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Regards croisés sur les Afro-Américains

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Claude Julien

The Caribbean and the Mainland

Writing on the External Frontiers of the Caribbean: Eric Walrond and Vernon Anderson

Françoise Charras

Texte intégral

1Although living approximately during the same period of time and in the same tropics, Eric Derwent Walrond (1898-1966) and Vernon Anderson (1900-2000) never came into contact with each other. However, it may not be in any way irrelevant to bring together in the present study the works of these two anglophone Caribbean writers, who until recently have been either almost forgotten or largely ignored. A comparative approach may also add to the debate on colonial literatures and on the “frontiers of the Caribbean.”

  • 1 In 1923 Walrond broke away from Garvey and Negro World and began working as editor for Opportunity.(...)

2Whether it was by mere chance or the hazards of chronology, the two authors remained very much unaware of each other’s existence, and their literary careers developed in worlds largely apart. Walrond’s began after his arrival in New York where, in the early 1920s, he started writing his first articles and vignettes in Garvey’s Negro World,1 then in various New York magazines before participating in Alain Locke’s The New Negro (1925) with one of his first short stories, “The Palm Porch”. While working as managing editor for Opportunity, he published Tropic Death, his only book, in 1926. After being appraised as one of the most gifted writers of the Harlem Renaissance for this collection of short stories, for some fifty years Walrond was somewhat forgotten after his disappearance from the New York literary scene.

  • 2 I am quoting here from an unpublished letter of Anderson to Heinemann Publishing Co, which was comm (...)

3Meanwhile, Vernon Anderson had left Jamaica to study medicine in various British universities and, in 1928, was appointed officer in the British Colonial Medical Service in British Honduras, in the village of El Cayo “at a post on the frontier between that country and Petèn, Guatemala.”2 It is only in 1987 that his single novel, Sudden Glory, came out in London in the Heinemann Caribbean Writers Series. Although it had been completed as early as 1952, it had failed being published in the United States at that time.

  • 3 On this question see Bone, Lewis (, 1981, 189-190), Hutchinson (, 1985, 200, 248).
  • 4 In the second edition of his study, Ramchand, devoting but a few lines to Walrond before presenting (...)

4Whatever their other achievements, it is on these two books only that the respective fame of the two writers must rest. However, their “undefined” national allegiances or cultural anchorages may perhaps explain why their works have long remained unclaimed. Both writers, who were born in what was then the colonial West Indies, found their inspiration in the westward Hispanic fringe of the Caribbean, where both resided for a rich and significant part of their lives. Even later on, Walrond seems to have kept a strong attachment for Panama, where he had migrated with his mother as a child and which remained a central theme in the literature he produced. In a lyrical autobiographical sketch, published in 1924 together with his short story, “The Godless City,” he evokes his first voyage to Barbados at the age of eight from Georgetown, British Guiana, where he was born, as well as a new crossing, five years later, on another ship bound for the Isthmus of Panama. “It was the most exciting moment of my life. No matter where I go, how many countries I visit, I love America!” he exclaims, yet adding, “I am spiritually a native of Panama” (Parascandola, 1998, 332). Although, his role in the New Negro Renaissance was early recognized and recently emphasized, “The Palm Porch” and Tropic Death, from the very first, were also criticized for their exotic stance. Walrond’s aesthetics as well as his literary concerns have often been seen as diverging from the goals of the New Negro movement.3 On the other hand, after a long exclusion from the Caribbean literary canon, Walrond is now considered as the true Caribbean writer by some West Indian critics.4

5Notwithstanding Anderson’s “growing interest in the literature signifying the ‘coming of age’ of Jamaica”, his interests may also have appeared strangely remote from the immediate concerns of national independence and racial assertion that developed in the West Indies at the time when he was writing Sudden Glory. According to Harold Barratt, “The novel’s themes are not distinctly Caribbean.” However, he adds, paradoxically: “The novel’s strength is its powerful evocation of the menacing, yet compelling, Central American landscape, the symbolic resonances of which link it with the equally compelling Guyana jungle of Wilson Harris’s fiction” (Barratt, 1994, 43). And the back-cover advertisement of the novel asserts that “it is in the finest tradition of Latin American writing, and that it could compare with the great works of Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.”

6Such remarks obviously raise questions on the notions of exile, “exote” (Segalen, 1999, 744-781), exoticism, and the “frontiers of the Caribbean” as well as on the meaning of Caribbeanness in literature. It is through the individual study of these two writers within their historical and geographical contexts that these problematics will be approached here.

7The phrase “external frontier of the Caribbean” was introduced by George Lamming in Toronto in 1985 when he proposed “to reverse a traditional world-view in which European rulers regarded their colonial possessions as outposts on the periphery of their world—the white, rich, politically and technologically powerful metropolis of Europe and North America” (Birbalsingh, 1996, 9). Defining the concept of an imperial frontier in relation to the Caribbean, Lamming shows that with the transformation of the region by the introduction of the sugar cane, this concept “had to shift to coincide with what we have since come to know as plantation society” (Lamming, 1996, 3). Lamming’s unifying vision of the Caribbean transcends the political fragmentation of the region by his claim that it “is opposed both by our common historical experience, and by a center of resistance that has been planted and is expanding” (Ibid, 4). These metropolitan centers “comprise what [he calls] the external frontier, and this frontier, particularly the visionary progressive elements within it, has a very decisive role to play in the future cultural and political development of the Caribbean” (Ibid, 9).

8Walrond’s life and writings may be seen as an illustration of this process of expansion, which had in fact begun in the mid-19th century to become an important feature of the New York Negro life by the second decade of the 20th century. While Walrond is mostly known for this early period, his experience obviously partakes of Lamming’s Caribbean. When he left British Guiana, then Barbados, and later on Panama for New York, Eric Walrond was part of the vanguard of the successive migrations that led to the constitution of those Caribbean “external frontiers.” Yet what is emphasized in his fiction is not the construction of “centers of resistance” but pauperization, displacement and crude exploitation in the Caribbean region.

9In Blood Relations: Caribbean Immigrants in the Harlem Community, 1900-1930, Irma Watkin-Owens proposes a more precise if less ideological explanation of Walrond’s personal achievement and his father’s failure, as well as of the family’s various migrations: “Migration in search of work, both within the setting of the Caribbean and to points beyond its geographic boundaries, has long been a way of life for the people of the region.” (Watkin-Owens, 1996, 11). Her first chapter, “Panama Silver meets Jim Crow,” offers a socio-historical description of the new exodus which, at the turn of the century, led rural masses from all parts of the Caribbean first to Panama in search of an elusive gold, and then to New York City at the time of the Great Migration to Harlem and the New Negro movement. Considering the period following the British abolition of slavery (1838), she describes a first wave of inter-territorial migration from the eastern islands to Trinidad and Tobago and to British Guiana, “at the same time that thousands of Asian indentured laborers were imported... The result was the evolution of culturally heterogeneous societies in the Caribbean with their own complex set of social dynamics” (Ibid, 12). At the time of her marriage Walrond’s mother was a Barbadian living in British Guiana. Walrond’s father, a British Guianese living within the frontiers of the British empire, joined the labor force recruited largely among the impoverished peasants of the decaying Caribbean plantation system to build the Panama Canal. But work in Panama only turned out to be but the passage from one system of exploitation into a no less harsher one within what had already become a larger empire.

