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Fonctions du Cliché : du Banal à la Violence

Claudine Raynaud
Peter Vernon

The Making of a Cliché: "No Man is an Island"

Gillian Beer

Texte intégral

1Cliché is a printerly term, satisfyingly material. Indeed, the Oxford English Dictionary in the main text of its first, 1928, edition describes it only in those terms, as a French onomatopoeic word, a variant on cliquer — to click — "applied by die-sinkers to the striking of melted lead in order to obtain a proof or cast". The main text made no mention of the use of the word cliché which is familiar, cliché'd, now. Instead, it gives three examples, all of them to do with printing and woodcuts. For us, cliché means phatic saying, a phrase generally repeated, used without emotional or intellectual intensity; trite saying; dead metaphor; conformist mouthing of fashionable notices.

2Yet how would we live or communicate without clichés? Daily life might founder without them, in the heady encounter of realised feelings, fresh ideas. So much time would be needed for communication; and so ardent an expression would release intensities of passion and opinion hardly to be contained. We would all fall exhausted before evening, if we survived the laughter, rage, vehemence, and silence of which talk might then consist. Fresh-minted phrases, fierce engagements, surely bodily encounters too, would bombard us, lacking cliché to hold open neutral spaces within a common community.

3Cliché assures us that we all belong together; we can repeat each other; it lowers the temperature of discourse; it rubs out yearning. It suffices without satisfying. It wards off extreme intimacy of encounter, but it is also manoeuvreable, capable of yielding the intimacy of communality. Cliché is scorned but indispensable, accepted as "the lowest common denominator" (itself a cliché) of hasty, everyday exchange.

4As its material origins suggest, cliché is also imposing, stamping a form onto liquid, seizing the moment before cooling in order to shape a purpose, replicating materials no longer new, re-inforcing the presuppositions of those controlling the media in a community. An ideological tool as well as a printer's one.

5But no cliché is a cliché all the time. Suddenly, it may be "felt along the pulses"; it may threaten or sustain one group in a multicultural milieu. That is a function of cliché to which, I shall return later.

6The word "trope" has become a cliché of literary criticism, but it is not identical with cliché: when the etymology of trope is examined the term proves to include resistances to repetition; originally, a trope was a musical phrase in liturgical chant which, as it recurred, could be variously decorated by singers and by other musicians. Cliché, however, suggests invariability, flatness, repetition without renewal within a linguistic community.

7And what of allusion? When does literary reference become cliché'd, troped? What happens then? Must this be a history of decline, or can it produce fresh functions? I want to look at a particular, and curious, example of literary reference today, one that has embedded itself more thoroughly this century than "To be or not to be" or "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears". Those lines sustain always their presence as citation: an allusion encrusting the surface of speech, dignifying or rendering absurd the present occasion by shifting its scale of reference towards heroic tragedy and drama. They work as measures, as means of scaling. That is to say that their function is very frequently ironic, displaying distance by mimicry. That is not so, I think, of this short, statement, so frequently heard now: 'No man is an island'.

8The passage from which it emerges, in Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (n ° 17, 1624), continues:

No man is an island, intire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

9Donne himself may well have had in mind Francis Bacon's essay "Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature", where Bacon comments that "If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them." Two uses do not make a cliché. Moreover, Donne enlarges the scope of Bacon's passage to include mortality as well as largesse of response ("for whom the bell tolls" as well as "a citizen of the world"). Indeed, one of the most striking things about the appropriation of Donne's words has been that "for whom the bell tolls" has remained as a title, recontextualised by Hemingway and resonant because allusive. Cliché, however, becomes denuded of allusion.

10The common misremembrance of Donne's words is revealing: "No man is an island intire unto himself" — so it is often cited. Yet Donne's phrase is topographical: the island is entire unto itself. Autonomy rather than possession is emphasised by Donne; in the revision, possession becomes more important. The man owns (does not own) the island. The island is his own ("intire unto himself"). Such variants are give-aways, depending on the taken-for-granted of a particular group and time. Being proprietor is next best thing (perhaps better than) being the territory. And No Man's Land is neutral, spoiled, banal — and momentarily safe.

