shapeless profile — is finally appreciated by their adopted daughter, Morag Gunn, after they have died. But the reader can see their mettle long before then. And the reader can also perceive that there is more to Jules Tonnerre, the Métis father of Morag’s daughter, than society, or Morag’s very successful ex-husband, Brooke, could ever notice.

Laurence’s work, despite her personal reservations about institutional religion or about various points of doctrine, seems, ultimately, to speak accurately of divine sovereignty and mercy. She conveys a sense that good will triumph over evil.

The United Church context in which Laurence first learned how to view the world — mediated first by the courage and generosity of her beloved grandmother and the aunt who became her “Mum” — most likely helped her to develop her characteristic hopefulness and gratitude for life.

dijous, 13 d’agost de 2009


Morag's speech is direct, yet her calculated denial of her past precludes any creative interaction between them. Their marriage gives Morag the external objects of bourgeois life (the acceptable apartment, the clothes, the status of "professor's wife"), but at the cost of her genuine class identity and especially at the cost of her language. Morag gets, in her own words, what she wanted but not what she bargained for.

Apparent escape from Manawaka society degenerates into another equally limiting social prison. Denied even her own mode of speech, she is forced into the covert, silent activity of writing. The novel allows her to exist as a composite self, rediscovering her creative expression without overtly challenging her bourgeois existence. Still, the achievement of writing a novel becomes a material force to break through the walls of self-chosen silence. The dust jacket of the completed novel (a spear piercing a human heart) is an emblematic reproduction of the Logan crest; as such it functions as a formal reminder that the roots of her creative expression rest in Christie's tales and spiels. The rediscovery of written expression turns backward to make the nonexpression of bourgeois pseudo-speech impossible. Significantly, Morag's final break with Brooke and his world is precipitated by an outburst of Christie-like oaths. Repossession of her own voice has been as liberating as her conscious decision to leave with Jules.

When Morag leaves Brooke, she enters an existence whose visible images recreate her Manawaka past. The known friend Jules, the brown linoleum and wooden chairs of the Jarvis Street roominghouse, Maggie Telfer's grey unpainted boardinghouse reminiscent of the houses on Hill Street - all these reconstruct the once rejected environment. Through this world she can re-experience the creative potential so long sublimated. Now creation is no longer merely the isolated woman writing in the apartment tower. On all levels it recovers class identity: novel writing becomes necessary labour; the birth of her daughter confirms a social responsibility Brooke's individualism could never allow; her friendship with Fan Brady re-establishes a sociability impossible in Toronto university society. The crucial difference is that she rediscovers the social environment of Manawaka in terms of class solidarity and human relationships. The desperate and debilitating need to escape from Manawaka space is lifted, and, since she has consciously freed herself f rom the confusion between the false domination of space and actual social oppression, she can eventually return to the small Manawaka-like McConnell's Landing.

The Diviners shows the oral tradition to be most liberating when its is deeply rooted in history. The tales teach Morag to understand basic patterns of struggle and oppression. Because the tales are never mere material fact, she can reject the slavish adoration of Scottish ancestry taught in the households and identify the parallels between the Highland Clearances and the seizure of land from the Métis in the Canadian west.

Even in the tales themselves, oral communication has irreparable distortion; for the original language has been destroyed, and the stories live only in the imposed language of imperialist England:

The imposition of English on the vocal tone and pattern of French or Cree or Gaelic linguistically renders the domination of English imperialism after the defeat of Batoche or Culloden. Consequently, it is in the preservation of socio-historical experience against formidable pressures, not, as Innis suggests, in an atemporal universality, that the oral tradition communicates creative possibility.