  • 5 Crisis, Sept. 1920, quoted in Watkin-Owens. Concerning the political influence of Caribbean intelle (...)

10Watkin-Owens’s study also accounts for the double aspect of this last exodus from the Caribbean region to its external frontiers—that of a cheap labor force, the peasant masses described by Dubois, and also of a West Indian political and intellectual elite.5

11These various elements have been variously recognized, identified and interpreted in Walrond’s works, to the point that his short stories have been cited to document the sociological descriptions of the new Caribbean migrant societies. Autobiographical elements have also been emphasized and seen as the thematic structural elements of his collection of short stories. Hence two complementary and contradictory readings of Tropic Death.

12Robert Bone was the first to offer a documented and detailed interpretation of Walrond’s literary production in “Masks of Arcady”, the section he devotes to some authors of the Harlem Renaissance. Focusing on Walrond’s “penchant” for the Gothic as a mode of the anti-pastoral in Tropic Death, Bone argues its sources are “both psychological and literary [and] may be traced to the anguish of a fragmented self”(Bone, 1975, 172-173). Tropic Death is not seen here as a collection of short stories but as an “exploration of the self moving back in time,” at the same time that Walrond’s own migrations from the Caribbean to its external frontiers are described as “the outward and visible emblems of a spiritual journey: the Black Briton’s pilgrimage to Westminster” (Ibid, 173). The theme of racial discrimination, which prevails in Walrond’s early writings, is explained by the traumatic experience of the young Caribbean in his first contacts with American society. Walrond’s use of voodoo as the supernatural element that sustains the Gothicism of various stories in Tropic Death’s is then interpreted as

a symbolic antidote to the poisons of racial hatred encountered in the Western world. It was at this point that Walrond discovered the possibilities of Gothic as a literary mode. He employed it to express that part of his personality which remained resistant to the white man’s culture: the black, African, pagan, ungovernable, inassimilable, or in a word demonic self that stubbornly refused to be ‘redeemed.’... Like Kurtz he journeys to the heart of darkness only to recoil from the horror” (Ibid, 173-174).

  • 6 The text of this article, first published in Crisis, August 1923, is given in Parascandola, 1998, 6 (...)
  • 7 Bone sees in Walrond’s “The Wharf Rats” a rewriting of one of Hearn’s sketches “Ti Canoti.”

13In his article, “El Africano,” Walrond, while describing the art of a Spanish Canarian artist, compares him to several writers: “Were he a literary artist he would be a combination of Balzac, Pierre Loti, Lafcadio Hearn, Joseph Conrad and de Maupassant.”6 Of these authors, seen as meaningful sources for understanding, in turn, Walrond’s own works, Bone retains only Loti and Hearn and the above allusion to Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” leaving aside the references to the other realistic authors (Bone, 1975, 186). In Hearn he finds the literary source of Walrond’s interest in Gothicism and further underlines the similarity in the two writers’ lives, their being “cosmopolitan, belonging to no one nation or cultural tradition” (Ibid, 187). Drawing the parallel to the point of representing Walrond as a sort of “doppelganger”7 of Hearn, Bone is led to conclude that they shared the same Darwinistic vision of Caribbean history, the victory of the “slave races,” an era whose “future tendency must be to universal blackness... perhaps to universal savagery... Tropic Death is in fact the veiled confession of a colonized black that cannot return to his primitive source” (Ibid, 202).

14Although Bone’s interpretation offers a very keen and subtle understanding of Walrond’s writings, one cannot help recoiling from the horror of such Gothic gloom. If death informs Walrond’s tropics, there is also a lot of life and genuine humor and gaiety in the fictional representation that he gives of the Caribbean. To other critics, Walrond’s stories also reveal a wealth of human warmth and a sensuous luxurious beauty that is sustained by the author’s rythmic and colorful prose. Whatever may have been for Walrond the shock of racial discrimination on his arrival in the U. S., a shock that he expressed in his early fiction and essays, Tropic Death, in a Caribbean perspective, cannot be read as an experience of such existential agony.

  • 8 On this point see Martin on Walrond and Garvey (mentioned above), and Parascandola (1998, 33-34), a (...)

15While always making it clear in his writings that the issue of race was primordial to him,8 and recognizing the racial basis of Caribbean societies, Walrond refused the Anglo world perception of a black/white duality whose symbolism he almost constantly excluded from his descriptions or narratives. Walrond’s world is one of colors and colorism is his technique. His Caribbean is no heart of darkness, and neither the authorial self nor the narrative stance in his short stories can evoke duplicate versions of Kurtz or Marlowe, as suggested by Bone.

16For the two West Indian critics, Kenneth Ramchand and Carl Wade, “Walrond must be reclaimed from North America” (Ramchand 67), for his work can only be understood though the prism of Caribbean culture and society. Walrond did find in his American experience and the Harlem Renaissance “at least for a time, a racial solidarity and a political focus in an era when opportunities for these were lacking in his own Caribbean environment” (Wade, 1999, 404). Yet, whatever the literary and aesthetic influences that helped shape his own literary career, his work is essentially Caribbean.

17Both Wade and Ramchand insist on the realistic dimension of Walrond’s fictional world, on its representational quality. His intimate knowledge of folk life and language, his strong awareness of the natural and social environment, the complexity of his response to social problems, all stand in contrast with the demands prevailing in the New Negro movement, McKay included.

Banana Bottom suggests that for McKay, as for the mainstream of the Harlem movement, literature is a strategy of self-definition-, for the Walrond of Tropic Death an expression of personal, social and even universal reality. Yet McKay himself would later express a skepticism similar to Walrond’s about the threat to the creative process posed by overemphasis on social and ideological agenda that emerge in his disagreement with Dubois (Ibid, 410) [emphasis added].