11A mystery surrounds the statement "No man is an island" — a mystery that I cannot claim quite to have solved. Indeed, the more I have pursued it, the more it has eluded me, so that I have found myself in that peculiarly time-consuming, fascinating and frustrating research which discovers, after many hours in the library and elsewhere, that something is not there. The mystery is how part of a sentence in an obscure seventeenth-century devotional work entered popular consciousness three centuries later. How did it move from personal to general? How shift out of its theological setting into a humanist statement? What route did it follow? And why has it become so prominent a counter of speech now? Of course, there are clues, but there are silences, too. When people now remember the connection. with Donne, they usually refer to a "Donne poem" or a "Donne sermon". Not so.

12First, to recount the publishing and personal history of the text. Late in 1623, the poet John Donne, now Dean of St. Paul's, lay deathly sick with typhus. As he made his slow recovery, he wrote a meditative work that drew on his personal experience and current surroundings. Among scholars, controversy focusses on the work's form: does it follow Ignatian tradition? Is it unique in seventeenth-century Anglican devotional literature? The Devotions consist of twenty-five sections, each divided into three: each Devotion moves from meditation to expostulation to prayer and is headed thus. The work is dense on the page, preoccupied with death, turned inward, eschewing the rhetorical openness of Donne's sermons and tough to encounter. The seventeenth of the twenty five meditations is on the sentence: "Now the Bell tolling softly for another, saies to me, Thou must die." Donne, lying sick in bed, would have heard such a bell from the nearby church and could construe its message. He wrote with the actual sounds about him. And thirty-five lines into a fifty-five line single paragraph occurs the passage, now famous above all for the statement "No man is an island", and famous also for providing the title of a Hemingway novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

13The mystery of its becoming a cliché would be less of a mystery were there evidence of this being, from the start, a well-loved and famous work. But the evidence is quite otherwise: true, there were five editions during the seventeenth century that circulated among the godly in the couple of decades after its first publication. But in the eighteenth century it passed completely out of sight with no new editions at all. In the nineteenth century, oddly, a little cluster of editions appeared close together (Alferd in 1839, Pickering in 1840, Talboys in 1841), but there is as yet no sign whatever of the passage that interests us being marked out for attention. Indeed, despite checking in a great number of nineteenth-century dictionaries of quotation, it figures nowhere. Nor does it even in some twentieth-century ones: Hoyt's New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations (New York and London, 1923), or Stevenson's Book of Quotations Classical and Modern, which does not include it either in its 1935 (2nd edition) nor in its 1946 edition.

14Look in any nineteenth-century book of quotations and you will find no part of this passage there. Between the 1620s and the 1920s, indeed, three full centuries, these words lay dormant — or were realised only by the scrupulous independent reader. In the mid-nineteenth century the inclination of belief is the other way. Thackeray's pen trembles over the bleakness of individualism in Pendennis (1850): "You and I are but a pair of infinite isolations with some fellow islands a little more or less near to us". The promise of companionship in the word pair is flung away into "infinite isolations" and fellowship is transformed into a plurality of worlds. The echo back to Donne just might or, more probably, might not be there. Matthew Arnold saw each person as inevitably an island, a solitude surrounded by the "unplumbed, salt, estranging sea". The 1849 poem "To Marguerite — continued" opens:

Yes! in the sea of life enisled
With echoing straits between us thrown,
Dotting the shoreless watery wild
We mortal millions live alone.
The islands feel the enclasping flow,
And then their endless bounds they know.

15The third stanza looks back helplessly to a lost condition of being "a piece of the main; a part of the continent":

Oh! then a longing like despair
Is to their farthest caverns sent;
For surely once, they feel, we were
Parts of a single continent!
Now round us spreads the watery plain -
Oh might our marges meet again! (Arnold, 1898, 197)

16The probable immediate source of this desolate realisation is the then current theory, advanced by Edward Forbes at the BAAS in 1845 and contested by Darwin, that continents now far apart had once been joined by land bridges and continental extensions. Such land was long ago engulfed and vanished beneath the deep ocean. (Darwin made his name in the early 1840s by discriminating continental and oceanic islands, but that's another story).

17So Donne's sentence lies fallow in the obscure domain of the Devotions for another eighty years. Then in the 1920s, suddenly, three editions of the work appeared; of these, the Nonesuch edition of Donne's Poetry and Selected Prose, edited by John Hayward in 1929, was much the most generally available and has been frequently reprinted. This is one source, perhaps, for the passage's emergence, though when you look at it in the book, the seventeenth devotion has no particular prominence and is set across pages 537-539 of an almost 800-page collection.