Equally, The Diviners complicates Innis' suggestion that writing and printing are rendered adjuncts of imperial expansion. Writing is a means by which Morag can both formalize her denied past feelings and criticize them from the greater perception of present understanding. Each novel reworks her lived experience while simultaneously removing it from the limited particularity of a specific individual's experience. Spear of Innocence retells the destructive consequences of a naive young girl's attempt to escape from a northern lumber town; Prospero's Child, a young woman's marriage to a dominating man and her struggle to liberate herself; Jonah, a resentment towards a disreputable father. Written from experience, the novels cannot fail to represent herself; yet, formalized by a reflective, critical consciousness, they never merely reproduce the experiencing self. The novels act as a mediation between individual experience and the broad socio-historical patterns suggested by the tales. Indeed, in the final novel - Shadow of Eden - Morag is able to modify critically, to supercede, the limitations of both Scottish and Métis tales by incorporating them into the structure of a historical novel. In Vancouver Morag had been unable to present the Piper Gunn tale satisfactorily as a short story. Only when integrated into the socio-history of the whole Canadian west does it live as written communication.

Writing, however, is by its nature less social than oral communication. For Morag writing was initially liberating because it allowed her to act, to break through the passivity that her social role - "professor's wife" - had forced upon her. Yet the act of writing is essentially individual and must always be separated by time f rom its complementary opposite, the act of reading. Any interaction between writer and reader takes place in each isolated consciousness. Because of its essential introspective quality, intensified by the proliferation and formality of printed words, writing becomes the medium of a careful and sustained process of thought. It is essential to the communication of Morag's reflective development towards greater self-consciousness, but it is not the only means of communication. Nor is it presented as the most important. Equally powerful is the intuitive understanding Morag acknowledges between Jules and Pique:

Such nonverbal recognition portrays the unwritten expressiveness of the Manawaka oppressed: Christie's divining of the garbage, Lazarus' tales of the, Métis rebels, the first glance of solidarity between Jules and Morag. Jules' songs give formal expression to this unwritten, and often unworded, communication.

Like Morag's novels, especially like Shadow of Eden, Jules' songs articulate the Métis tales and his own lived experience. Unlike a novel, the songs are an immediately shared social experience. While Morag despairs that she cannot give Pique "a shelf of novels," Jules' songs can be freely given and freely shared. Most importantly, the songs mediate between the chronicles of heroic struggle in the tales of Rider Tonnerre and Old Jules and the actual suffering in the lives of Lazarus, Val, and Piquette. Heroic defiance is qualified by genuine pain, while at the same time the possible end of suffering is made concrete in the struggle against oppression. The songs do not elevate suffering to an eternal, unchangeable condition (as, for instance, do the discussions about Gerard Manley Hopkins in Brooke's class); nor do they subsume individual experience in a false universality.

It is similarly important to understand that The Diviners is not merely a testament of faith in the divining power of either written or oral communication. The radical innovation of the novel lies in its recognition that all forms of communication are limited and distorted by the pressuring social structures they necessarily inhabit. On a simple level, Morag is constantly baffled by the reviews of her novels. Similarly, Jules' songs too often encounter the blank wall of customers in the taverns, Most of them "middle-aged middle-class men out with hired women, painting, as they imagine, the town red, and dead-drunk". Their calls for the pallid country and western songs popularized by the mass media drown Jules' own voice in a barrage of incomprehensibility. This emphasis on the limitations class realities force upon any form of communication powerfully complicates Innis' assumption that the bias of communication exists primarily in the form of the technology. By reasserting the priority of external class structures over all forms of communication, The Diviners makes the search for means of communication necessarily a struggle against the imposed distortions of social hierarchies. The struggle to speak - whether it is Morag's act of writing in the tower apartment or Jules' attempt to sing his songs to an audience of drunken businessmen - is always a struggle within and against social structures.

dimecres, 12 d’agost de 2009


Laurence suggests that the reinvention of the past - the rediscovery of time - cannot begin from written record, but is evoked through the negation of print in Christie's storytelling. The fluidity of the oral tradition allows Christie to fashion the Piper Gunn tales so that they portray both Morag's personal ancestors and the history of the Scottish immigration during the Highland enclosures. Just as the death of her parents forced the young child out of the secure imaginative world of the farm, the tales begin with the expulsion of Scottish crofters from their lands: "All the lands of Sutherland will be raising the sheep, says the she-devil, for they'll pay better than folk" (p. 49). In the tales, Morag learns that oppression and the courage to struggle against it are not isolated individual responses but continuous throughout time. A sense of the past is the beginning of an understanding that the spatial confines of Manawaka are not absolute.