18The Caribbean specificity of Walrond’s works in relation to the Harlem Renaissance resides in the achievement of a universality within the particularity of his own personal representation of West Indian reality. “For Walrond the most accomplished black writing reconciles the demands of the private world with those of the immediate social context and of the wider community of man” (Ibid, 429). This openness that, according to Wade, he shared with George Lamming, might also be seen as a sign of his créolité. For Ramchand,

Walrond stories go beyond the simple hardship-and-emigration themes to be found in so many West Indian works... Walrond is both moving his material away from conventional social realism and protest against the social order, and seeking to balance or complicate the tone of the narrative by adding elements that lie without the sphere of satire, protest or indignation.” [Instead of concurring with an allegorical interpretation of the stories, Ramchand also makes it clear that in Walrond’s] “fictive world, so sensuously reminiscent of the tropical world which is its source, one thing spontaneously becomes the symbol of another... In the perspective thus created, man’s inhumanity to man is only one aspect of a general fate.” [To him Walrond’s treatment of his subject is a form of realism that can also be found in] “the matter of fact treatment of the supernatural element in the voodoo stories [which] makes it acceptable as part of the natural order of things” (Ramchand, 1983, 70).

  • 9 “It is this primal world and its ways (though not especially these aspects of it), conveniently ref (...)

19Walrond’s use of voodoo would partake less of a Gothic vision of the Caribbean world than of a wider concern for a realistic representation of West Indian folk ways and culture that has prevailed in the Caribbean since the late 1960s.9 There is no hesitation on the characters’ parts, nor consequently on the reader’s, regarding the reality of the supernatural elements, which are accounted for and dealt with by resorting to the usual voodoo instruments or rituals.

  • 10 This concept has been the object of numerous debates in Canada It is this primal world and its ways (...)

20For Ramchand, Walrond must of necessity be reintegrated into the history of West Indian literature, but it is also important to address the question of why “the larger projects of the talented man who had abandoned wife, children, mother and home in the 1930’s, remained unfulfilled” (Ibid, 75). While acknowledging Walrond’s failure to pursue a consistent literary career beyond Tropic Death and, after his departure to Europe, to achieve the great work he had been funded to produce, Parascandola insists that Walrond never stopped contributing reviews, short fiction and essays in various magazines while residing first in France and later in England, as evidenced by his bibliography of the writer’s works. These later articles, which still deal with the racial issue, as well as contemporary political topics or literature, confirm the reality of Lamming’s “external frontiers” of the Caribbean. Ramchand’s concern that Walrond’s “life of exile, journalism, and vagabondage, its promise and strange failure is profoundly a part of the history and malaise persistent in the region of his birth” (Ibid, 67), has been given a response not only in Lamming’s reversed perspective but also in the recent debates on “exile” among contemporary writers and intellectuals of the Caribbean Diaspora, particularly in Canada.10 This point will be developed further in a comparison between Walrond’s and Anderson’s Caribbean.

21As indicated by Parascandola, because of his continued hope that he might complete The Big Ditch, his great work on the construction of the canal, Panama remained Walrond’s favorite source of inspiration when in Europe. At least five of the six stories and three vignettes, published in England in the latter part of his life, take place in Panama and are reminiscent of the collection of stories that constitute Tropic Death. The changes Walrond brought into “The Palm Porch,” his first Panama story, when including it in Tropic Death, may explain why Walrond’s impressionistic technique and his use of the short story, sketch or vignette were the modes that structured his writings to the exclusion of explorations into more extensive narrative forms, such as The Big Ditch.

22To George Hutchinson, the first version of “The Palm Porch” is a “complicated and intriguing case of the American pan-African reach of The New Negro. Despite the ironic title of the story, named after the bordello at its center, there is nothing picturesque about the story’s ‘exotic’ tropical city” (Hutchinson, 1995, 410). Referring to the double quote (or misquote), in the story, of the biblical passage from John that inspired Conrad’s symbolism, he adds:

The point of view of Walrond’s story looks back at that ‘Heart of Darkness’ from the other side of the ‘veil,’ almost exactly inverting Conrad’s perspective and blurring his white/black duality: for Walrond individual Europeans are shadowy, interchangeable presences drifting somewhat pitifully if barbarously about Miss Buckner’s colorful porch of the brutally exploited and racially incoherent New World (Ibid, 410).

  • 11 For a detailed description of this special issue of the magazine, see Charras, 2001.

23In the second version of “The Palm Porch,” which appeared one year later in Tropic Death, Walrond seems to have pruned the story not only of its manifest references to Conrad’s work but of many of the trappings that Hutchinson called “a glib exploitation of male oriented exoticism” (Ibid, 410). In the space of one year Walrond seems to have matured his style. Drifting away from some of the mannerisms that marked his earlier writings, as well as from the influence of Toomer’s Cane, he seems to have sharpened his purpose—as is also manifest in the 1926 Opportunity issue on the Caribbean that he edited.11

  • 12 In a description that smacks of caricature, he is “Young Briton, red-faced, red-eyed, red-haired. Y (...)

24In this new three-part dramatic narrative, the characters are portrayed in a dense almost terse style with only a touch of the baroque exuberance so typical of the Walrond manner. For instance, the white colonist is no longer fumbling with his biblical invocations, but “Gallant and half-drunk” and swearing, he expresses the only blunt reference to the black/white distinction in the text whose plot relies on more subtle racial hierarchies.12

  • 13 “Walrond also comments on American imperialism and on the effects of modernization and technologica (...)
  • 14 “All, all gone,” cries Miss Buckner after the evocation of the “gradual death of and destruction of (...)

25Walrond’s anti-imperialist thrust has been trimmed of all unnecessary comments, and although it is now more diffuse it remains as biting.13 The long evocation of the destruction of the landscape with the building of the canal by the Americans has been reduced. It is now presented as a reminiscence by the main character of a past that is gone, and integrated into the action that is dramatically developed in the two sections that follow. This condensation serves a double purpose: a more effective dramatization of the action and the foregrounding of a more comprehensive historical vision.14

26In the first part of this new version, History is scenery. It is expressed in images of the destruction of the primeval natural environment, the intrusion of “a gang of ‘taw’-pitching boys, sons of the dusky folks seeping up from the Caribbean isles” (Walrond, 1972, 86), the groaning and vomiting of the sea with the digging “far into the recesses of its sprawling cosmos. Back to a pre-geological age it delved, and brought up things” (Ibid. 87). The shifting symbolic natural elements in what is described as a continuous flow of life not only serve as background to the story, but also make for a representation of the history of Panama and the Caribbean. History is no longer a narrative—it tends to dissolve into a visual evocation of the natural landscape in which markers of time are progressively eluded, the temporal aspects of the verbs indicating process, action, transformed into the expression of a timeless presence, a mythical essence.

With the aftermath there came a dazzling array of corals and jewels—jewels of the griping sea. Magically the sun hardened and whitened it. Sandwhite. Brown. Golden. Dross surged up; guava stumps, pine stump, earth-burned sprats, river stakes. But the crab shell—sea crabs, pink and crimson—the sharks’ teeth, blue, and black, and purple ones—the pearls, and glimmering stones—shone brightly.
Upon the lake of jeweled earth dusk swept a mantle of hazy blue. (
Ibid, 87)

  • 15 “Subjection” and its conclusion have been variously appreciated for the indictment of American hege (...)