18The work at least becomes available again to be read and cited, and when I began my search, I was sure that I would find it cited widely in the twenties and thirties. I seemed to remember having seen it in The Weekend Book, that bible of the literary and would-be literary classes of the time, which certainly did bring back into currency the beautiful scribal verse of the middle ages, placing it first, on page 3, in its "Great Poems" section:

O Western wind, when wilt thou blow,
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again!

19When Virginia Woolf was writing The Waves in those same years, she cited the poem in the form it appears in the 1929 edition of The Weekend Book. A good many modernist tropes can be tracked to this compilation, so I was sure this had done it for the Donne — but I was wrong. Obstinately, again it was not there. T. S. Eliot had something to do with it, surely. Again, to cut a long story short, he failed to cite the passage that I wanted anywhere in his prose or poetry, though of course he wrote on Donne's poetry and his sermons. But the Devotions were more out of the way, even for Eliot.

20Still, the whole passage from "No man is an island" down to "It tolls for thee" emerges as epigraph in 1940 to Ernest Hemingway's novel of the Spanish Civil War, For Whom the Bell Tolls. The passage is set as epigraph on the facing page at the start in seventeenth-century spelling and in a beautiful simulacrum (entirely spurious) of those seventeenthcentury poems, like Herbert's "The Altar" and "Easter Wings", whose shape mimics their meaning. Here we find an inverted and truncated pyramid which diminishes downward to "it tolls for thee".

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of
the Continent, a part of the maine ·, if a Clod bee washed
away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a
Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy
friends or of thine owne were; any mans death
diminishes me, because I am involved
in Mankinde; And therefore never
send to know for whom the
bell tolls; It tolls for
John Donne

21Several reviewers of the book now quote the passage, among them Dorothy Parker (Critical Heritage, 315) in PM (20 October 1940: "This is a book, not of 3 days, but of all time" — a claim justified by the quotation), Robert Sherwood in the Atlantic (November 1940: "Thus the novel justifies the John Donne quotation from which came the title"). The passage, it seems to these reviewers, is originary, generating the book. There the literary trail ends, belated and somewhat exclusive.

22But Hemingway himself explained how and when he found the passage. The explanation is banal. The passage did not trigger or predate the book's composition though, as epigraph, it stands at the front. After finishing chapter 35 he began to think about a title and favoured "The Undiscovered Country". Then in mid-April 1940, he said, he spent two whole days combing the Bible and Shakespeare "before turning to The Oxford Book of English Prose" (Baker, 1969, 416), chosen and edited by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, published in 1925. No modernist friends like Pound who cut Hemingway's work, as he did Eliot's, gave Donne to him. Instead, an anthology compiled by the prime figure of the academic old guard.

23But there in 1940, also, the pathway out into many people's minds begins: in 1943 Paramount Pictures made a film of the novel, starring Gregory Peck and Ingmar Bergman. The passage was cited (I have to acknowledge incomplete research here, as I have not been able yet to get hold of a print and must rely on my husband's memory that the words were actually flashed up, literally not auditorily, on the screen at the outset: the vestiges of the written). Later, considerably later, "No man is an island" became the opening words of a popular song which carries on with quite a different lyric. The conversational rhythm of the statement readily transfers into a singing phrase. By the 1960s the spore is scattered and the uses mushroomed, awaking into people's consciousnesses, provenance lost.

24The loss of provenance is a mark of cliché. Context does not matter. The phrase can be pried out and becomes completely free of reference. Text ceases. Citation drops away. In this particular instance, a statement is asserted as a general truth, and in that way we are faced with a particular sub-genre of cliché, close to commonplace and proverb, and less evanescent than those which take their zest from current events: a "defining moment".

25The trajectory into cliché which began perhaps with Hemingway, will become playful reference with no clear emotional or ethical content such as a recent "No man is a south sea island" for a newspaper article on Gauguin. It would furnish material for headmasterly admonitions, for politicians. Viz, an immensely popular, sometimes scabrous, Newcastle magazine extends the saying innocently: "No man is an island — except in the bath". Then — more sombrely — the cliché stirs back into life, into meditation and resistance in the debates around Mururoa Atoll and nuclear detonations. Are these islands? Are they ideologically incorporated in the mainland of France? Are they continuous with the health of the whole globe? No island is an island now.

26Having tracked some of the history, the how, by which this statement made its way, belated and powerful, into our daily speech, even our assumptions, I want now to think about the why of its strong presence amongst us, increasingly over the past forty years.