However necessary the Piper Gunn tales are to develop Morag's sense of her own past, they represent, to use the word Laurence invents, "infactuality." Although they genuinely convey the spirit of the Scottish immigrants' struggles, they are historically inaccurate. More precisely, the tales tell only part of the story and, taken alone, disguise the whole movement of Canadian history. The limitations of the Piper Gunn tales become starkly obvious in the final two stories of the "long march" and "the rebels." Once the Scots are settled in Canada, their class position shifts. No longer dispossessed landless immigrants they are forced to defend their newly acquired space against those who are now the dispossessed. the Métis and the Indians. The ultimate falsification is not any factual misconception, but the perception of another active struggling people as passive and inert. The Métis are less than human, merely a part of nature. A similar contradiction forms Morag's uncertain perception of Manawaka society. Her sense of identification with the assurance and courage of the Scottish immigrants is negated by her actual lived experience in Manawaka. Although her conscious self-image is constructed around pride in her Scottish ancestory, to the petit-bourgeois Scots she is associated with the other residents of Hill Street, with the poverty of the Winklers, with the Ukrainian railway workers, with the scavenger Christie. To Mrs. Cameron and Mrs. McVitie she is merely an object to be pitied; to their sons and daughters, an object to be taunted.

Resolution of these contradictions is a slow and difficult process. Like the river that flows both ways, development of conscious understanding is never presented as a unilinear progression. Instead, it is a hesitating movement towards perception, often thwarted by retreat into confusion and mystification. Morag's insight into self and her society is both intensified and complicated by her identification with Jules Tonnerre. Driven from their lands in the last century, the Métis literally possess no living space. Morag has learned that they are mysterious and unmentionable.

"Belonging nowhere" is the significant image. Because the Métis have no land, Jules cannot be deceived that his identity is centered on present space instead of past time. His first glance at Morag, a silent, nonverbal communication, affirms a solidarity against the social humiliation of the classroom. From Jules, Morag hears Lazarus' tales of Rider Tonnerre and Old Jules, stories that confirm her intuitive identification with Riel. Her intense but incomplete love-making with Jules serves as an emblem of her uncertain consciousness: she has begun to construct a self-image based on class identification, yet oppression still seems to be based in the spatial world of Manawaka. Freedom appears as escape from that space.

To leave Manawaka is a deceptive and insidious freedom. Instead of moving toward resolution and understanding Morag is pushed into an existence of heightened contradiction. Her actual living space - the Crawley's house - resembles the Hill Street environment from which she fled. In contrast, the smooth bourgeois world of the university demands that she remould herself even to the extent of relearning language.

dimarts, 11 d’agost de 2009


The Diviners is a novel by Margaret Laurence in 1974, and it was Laurence's final novel, and is considered one of the classics of Canadian literature.

The novel won the Governor General's Award for English language fiction in 1974. The protagonist of the novel is Morag Gunn, a fiercely independent writer who grew up in Manawaka, Manitoba. Morag has a difficult relationship with her daughter Pique and her Métis lover Jules Tonnerre, and struggles to maintain her independence.

The book has been repeatedly banned by schoolboards and high schools - usually by complaint from fundamentalist Christian groups labelling the book blasphemous and obscene. It is a regularly featured book on the Canadian Freedom to Read campaign.

"The Diviners" explores the coming of age of Morag Gunn, a girl who grows up in Manawaka, a small prairie town, with her poverty-stricken relatives, and then later has a troubled relationship with her own daughter, Pique. The book also explores issues of race, class and sexuality, especially in terms of her romantic relationship with a Métis man called Jules Tonnerre. The book also explores the reciprocal relationship between the past and the present and this relationship is explored through the imagery of a river than flows both ways. Additionally, every character in the book appears to be searching for something, hence the title of "diviners." While some search for water, Christie, Morag's guardian, is a garbage man, and hence he sifts through piles and piles of rubbish looking for what people threw away. In the novel, Christie's speaks about how much one can tell about someone from what they throw away. At one point he went on a rant and said "by their garbage shall ye know the...by their garbage shall ye christly well know them." This became one of the most powerful passages in the book.