27“The Palm Porch” shows Walrond at his best in his choice of the short form (whether the vignette, sketch or short story) for a representation of the Caribbean historical reality. For Walrond the writing of his great narrative, The Big Ditch, may have implied effects as disruptive and destructive as the building of the Panama Canal itself. “Tropic Death,” the eponymic last short story in the collection, has been seen as a geographical and autobiographical conclusion to the collection, the final stage in the author’s personal migrations in the Caribbean and, with his father’s death, his own coming of age. The longest and most consistently narrative story apparently ever written by Walrond, it may also have constituted a technical dead-end, for he finally returned to the shorter forms and more dramatic techniques of representation which he had used from the very first. His short stories rely on the pre-literary modes of writing which he was trained in during the two years he worked as a journalist in Panama and which brought him in contact with the «faits-divers. » Walrond’s interest in the chronicle of these small events in which are recounted the lives and deaths of those who do not count, is evidenced in many of his stories, but more particularly in “Subjection” (in Tropic Death), and “Consulate” (1936, reprinted in Parascandola, 1998, 305-309)—two stories which present two different treatments of this record of casualties.15

28Tropic Death presents itself as a mosaic of these various genres and modes, a polyphony of voices. It constitutes a collage of impressionistic descriptions, at times exuberant, and scenes of dialogues in which the multifarious voices appear on the page through a more visual than phonetic representation of patois. The orality of the dialect is transcribed in subtle variations of lexical and syntactic constructions, a language that puzzles and confuses the reader’s immediate understanding thus creating a feeling of strangeness, a kind of “unheimlich” inherent to exoticism. In his presentation of Walrond’s works, Parascandola offers a lexicon of various phrases or words, some of which are already signaled by the author’s italics, thus foregrounding their eccentricity.

  • 16 Drawing on the somewhat romantic vision of the exile as the divided self, Parascandola asserts: “Li (...)
  • 17 Although rarely used, this word is found in the Oxford English Dictionary, it seems to convey the c (...)

29In this dialogism, the authorial and narrative voices are fluctuating. Variously omnipresent, polymorphous, and almost always ambiguously elusive, they suggest an impression of detachment which Parascandola explains by Walrond’s situation as the foreigner, the exile.16 Yet, this stylistic trait may also be seen to derive from Walrond’s function as a “passer”17 on the frontier — a bridge, a sort of go-between — opening a passage through what is too often perceived as barriers that divide center from periphery. Neither an “ex-centric” nor an exile, as a passer he is of here and there at once, in the immediacy of the present moment.

30Vernon Anderson’s Sudden Glory stands in many ways in striking contrast to Walrond’s short fiction. It looks back to a Caribbean society that is still colonial, whereas Walrond’s migrations to Panama and New York City placed him outside the pale of the British empire. Although published after the independence of Jamaica (1962), and even of British Honduras (1981), Anderson’s novel occupies an ambiguous position on the external frontiers of Caribbean literature. As previously indicated, it was written in Jamaica in the early 1950s, on the author’s return from his thirty-year stay in Belize, before Jamaican independence, and finally published in London in 1987, after Anderson had definitely left his native island to live in Toronto. Sudden Glory’s, setting is a small isolated microcosm on the Central American border of the Caribbean and on the frontier between colonial British Honduras and the province of Petén in Guatemala, as described below.

  • 18 Situated on the Mopan Branch of Belize River, Xunantunich is half a mile away from the border with (...)

They had, earlier that morning, accompanied by a band of chicleros and baggage mules, crossed the border between Guatemala and British Honduras, at El Cayo. They were on their way to Shoonantonich [Xunantunich]18 which was the headquarters of the U. S. Consolidated Chicle Company and the location of an archeological expedition funded by the Nethersole Foundation. Dr Cutbush was the President of the latter and was making his first visit to the almost empty forest lands of Petén where, once, a peaceful Mayan civilization had flourished (Anderson, 1987, 1-2).

31The novel itself is historically situated in the aftermath of the 1929 crisis which had serious effects on the economy of the region in that period of growing US economic penetration. It takes place during Ubico’s dictatorship in Guatemala (1931-1944), and Deodato Grana, the president of Guatemala in the novel, stands for President Ubico. The political situation is summed up in the caustic remark, that while for the Guatemaltecans these revolutions “formed the bulk of their diet the frontier question of ‘Belize the Lost province’ was something for them to chew between meals” (Ibid, 3). However, the isolation of the town of El Cayo, in which the local physician found “a purgatory of futility” (Ibid, 3) is slightly perturbed by the news of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia (which situates the story more precisely in 1935).

The news he had heard on the D. C.’s ‘wireless’ was that Mussolini’s forces had invaded Ethiopia and, he thought, another colony was, thus, in the throes of birth. It was a conquest that did not, however, involve any stout Cortez and 500 hundred men, but rather corps, squadrons of bombers and bloodshed raised in the nth degree of (rightfulness” (Ibid, 3).

  • 19 In Beyond the Mexique Bay, Huxley continues: “It is not on the way from anywhere to anywhere else. (...)

32The novel is thus placed in a double context, a period that announces new histories of conquest and domination and an isolated geographical situation in the midst of a still wild natural environment. This situation is summed up in the local doctor’s witty but cynical following remark: “The trouble with living in a bankrupt and stagnant backwater of the far-flung British Empire was that it ‘could not, nor could ever have been, flung far enough’” (Ibid, 3). In its spirit and in its formulation, this comment cannot but evoke Aldous Huxley’s note in his journal written while on a tourist cruise in the Caribbean in 1933: “If the world had any end, British Honduras would certainly be one of them.”19

  • 20 The American E. G. Squier, on a mission to explore the possibility for the construction of the Hond (...)
  • 21 “In a frontier nearly one hundred miles long there were only two official portals of entry. As the (...)

33Huxley’s statement, which read in its context is no more than a casual observation in a series of very anecdotal notes and incidental impressions, has come to be the most notorious definition of Belize. It has been turned into a definitive assessment, either accepted for its intuitive understanding of the country’s “abnormal” situation as a British enclave in Hispanic Central America, or rejected as the expression of the British colonial stereotype on a Caribbean colony.20 Zee Edged, the first Belizean writer to be known internationally for her first novel, Beka Lamb (1982, also published by Heinemann), declared that such statements made her feel “it necessary to write back,” to take up the gauntlet thrown down by Huxley and other travelers of the Empire (Shea, 1997, 582). In contrast, Anderson’s view on that question, at least as expressed by one of the novel’s protagonists, may appear in keeping with the Empire’s condescending attitude to its Caribbean colony. A wry comment which gives the tone to the novel’s first description of the contemporary setting, it is pronounced by the local doctor who occupies the very same position Anderson held in reality.21

  • 22 Anderson was well integrated into Belizean society where he lived with his family from 1928 to 1948 (...)
  • 23 Belize’s population has been described as a melting pot—half of its population being Creole and met (...)
  • 24 A situation that is becoming even more complex with the various recent waves of refugees and econom (...)