27My first example is set back somewhat in time, to 1957, to a distance that makes it possible for us to descry more easily the assumptions at work. (Recognising our own assumptions is the hardest work; cliché may act as a tool for that procedure.) The example also makes use of dream, where perhaps the controlling negative of Donne's sentence can work as hinge or cusp between meanings, rather than as secure exclusion. This is a nonliterary setting, with ordinary participants.

28Browsing on a shelf of island books I came across Martin Holdgate, Mountains in the Sea: The Story of the Gough Island Expedition. The book details the experiences of an expedition of young scientists to survey island life on this particularly remote and uninhabited spot off Tristan da Cunha, in 1957. The expedition lies at a useful temporal distance from our own present, which may help analyse what is specific to a cultural moment, and what longer-lasting. A simple example of the difference between then and now is the account by the first leader of the expedition, J. B. Heaney, of the attempts to raise funds:

Sometimes the first question I was asked in an interview was, "You're not taking any women, are you?" which required a convincing explanation that it was not a stunt, or a holiday for which I was asking support. (Holdgate, 1958, viii)

29Heaney shares his questioners'assumption that a mixed expedition would be "a stunt or a holiday". The question could not now in Britain legally be asked; we can only hope that the assumptions here declared are not still cloudily, insidiously, present.

30So we have a male-only expedition preparing to set out. With unusual blandness, John Heaney and Robert Chambers recount their dreams (or some of them) as they approach the moment. The record provides a fascinating insight into the particular styles of anxiety that islands can figure forth: fears of invasion, nonentity, exclusion, disputed possession, loneliness, the loss of the past, inauthenticity.

Usually there was land near by. John contrived to survey Gough from South Georgia, a mere 2000 miles away, and met a Communist patiently tilling a field on what seemed to be a continent quite close to the island. Once, having climbed to the summit, I discovered that the whole place was hollow. There were enormous steel girders supporting a superstructure of soil and vegetation, and the top was crowned by a concrete hotel rather like that on the peak of Snowdon and quite as disappointing. The whole thing was bogus and wrong, and there were hostile and unpleasant hotel people about. John found a paddle steamer discharging hundreds of trippers who spread out over all except the southern tip of the island where a calm fisherman was quietly throwing his net. My most demoralising encounter was with three boys. I felt sure they had no business to be on the place so I asked them what they were doing there.
"Just what do you think you are doing here?"

"Oh, we belong to the Club", one of them replied, surprised and apparently offended.
"What Club is that?" I asked, suspecting I was being outplayed.
"The Club of the Prince of Tristan, of course." This was unanswerable. (8-9)

31As scientist and knowledgeable incomer, the dreamer assumes that he has the right to the island but finds his claims invalidated, rendered absurd. He knows nothing; he is outside the club. The "boys" he challenges, with his period imperious question - "Just what do you think you are doing here?" - are the true possessors, authenticated by membership of the Prince of Tristan's entourage: a club there is no way the incomer can join - "This was unanswerable". The more so since, in the nastily reflexive habit of dreams, the boys who "had no business to be on the place" may also stand in for the expedition members. For the writer, this is the climactic dream, but the others are equally striking: they arrive at this uninhabited island to find themselves equalised with trippers who are descending in hundreds at the same time. What had seemed to be their exclusive expedition proves to be part of an ignorant invasion. In both John's dreams a solitary figure survives, continuing traditional tasks unflustered: here, on the southern tip, "a calm fisherman was quietly throwing his net"; in the earlier dream "a Communist" was "patiently tilling a field" on a continent close by. The disappointment (and the comfort) in that first dream is that this is not so remote a place as has been imagined. It is less lonely: a continental, not an oceanic island. (In fact, Gough is part of an undersea mountain range, "the mid-Atlantic ridge" that stretches from the Azores in the north, through Ascension and St Helena, to Tristan da Cunha, Gough, and Biouvet Oya.)

32But most striking for us now may be the dream of the hollow island: a denatured island whose surface soil and vegetation is in fact mounted as superstructure on the support of "enormous steel girders" in an image more like that of the Futurists or Vorticists than of natural historians. This hollow island is, moreover, crowned by an inapposite concrete hotel with curmudgeonly staff. Again, there is the dread of not being accepted, but here, also, a dread of inauthenticity that drives further in: not only into what is studied, but into the study itself — a dread of inauthenticity that hollows out (literally, excoriates) the dreamer s self. The body of the island is empty, heartless. The boys in the other dream by this sleeper repudiate the dreamer's claims to possess entry to the island, and do so effortlessly. Here, the island itself is outside the competence of the dreamer, despite his efforts physical and intellectual ("having climbed to the summit, I discovered that the whole place was hollow"); it is not part of, or subject to, that tradition of knowledge from which the dreamer's identity has been built.