Morag Gunn's search for her identity speaks particularly to the young, the female and the Canadian, but it has evidently been recognized as their own story by many other readers.

Symbolically, the water for which the diviners search is the river of history, always dangerously in movement, yet once entered always there as an expression of identity through past and present, a river that flows both ways. The loose, wide quality of the novel has brought it some denigration but this is an effect of a method which exploits memory.

To begin, two images. In the opening lines of The Diviners Margaret Laurence speaks of a river flowing "both ways." The current moves from north to south; the wind ripples the surface from south to north. Harold Innis also speaks of rivers: rivers that were for the early traders both potential transport into the Canadian continent and threatening obstacles to be overcome. But while Laurence's river is a river of time, the past flowing inescapably into the present as the present moves back through the past, lnnis' rivers represent space, part of a new land to be dominated by imperialist expansion, to be penetrated by the agents of commercial capitalism. Innis writes about the economic and social forces that structured Canada. Laurence writes about how we understand these forces, how we perceive our past. The Diviners, I shall argue, provides a connecting link between Innis' well-known writings on Canadian economic history - The Fur Trade in Canada, The Cod Fisheries, The History of the Canadian Pacific Railway - and his almost forgotten work on communications.

The Diviners, rather, is structured arourid the same concerns - the implications of oral and written communication, social power, and ideological manipulation - that inspired Innis' research. More importantly, the novel focuses these problems in a socio-historical specificity that provides the critical cutting edge imprecise theory often lacks. I want to look in some detail at the ways that Margaret Laurence's novel reassesses and redirects central difficulties, in Innis' theories.

To understand fluidity and change Margaret Laurence's heroine begins with fixity. The snapshots of Morag's childhood are the frozen images of past moments, the-now formalized presences of what is presently absent. Morag keeps them, she reminds us, "not for what they show, but for what is hidden in them,"3 that is, not for the fixed image but for the imaginative memories swirling behind the static figures. The world hidden in the early snapshots is highly suspect: bits of childhood memories, the make-believe stories and imaginary companions of a very young child, the later embellishments of the older child desperately reconstructing a suitable past. These remembrances remain to a great extent imprisoned in the static formality of the pictures. Unable to merge into the actual continuity which would constitute consciously perceived history, they are relegated to existence as isolated past moments. Thus the first six photographs represent a situation where the past does not press in upon the child's consciousness. Young Morag freely creates her own universe. Yet even the inadequate constructions of the past hidden in the snapshots lead her into the "memorybank movies." The transition from the frozen photographic image of the snapshot to the fluid motion of film marks a shift from a passive past, essentially separate from the self, to an active past pressing in on the individual, defining both consciousness and historical development. The event in the first memorybank movie - the death of Morag's parents - not only precipitates her physical departure from the farm, but also destroys, for a time, the conscious world of the child and her imaginative companions. The recognition of past time and an external social reality structuring the world of the individual is the first tentative movement towards conscious self-understanding.

Specifically, the death of Morag's parents means that she must move from the unpopulated country farm where she was free to create her own world in imagination to Manawaka where she will be plunged inexorably into a limiting, sometimes narrow, and always inescapable petit-bourgeois society. "In town" initiates a distinction, continued throughout the novel, among country, town, and city. The town - half way between the country farm or village community and the large city - incorporates characteristics of both country and city. Manawaka is large enough to contain the class divisions of the city (the established petit-bourgeois Scots on one side; most European immigrants, Métis, and an occasional displaced Scot like Christie Logan on the other), yet small enough that individuals know each other and live near each other. Consequently, the town generates a false pseudo-intimacy which in turn creates a significant confusion: it appears that an individual's sense of identity is rooted in the spatial dimension (the town) and not in social class. Much of the conflict in Morag's early sense of self arises from an intuitive identification with the working class, with her friend Eva Winkler, or later with the outcast Métis Jules Tonnerre and her partially mystified perception that she is equal to the daughters of the Scottish petit-bourgeoisie. Because the space of the Manawaka world dominates consciousness, an accurate understanding of the past, of history, and change is both painfully necessary and extremely difficult.