34Neither Anderson nor his novel have ever been defined as “Belizean.” Because of his citizenship, the author is presented as a Jamaican writer. Yet Sudden Glory is a product of Belize, if only because it relies so much on its author’s long personal experience of that country.22 The novel’s situation on the extreme confines of that disputed colony of the British Empire takes it miles away from the multi-ethnic and fragmented Caribbean society of the Belize described by Edgell or other contemporary Belizean writers.23 The setting in Sudden Glory has not much in common either with Belize’s perilous lowlands that sheltered the first Scottish pirates who settled on its shores washed by the Caribbean sea, or with the holiday visions of tourist guides describing the colorful “coral islands of childish imagination” (Huxley, 1935, 29). Furthermore, the novel’s protagonists may hardly be said to partake of the motley population of the city of Belize, or of the Garifuna or the Hispanic communities, which have all been the scenes of most Belizean fiction. Set in the midst of the green ocean of the rain forest that helped maintain Belize’s economy and existence, the novel is Belizean in that it shows the pregnance of its Mayan past, and the nation’s separate position and at once its intricately close relationship as regards Central America.24

35Anderson was also drawing on his personal experience of Belize when introducing one of the main themes of the novel. “I also had the good fortune to be at my portal—the village of El Cayo—when the ruins of the great cities of the Ancient Maya began to interest the archeologists. On several occasions I was host to two of the archeologists mentioned by C. W. Ceram in his Gods, Graves and Scholars—p. 425, Bantam Book.” Ceram’s book, which was translated into several languages, helped popularize recent discoveries in Mesoamérican archeology, but also the past explorations of John Lloyd Stephens who, with Catherwood, discovered the Mayan site of Copàn (footnote n° 21). In his Incidents of Travels, Stephens had already made the claim that Amerindian civilizations should be seen on a par with those of Ancient Greece, Italy or the Middle East, whose monuments he had visited and described in his books of travels. Ceram (1975, Ch. 4) also brings together those ancient civilizations and the newly rediscovered Mesoamérican empires—a comparison which also comes up in Anderson’s novel, as some of his archeologists developed an interest in Mesoamérican civilization after studying Egyptian archeology. In his letter to Heinemann, Anderson refers to Ceram as a source of documentation for his fiction—the interest of his archeologists for Mayan acoustics, their mathematical theories, their knowledge of astronomy as revealed in their calendar. The novel also makes it clear that Mesoamérica is part of the ancient heritage of humanity that must be saved from destruction and oblivion.

  • 25 Marcel Brion shows the same contemporary interest for Mesoamerican archeology. He offers a detailed (...)

36Yet, the title of the novel explicitly refers to another cultural heritage, that of British literature and philosophy. Anderson asserts that its title, “‘Sudden Glory,’ is derived from Hobbes (1588-1679)—the 17th century rationalist philosopher. He said, “Laughter is a passion without name—it is a Sudden Glory.’ But the book does not deal with philosophy or psychology. It is very mundane.” (letter to Heinemann). The phrase taken from Hobbes’s essay on human passions serves as an epigraph to the novel. It is further developed through the archeologists’ reference to the polyporus that grows on the Erythryna orchid of the Petén rainforest. The plant, when used as a drug, might offer a possible clue to the enigmatic smile on the clay masks of the Totonacs, who by absorbing it may have “laughed themselves into limbo,” thus defying death and their own human limits (Anderson, 1987, 43-52).25

37Notwithstanding Anderson’s assertion that his novel does not deal with psychology or philosophy, the story develops on those very premises. It presents the confrontation between the scientists’ rationality and the world of Mayan beliefs and rituals which they are attempting to reconstruct as well as the natural environment which their scientific studies help to exploit. “Sudden Glory” refers simultaneously to the enigmatic smile of the Totonacs’ clay masks, to the deadly splendor of the flower’s beauty, and to the action as a comedy of the human passions against the background of the mysterious ruins of the Mayan empires (this last metaphorically and literally). A tragicomedy in fact whose outcome is death or escape, for Anderson’s novel does not develop into any tragic sublimation but only expresses the sober recognition that science may defeat itself, that rationality may be baffled by absurd chance and human insanity. Even if its ending lines suggest the hope of some redeeming resolution, this hope has been previously questioned, and seems all the more dubious as it is uttered by the most lucid yet mistaken character in the novel. In an almost mystic vision of a possible future, it suggests that after “a period ‘like unto the dark night of the soul’ which St John of the Cross described,” some truth might be reached through a mystic Christian experience involving a character called the Speaker (Anderson, 1987, 274).

  • 26 In 1972, Anderson wrote a dramatic adaptation of its novel. This dramatization of an insistently na (...)

38In spite of the novel’s narrative structure, based on a succession of stories as in the ancient tradition of story telling, its style is not at all marked by any form of “oraliture,” in contrast to Walrond’s short stories. This characteristic is reinforced by a narrative technique of indirection and mediation. Almost always reported in indirect speech, the action unfolds through the successive narratives, which are presented in the form of monologues, or as the reflections or reminiscences of a protagonist who may appear on the moment as a center of consciousness.26

39This weaving together of the multiple threads of the plot into an almost circular pattern foregrounds the conversationally “mundane” and at times “futile” expression of the characters’ utterances. As if emotion could be kept at bay by imposing on the story the conventions of social life and etiquette, the novel exhibits an insistent use of linguistic formalities, literary allusions, understatements, wry humor, or irony, all of which may be seen as deriving from a “British” cultural model. Beyond the sustained reference to a British cultural archetype, this strategy of indirection moreover suggests the fragility of human societies or civilizations in their attempts to impose order against such threats of chaos or utter destruction as brought an end to former ancient empires.

  • 27 « Désormais le roman colonial peignait de moins en moins l'âme d'un peuple que l'impossibilité d'un (...)
  • 28 This notion has been developed in Segalen’s notion of “an exoticism in time or place” (Segalen, 199 (...)