33Why so popular now? First, its negativity: though in the unconscious, as Freud tells us, there is no negative; in the tactical speech of everyday, negation is a means of "having it both ways". The saying denies itself, negating its own negation: it appears to answer a prior proposition — a normative proposition — that each man is an island. In the wake of individualism, it speaks for community, but it accepts prior narcissism. Indeed, it could be argued that the sentence that Donne started never is quite cliché because it makes a demand, an ethical demand, on the imagination. It is necessary to reach towards believing that "no man is an island". It may question, as much as reinforce, our assumptions. It includes its own "pockets of resistance" — îlots de résistance, that is to say.

34In English, by the happenstance of the auditory in language, an emphasis on first person and on autonomy is implicit in the word: "I" is the core of Island. We recognise that when we contrast Janet Frame's reworking of the word in her autobiography entitled To the Is-land. Being, dasein, the "is-ness" of place becomes manifest in her version, based on her first, pronounciation of the word as a child — one that many nonnative speakers fall into, as well. So the self-reflexiveness of the statement acts as a kind of conceptual rhyme in it: I/island — a narcissistic outreach perfectly gratified and yet here denied.

35Second, the global and the local: clearly, the sentence "no man is an island" falls in with global communications, the internet, multinational companies, the European union, as "man" can here stand in for nation as well as individual. These larger groupings are alarming as well as exhilarating. Perhaps the assertion that connection (the continent) is of the nature of the human, the refusal to naturalise isolation (the island), acts as comfort in such a world. Isolation, insulation — these terms which extend from the etymological base (isola, insula) — express what terrifies and comforts in the idea of the island and in the homology between human individual and autonomous zone. The cluster of island clichés may all be part of the persuasive forces that incline us to seek larger associations, mechanised continuities (Channel Tunnel and bridge to the Isle of Skye, to take local examples).

36Island fantasies are present in advertisements, as well. Recently, I picked up a copy of Homes and Gardens magazine in our doctor's surgery. There was a double page spread. On the left hand page a vividly-coloured picture of Pitcairn Island with its tropes of tropical retreat: palm trees, a white coral beach gently curving away to indicate the lie of the island; on the right hand page was a modern kitchen. The plug read: "Do you dream of baking on an island? Come to Hygena." Looked at more closely, the kitchen proves to have a free-standing stove occupying the centre of the floor: an island, on which you can bake. An isolated island shorn of history: the mutineers of the "Bounty" were marooned and formed a society on Pitcairn Island. In August 1995, Country Homes has an entire section on islands for sale, with the sensible caveat that one should be certain that the island has water and that the sea currents will allow you to land there (some people, the magazine remarks in a nonchalant aside, keep a mainland cottage nearby for the weekends: the currents are set against their island cottage). This is a fantasy land of infinite expenditure, infinite narcissism, where the I or ego freely bridges island and continent.

37Our ears now are alerted, too, to the gender "no man is an island". Displaced from its earlier contexts, we can decide not to rest content with that generalising masculine: are women islands then? Sometimes the answer seems blatantly to be "yes": in the scent advertisement "Fidgi", which represents a woman's body as an island site, cradling the treasured and enormous bottle of scent (the central hotel?), announces that the woman is an island. You will be able to tell me, perhaps, whether this is French cliché or an English cliché of French imagining.

38Or in Tournier's Vendredi, where the hero attempts to impregnate the soil of the island quite literally, having been bitten by a spider when he tried the trunk of a tree. He and Friday act as rivals for the island's body, then outgo womanhood as lovers, and finally generation can take place without congress in the appearance of the cabin-boy, Dimanche. But this is to move away from cliché into works of literature that sound earlier texts, here Robinson Crusoe.

39Islands have become commodified fantasies of retreat: the remote island, primitive and natural, with at its centre the island of the five-star hotel to protect the traveller from the primitive and natural: cliché challenging cliché. The paradox is at the heart of tourism, in which we all participate. The Caribbean writer Jamaica Kincaid brings home what this means in her book about Antigua and its incomers, A Small Place: the reader is challenged by banality — the banality from which (within which) the escape to some island paradise locks doubly tourist and inhabitant.

