Gordon Rohlehr, professor of West Indian Literature,St Augustine,University of the West Indies,is writing about familiar ground,for he is a Caribbean born man.To attempt to review this work in five hundred words is a travesty in itself,for the twelve essays which constitute this book may each require individual assessment.However, the reviewer must respect the constraint of length which has been imposed on him.
Perhaps ,the only feasible approach might be to comment on some key areas of a few of the essays.
The first essay is captioned''Articulating a Caribbean Aesthetic.The Revolution in Self-Perception''. Hence,Rohlehr reverts to the rigidities of slavery and the plantation system to explain the disadvantaged position of the diasporas region.He also writes of;
The economies of primitive capitalism, which shackled the fragile island economies to that of the metropole,
in the class stratification which resulted from the economic system...........,by the various slave codes or laws,
which anticipated the psychology of the modern concentration camp by several centuries.
In one sweeping line,Rohlehr presents a spectrum of the stereotypes which existed since slavery;Du Bois in several of his works,Ellison in ''Invisible Man'', Edward Braithwaite in ''Rights of Passage'' and the ''psycho-philosophical'' depiction in Frantz Fanon's ''Black Skin White Masks''. Rohlehr attempts in a valiant manner to lay the framework within which he can articulate a Caribbean Aesthetic.He takes us therefore on a journey through the socio-political landscape,raising salient points as he progresses.
''History as Absurdity'' according to the explanation in parenthesis is ''a literary critic's approach to ''From Columbus to Castro'' and other miscellaneous writings of Dr Eric Williams''[historian and first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago].Here Rohlehr boldly challenges some of the claims made by Williams in his book,especially where Williams is purporting to write ''a definitive study of 477 years of history in these widely scattered islands''.
Rohlehr also analyses ''Literature and the Folk'' and here invokes Lamming;
One of the most popular complaints made by West Indians against their novelists is the absence of novels
about the West Indian Class.
Lamming ,in ''The Pleasures of Exile'', had dealt with the compartmentalization of the society into three groups ; viz -the middle class educated colonials;the lower class and thirdly-the new novelists,who,middle class in education, chose to write about the broad masses of poor and untutored,whom he terms the ''peasants''.
''BluesFor Eric Roach'',seems to strike a particular chord of the confessional,for Rohlehr,writing of the frustration of the poet,Roach, admits that ''this sort of thing has been happening to poets, calypsonians and academics throughout the West Indies for several decades now''.
Finally,I will look briefly at the essay;''My Strangled City'', whose title immediately catches my eye.Even though the name is derived from Guyanese Martin Carter's poem,yet Professor Rohlehr writes of the traumatic awakening in Trinidad during 1964-75, with particular reference to ''the Black Power demonstration of 1970, which forced deep introspection from the society. Rohlehr looks at some of the poetry which was written in this period.
Longman,Port of Spain,1992
Causes enoch john Supports
freedom of thought and expression