40More than Heart of Darkness, Sudden Glory evokes Forster’s Passage to India. Both seem to partake of this change in the British colonial novel after World War I, which no longer attempts to portray the spirit of a people (as Kipling did), but foregrounds the impossibility of a meeting point between two civilizations engaged in the colonization process (Moura, 1999, 22).27 Yet Anderson’s novel, almost to the end, presents no encounter with the colonized Other. Exoticism in Sudden Glory is geographical and historical or, rather, spatial and archeological.28 The voice of the mysterious “Speaker” may be heard, it has in fact been heard as an ironical intrusion on the very stage of the drama, but he can hardly be said to speak for the voiceless peasants or Mayan people. Muted down by a history of conquest, repression and military dictatorship, they only endure. On this point Anderson’s novel might compare with Walrond’s stories about which Ramchand noted: “If a deep pessimism seems to underlie them, there is a hard optimistic layer too, based upon man’s endurance in humility in the living world” (Ramchand, 1983, 74). Sudden Glory does not deal with the people and their history, but with the archeologists’ attempts to understand the Mayan empires.

  • 29 For a definition and criticism of these categories, see Durand ed., 1999, vol. I, more particularly (...)

41Based on obvious similarities in their situation on the external frontiers of Caribbean literature, this parallel presentation has come to emphasize confrontation rather than conjunction in Walrond’s and Anderson’s choices of two apparently conflicting systems of representation—the literature of exoticism and the colonial novel.29 This choice of modes that symbolize the imperial or colonial power in relation to an exotic or foreign Other, seems particularly paradoxical in their situation as British colonials.

42These two diverging literary responses to their situation of cultural displacement may have been induced by the modes of representation which were available to them at that time, but also by the particularities of their individual personalities or experience, and those of the countries which they somehow adopted. These choices however derived from their confinement within the English language, as neither ever addressed the Spanish literary readership which otherwise might have been also theirs—but which also may not have recognized them as nationals.

43Because of the particular circumstances of their personal lives, both Walrond and Anderson found themselves in geographical and cultural situations that could not be accounted for by normal national or ethnic categories. Nevertheless, although they spent a significant part of their lives on the anglophone fringes of Spanish-speaking Central America (the West Indian migrant community in Panama for Walrond, the border of the British colony of Belize with Guatemala for Anderson), they both, later on, left the Caribbean tropics to spend the rest of their lives in other less peripheral parts of the British Commonwealth (respectively London and Toronto). These nearly similar developments of their lives place them in almost identical situations as regards national literary canons and formal definitions of national literary allegiance. Neither “exotes,” nor exiles, as writers they actually also chose to remain throughout their lives within the linguistic limits of their English native culture and language (except, in the case of Walrond, for the short period when he worked as a journalist in Panama). In that country, particularly in the Colon West Indian community, Walrond found himself outside the pale of the British colonial rule but under the American hegemonic empire—as emphasized in most if his Panama stories.

44In literary exoticism, Walrond found a stylistic mode in which he could express the complexity of the cosmopolitan situation of the Caribbean world where he had lived and for which he felt such a spiritual bond, as well as his own personal literary tastes (see Walrond’s appreciation of Blaise Cendrars, Fabre, 1991, 139). His use of the exotic mode obviously also derived from his necessary use of English in his new American environment and from the incitement to write that he found in the New York of modernism and of the New Negro Movement. He consequently was in the position of the “exote” in regard to Panama as well as to his New York reading public—a dubious position that contributes to the ambiguity of some of his fiction. Walrond’s exotic stance may also suggest another explanation to his inability to go beyond the short story form in so far as exoticism, by posing its object in its otherness, tends to transform it into the essence of its difference (Durand, 1999, 7). In presenting his “people,” the Panama people, as exotic objects for his New York World, Walrond also came to represent their (and his own) history as essence, hence fixed in its atemporal presence.

45Anderson’s situation within the British Empire and on the external frontiers of the Caribbean tends to confuse all criteria as regards the colonial novel model. As a Jamaican officer in the British Colonial Medical Service in British Honduras after a period of studies in British universities, he was writing from within the Empire but on blurred frontiers as regards the binary opposition of the colonial and colonized of his literary model. His novel was written after his return to Kingston and Jamaican independence, when Belize was still a British colony, as is the Belize of which he writes in a reminiscence of his own personal experience in the village of El Cayo in the 1930s. His novel hardly fits into the binary colonial and post-colonial division, at least in relation to the date of its publication, which further situates Sudden Glory in a totally different context from that described in the text of the novel or the context in which Anderson was writing it. The indeterminate geographical border situation in Sudden Glory is in keeping with Anderson’s own situation in relation to the colonial novel. A British “anomaly” in Spanish speaking Central America, Belize, particularly at that time, was in an ambiguous status situation in relation to Guatemala. Moreover Anderson’s sustained use of English in the novel, as the dominant language and a cultural model, is double-edged as it is also indifferently the language of the colonial and the colonized, and, as in Walrond’s story, also that of the new American imperial hegemonic order. This also meant for Anderson an ambivalent choice of a reading audience, as evidenced by his attempts to have his novel published first in the United States, and much later in London. Perhaps the reason for the novel’s failure to achieve the recognition it deserves, comes from its denial of national literary barriers and its successful attempt to expand Caribbeanness on to the continent (as the above mentioned comparison with Wilson Harris and with South American writers tends to show).

  • 30 « Du Guatemala au Panama, des Bahamas jusqu'à Trinidad, l’Amérique Centrale et les Antilles forment(...)
  • 31 For a description of the transformations of notions related to Caribbeanness, see the Introduction (...)

46By eluding all national categorization Walrond’s and Anderson’s fictions further question the apparent contradiction between the two literary modes in which they chose to express themselves. Pushing out the frontiers of the Caribbean world to its Central American counterpart, both authors confirm its paradoxical unity within its inherent fragmentation.30 While anticipating on later theorization, they enact an aesthetics of the Caribbean diversity that transcends problematics of essence or identity.31

Bibliographie

Woks cited

Anderson, Vernon F., 1987. Sudden Glory. London: Heinemann Caribbean Series.

Barratt, Harold, 1994. “Anderson, Vernon (1900-). In Benson E., and Conolly, L. W.: Encyclopedia of Colonial Literatures in English. London: Routledge.

Berry, Jay R., 1987. “Eric Walrond (1898-1966).” Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit, Mi.: Gayle Research Group.

Birbalsingh, Frank, 1996. Ed., Frontiers of Caribbean Literature in English. Ν. Y.: St Martin’s Press.

Bone, Robert, 1975. Down Home: A History of American Short Fiction from Its Beginnings to the End of the Harlem Renaissance. N. Y.: Putnam’s Sons.

Brion, Marcel, 1949. La Résurrection des villes mortes. Paris: Payot.

Ceram, C W, 1975 (-1949). Le Livre des dieux, des tombeaux, des savants. Genève: Famot.

Charras, Françoise 2001. “The West Indian Presence in The New Negro (1925).” Temples for Tomorrow: Looking Back at the Harlem Renaissance”. Fabre, G. & Feith, M., eds. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana UP.