The thing you have always suspected about yourself the minute you become a tourist is true: A tourist is an ugly human being. You are not an ugly person all the time; you are not an ugly person ordinarily; you are not an ugly person day to day. From day to day, you are a nice person. From day to day, all the people who are supposed to love you on the whole do. From day to day, as you walk down a busy street in the large and modern and prosperous city in which you work and live, dismayed, puzzled (a cliché, but only a cliché can explain you) at how alone you feel in this crowd... [she concedes "you are not as revolting a presence as you think you are"]. (15)

40But this self-pitying atom in the lonely crowd is merely a sociological cliché "only a cliché can explain you". To escape the atomistic, the attempt is made to become (briefly, inauthentically) an islander, even, an island. Kincaid pursues the double bind: "every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere" (18).

But some natives — most natives in the world — cannot go anywhere. They are too poor. They are too poor to go anywhere. They are too poor to escape the reality of their lives; and they are too poor to live properly in the place where they live, which is the very place you, the tourist, want to go so when the natives see you, the tourist, they envy you, they envy your ability to leave your own banality and boredom, they envy your ability to turn their own banality and boredom into a source of pleasure for yourself. (18-19)

41Cliché, banality, becomes the controlling mode of exchange. The island is its chosen theatre. Kincaid's incantatory repetition of ordinary terms ("nice", "poor", "native", with its frisson across inhabitant and savage) is both alluring and menacing. Her style lilts, reassures, and damages the reader with all the violence of which cliché is capable.

42Clichés are ritually sneered at, repudiated, as well as reproduced. We live with them in the same relation as I saw described the other day of the most wilfully sophisticated holiday-makers: as posttourists — post-tourists do all the tourist things just like tourists, buying the postcards, going on the trips, but they reward and guard themselves (to their own satisfaction at least) by doing them an octave higher, in a state of irony.

43But — as I remarked at the start — no cliché is a cliché all the time. A language new to the learner is always full of warmed clichés, their juice renewed for the first-time speaker. And in a multicultural society, what's faded or meaningless for one group may be full of marrow for another. Discovering your own separate ethnic identity may be part of acceptance of commonality, the Jewish-Canadian writer Fredelle Bruser Maynard suggests (1985, XI), in Raisins and Almonds, her autobiographical volume of short stories. In the summer of 1972, she says, she travelled back to Saskatchewan and was touched again by "remembered qualities". Here the cliché is restored to the function of allusion.

In ways I could not have anticipated, writing about difference brought me a new perception of sameness. I was not after all an island, but a piece of the continent, a part of the main. (X)

44So the saying can in the same period in different language communities be completely a-textualised or still con-textualised.

45The move into another culture or group may shed baggage, as is the case with the shift the sentence has made into Caribbean popular song. But is it, in this new context, quite a cliché? Or is it re-awakened now — and for whom? — exoticised now, only for the outsider English middle-class listener? The island, for inhabitants of the Caribbean, is always one among a set of islands, a throng, perhaps, of brothers. "No man is an island" entered Caribbean culture when, in the 60s, Dennis Brown made a reggae version of the song on the classic Jamaican label "Studio 1" — the first of at least five reggae versions of the song.

46Perhaps, then, I may conclude this set of speculations on some of the presences of this cliché by insisting that cliché is indeed a way, as I suggested earlier, of neutralising dreads and yearnings held within a community. It acts, that is, as a sealant, a kind of polish or patina, over things that will not bear too analytical a scrutiny: floor-boards, and under them dust, electrical wiring, darkness, cellars. But, equally and less often recognised, when those underground communal experiences cannot be contained, or, become the property of a different group, cliché itself may re-awaken and unfurl like a banner of new sense: No man is an island.



Arnold, Mathew, 1898. Poetical Works. London: Macmillan.

Baker, Carlos, 1969. Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. London: Collins.

Frame, Janet, 1982. To the Is-land. New York: Braziller.

Hemingway, Ernest, 1940, 1941. For Whom the Bell Tolls. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons; London: Jonathan Cape.

Holdgate, Martin, 1958. Mountains in the Sea. The Story of the Gough Island Expedition. London: Macmillan.

Kincaid, Jamaica, 1988. A Small Place. New York and London: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Maynard, Fredelle Bruser, 1985. Raisins and Almonds. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

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