Dugrand, Alain, 1991. Belize. Paris: Voyageurs Payot.

Durand, Jean-François, ed., 1999. Regards sur les littératures coloniales. Paris: L’Harmattan.

Fabre, Michel, 1991. From Harlem to Paris: Black American Writers in France, 1840-1980. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Ferly, Odile, 2002. Women Writers from the Francophone and Hispanic Caribbean at the Close of the Twentieth Century: En-gendering Caribbeanness. Unpublished Dissertation. University of Bristol, U. K.

Foucrier, Chantai and Daniel Mortier, eds., 1999. Frontières et Passages. Rouen: P. U. R.

Hutchinson, George, 1995. The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White. Cambridge: Harvard UP.

Huxley, Aldous, 1935. Beyond the Mexique Bay. London: Albatross Modern Continental Library.

Lamming, George, 1996. “Concepts of the Caribbean.” In Frank Birbalsingh, ed. Frontiers of Caribbean Literature in English. Ν. Y.: St Martin’s Press.

Lewis, David L, 1997 (-1979). When Harlem Was in Vogue. New York: Penguin Books.

Mackie, E. W, 1985. “Excavations at Xunantunich and Pomona, Belize, in 1959-1960 (7-9). A Ceremonial and an Earthen Mound of the Maya Classic Period.” Oxford, UK: B. A. R. International Series.

Martin, Tony, 1983. Literary Garveyism: Garvey, Black Arts and the Harlem Renaissance. Dover, Ma.: The Majority Press.

Moura, Jean-Marc, 1999. “Littérature coloniale et exotisme: Examen d’une opposition de la théorie littéraire coloniale.” In Regards sur les littératures coloniales I. Paris: L’Harmattan.

Musset, Alain, 1998 (-1984). L’Amérique centrale et les Antilles. Une approche Géographique. Paris: Armand Colin.

Parascandola, Louis J., éd., 1998. Winds Can Wake Up the Dead”. An Eric Walrond Reader. Detroit, Mi.: Wayne State UP.

Ramchand, Kenneth, 1983 (1970, Savacou, 1:2). “The Writer Who Ran Away: Eric Walrond and Tropic Death.” The West Indian Novel and Its Background. London: Heinemann.

Rouquié, Alain, 1992. Guerres et paix en Amérique Centrale. Paris: Seuil. Segalen, Victor, 1999. “Essai sur l’exotisme.” In Victor Segalen. Œuvres Complètes. Paris: Robert Laffont, Bouquins.

Said, Edward, 1996. “Reflections on Exile.” Ibieta, G. and Orwell, Miles. Readings Identity and Culture. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Shea, Renée H., 1997. “Zee Edgell’s Home Within: An Interview.” Callaloo 20, 3, 574-583.

Squier, E. G., 1858. The States of Central America. N. Y.: Harper.

Stephens, John Lloyd, 1944 (-1841). Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. Richard, L. Predmore, ed. Rutgers, NJ, Rutgers UP.

Wade, Carl E., 1999. “African-American Aesthetics and The Short Fiction of
Eric Walrond: Tropic Death and the Harlem Renaissance.”
CLA Journal XLII: 4, 403-423.

Walrond, Eric, 1992 (1925, A. Locke, The New Negro).“The Palm Porch.” Ν. Y.: Atheneum, 1992.

----, 1972 (-1926). Tropic Death. Ν. Y.: Collier Books. Includes: “Drought,” “Panama Gold,” “The Yellow One,” “The Wharf Rats,” “The Palm Porch,” “Subjection,” “The Black Pin,” “The Vampire Bat,” “Tropic Death.”

Watkin-Owens, Irma, 1996. Blood Relations: Caribbean Immigrants and the Harlem Community 1900-1930. Bloomington, In.: Indiana UP.

Notes

1 In 1923 Walrond broke away from Garvey and Negro World and began working as editor for Opportunity. However, when “in the late 1930s, Walrond and Garvey were both living in London, Walrond again contributed to a Garveyite publication, this time the Black Man. Walrond was the second most frequent contributor after Garvey himself” (Martin, 1983, 132).

2 I am quoting here from an unpublished letter of Anderson to Heinemann Publishing Co, which was communicated to me by his daughter, Sonia Shiletto.

3 On this question see Bone, Lewis (, 1981, 189-190), Hutchinson (, 1985, 200, 248).

4 In the second edition of his study, Ramchand, devoting but a few lines to Walrond before presenting McKay’s works, declared: “Walrond’s life of exile, journalism and vagabondage, his promise and his strange failure to produce must form an important chapter of West Indian literary history, but it is with the career of a more emblematic figure in West Indian writings that it is proposed to deal herein” (Ramchand, 1983, 240-241). However, before Ramchand’s article, “The Writer Who Ran Away” (1970), Walrond had never been included in the Caribbean literary canon. Frank Birbalsingh, in his Frontiers of Caribbean Literature in English (1996), while mentioning Walrond and McKay as the first writers who “had appeared on the North American frontier,” inaccurately refers to 1927 as the date when Walrond moved to New York, one year after the publication of Tropic Death, with the result of situating the novel outside the pale of the American Harlem Renaissance. The back cover advertisement of the second edition of Tropic Death, mistakes Guyana for Guinea!

5 Crisis, Sept. 1920, quoted in Watkin-Owens. Concerning the political influence of Caribbean intellectuals in the various American metropolises, whether around Marcus Garvey or in socialist or Marxist circles, see also W. James, Tony Martin, W. B. Turner and J. Moore Turner.

6 The text of this article, first published in Crisis, August 1923, is given in Parascandola, 1998, 66-67.

7 Bone sees in Walrond’s “The Wharf Rats” a rewriting of one of Hearn’s sketches “Ti Canoti.”

8 On this point see Martin on Walrond and Garvey (mentioned above), and Parascandola (1998, 33-34), as well as the latter’s detailed bibliography of Walrond’s works (341-348).

9 “It is this primal world and its ways (though not especially these aspects of it), conveniently referred to as ‘folk’ which Louise Bennett, Olive Lewin, Rex Nettleford and J. D. Elder have helped to capture, and which the newer West Indian writers like Lindsay Barrett, Earl Lovelace and L. Edward Brathwaite are seeking to re-integrate” (Ramchand, 1983, 71).

10 This concept has been the object of numerous debates in Canada It is this primal world and its ways (though not especially these aspects of it), conveniently referred to as ‘folk’ which Louise Bennett, Olive Lewin, Rex Nettleford and J. D. Elder have helped to capture, and which the newer West Indian writers like Lindsay Barrett, Earl Lovelace and L. Edward Brathwaite are seeking to re-integrate” (Ramchand, 1983, 71), particularly in the Haitian Diaspora. Some of the questions that have been raised are presented in Birbalsingh’s Frontiers of Caribbean Litrerature in English.

11 For a detailed description of this special issue of the magazine, see Charras, 2001.

12 In a description that smacks of caricature, he is “Young Briton, red-faced, red-eyed, red-haired. Yellow-teethed, dribble-lipped, swobble-mouthed, bat-eared,” who exclaims: “Where's my Anesta,’ he said, ‘by God, she is the sweetest woman, black or white—on the whole god-dammed—” (Walrond, 1972, 94).

13 “Walrond also comments on American imperialism and on the effects of modernization and technological advancement on underdeveloped countries” (Berry, 1987, 299). See Charras, 2001.

14 “All, all gone,” cries Miss Buckner after the evocation of the “gradual death of and destruction of the frontier post” given in the first paragraph. “‘All of that’ she sighed, ‘all of that was swamp — when I came to the Isthmus’” (86).

15 “Subjection” and its conclusion have been variously appreciated for the indictment of American hegemony on the Canal leading to an exceptional case of tragic individual rebellion: “In the Canal Record, the Q. M. at Toro Point took occasion to extol the virtues of the Department which kept the number of casualties in the recent native labor uprising to one.” (Tropic Death 112). In contrast, the matter of factness of the Consul's clerk, “the arbiter of life and death,” who punctuates his recording of the various cases with a “Next!” (Parascandola, 1998, 305-309).

16 Drawing on the somewhat romantic vision of the exile as the divided self, Parascandola asserts: “Like many people from the Caribbean, Walrond became a permanent migrant, always having a sense of home while simultaneously feeling the loss of it. This contradiction is what often adds power and poignancy to his work. Despite the torture of living in an American or European society in which he faced racism he could neither understand nor accept, he returned to the Caribbean only for short visits. For this reason, perhaps, his work is detached enabling him to write objectively about the area. Such detachment is often true for writers in exile (Said. 1996, 150-51)” (Parascandola, 1998,36) [emphasis added],

17 Although rarely used, this word is found in the Oxford English Dictionary, it seems to convey the connotations suggested by the French phrase « l'écrivain-passeur,» who belongs in «ces zones de contact, ces carrefours, ces lieux intermédiaires de la production littéraire où s'exprime de multiples façons la relation à l'étranger. » Foucrier & Mortier, eds, (1999, 5).

18 Situated on the Mopan Branch of Belize River, Xunantunich is half a mile away from the border with Guatemala and a mile from Benque Viejo. Perhaps a regional capital during the Mayan Classic Period, it was still occupied at the post-classical period. The site is thought to have been abandoned after a natural catastrophe. It was first brought to scientific notice in 1895 and the first major excavations took place in 1938 under the direction of J. E. S. Thompson who exhumed lots of ceramics. The research continued in the 1950s. (Mackie, 1985, 7-9).

19 In Beyond the Mexique Bay, Huxley continues: “It is not on the way from anywhere to anywhere else. It has no strategic value. It is all but inhabited, and when Prohibition is abolished, the last of its profitable enterprises—the re-export of alcohol by rum-runners—will have gone the way of its commerce in logwood, mahogany, and chicle. Why do we bother to keep this strange little fragment of the Empire? Certainly not from motives of self-interest. Hardly one English in 50,000 derives any profit from the Britishness of British Honduras. But le cœur a ses raisons. Of these mere force of habit is the strongest” (Huxley, 1935, 34).

20 The American E. G. Squier, on a mission to explore the possibility for the construction of the Honduras Inter Oceanic Railway remarked: “Belize is an anomalous British settlement or establishment,” while recalling its past history of plundering of Spanish establishments (Squier, 1858, ch. 26). Alain Rouquié comments: « Erreur historique que la géographie condamne ? Si Belize est ‘une aberration’ en raison de son isolement culturel, racial et linguistique dans le contexte régional, c’est à cause justement de cette aberration, comme on l’a dit, que Belize ‘a le droit d’être une nation’ (Rouquié, 1992, 26).

21 “In a frontier nearly one hundred miles long there were only two official portals of entry. As the only doctor at one of these portals I had a good opportunity to know those who came and went” (Anderson’s letter to Heinemann).

22 Anderson was well integrated into Belizean society where he lived with his family from 1928 to 1948. His wife was of old Belizean origin.

23 Belize’s population has been described as a melting pot—half of its population being Creole and metis of African, Karib, West Indian, and European origin. This aspect was already remarked upon by John Lloyd Stephens, who, an American Southerner, repeatedly expressed a feigned surprise at the lack of racial feelings in Belize (Stephens, 1944, ch. 1). Often emphasized, this melting pot is questioned nowadays. Belize’s original Maya civilization lasted longer than elsewhere in Central America, apparently until the 14th century. Unexplored by the Spanish conquerors, Belize was occupied by Europeans only with the arrival of the first Scottish pirates in 1638. They were followed by Karibs, Garifunas, East Indians, Chinese, Lebanese, German Mennonites, etc., who all now constitute its multi-faceted society. See Alain Dugrand’s travel account (Belize 1991).

24 A situation that is becoming even more complex with the various recent waves of refugees and economic immigrants, mainly from Guatemala and Nicaragua, as the increasing Spanish-speaking minority creates a demographic imbalance that may eventually challenge Belize's English political and cultural specificity.

25 Marcel Brion shows the same contemporary interest for Mesoamerican archeology. He offers a detailed description of those enigmatic sculptures, the only portraits in Mexican sculpture that wear a smile. (Brion, 1949, 266-267)

26 In 1972, Anderson wrote a dramatic adaptation of its novel. This dramatization of an insistently narrative novel emphasizes the theme of the comedy of passions and obliterates the novel's rich cultural theme which makes for its complexity and ambiguity.

27 « Désormais le roman colonial peignait de moins en moins l'âme d'un peuple que l'impossibilité d'une rencontre entre les deux civilisations concernées par la colonisation. » (Moura, 1999, 22).

28 This notion has been developed in Segalen’s notion of “an exoticism in time or place” (Segalen, 1999, 748).

29 For a definition and criticism of these categories, see Durand ed., 1999, vol. I, more particularly Durand’s introduction and the articles by Moura and Halen.

30 « Du Guatemala au Panama, des Bahamas jusqu'à Trinidad, l’Amérique Centrale et les Antilles forment un vaste ensemble morcelé, où l'éclatement politique du continent correspond à l’émiettement de l’archipel Antillais. » (Musset, 1998, 1) [emphasis added].

31 For a description of the transformations of notions related to Caribbeanness, see the Introduction of Odile Ferly’s unpublished thesis on Women Writers from the Francophone and Hispanic Caribbean.

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Université de Montpellier

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