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Department of English and American Studies
English Language and Literature
Bc. Zuzana Klímová
The Cross-cultural Multidimensionality and Syncretic Interpretation of History in Wilson Harris’s Work Based on the Study of The Guyana Quartet
Master’s Diploma Thesis
Supervisor: prof. Mgr. Milada Franková, CSc., M.A.
I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently, using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography. ……………………………………………..
CSc. 4 . Věra Pálenská.Acknowledgement I would like to thank prof. for his everlasting trust in my abilities.. and PhDr. Mgr. CSc. Milada Franková. Jan Klíma CSc. M.A. MUDr. for their help and inspiration and to Doc.
...........2 History as a Myth and ―the Subconscious Reality of the Caribbean Experience‖ ............................................................................................................... Multi-Dimensionality................................................................ 12 2.............. 78 5..............................................2 Pre-Columbian Dimension ................................... 46 4..............................3... Introduction ...............1 Personal History: the Dimension of the Author as Individual ...........................2 Non-European Traditions ..................................................... 42 3................ Cross-culturality ..........................3......................................... 89 5 ...........1 The Objective .........1 Defining History...............3 Post-Columbian Dimension ................................................................................................................................ The Influence of the Multidimensional View on the Search for a New Form Suitable for the West Indian Expression – Refusal of Western Realism .............3 Multidimensional Interpretation of History within the West Indian Context .....................................1 Historical Development and its Influence on the Cultural Tradition of the West Indies 54 4....................................2 Basic Terms: Syncretic Interpretation... 8 1.......... 65 4............................................................................ 34 2........1 The Idea of Freedom Achievable Through Art ........................ 31 2...... 25 2........................ 66 4................................................ 54 4..................... The Cross-cultural Multidimensionality .....2 The Dimension of Communal History and an Impact of the Western Historiography ..............Table of Contents 1....1 European Tradition ........................................................3 Harris‘s Syncretic Presentation of Multi-dimensional History in The Guyana Quartet .. 31 2.............. 58 4............ 17 2........... 17 2.......... Syncretic Interpretation of History ............. 8 1..........................3..............3.......................... Cross-cultural Imagination as a Quest for Achieving Personal as well as Global Freedom 88 5.....................3...........................
.. 94 6...................... 113 Bibliography: ............................................2 Archetypal Motif of ‗Quest‘ as an Image Capable of Reflecting the Cross-cultural Imagination ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 112 Resumé ............................................. 120 6 ............................ 107 Summary ...............................................................5..................................................................................................................................................................... Conclusion ....................................
Fable and Myth in the Caribbean and Guianas 7 . on Carib bush-baby omens. Needless to say I have no racial biases. and whether my emphasis falls on limbo or vodun.‖ Wilson Harris The Unfinished Genesis of the Imagination ―I want to make as clear as I can that a cleavage exists in my opinion between the historical convention in the Caribbean and Guianas and the arts of the imagination. English inheritances—in fact within and beyond these emphases—my concern is with epic strategems available to Caribbean man in the dilemmas of history which surround him. I believe a philosophy of history may well lie buried in the arts of the imagination. on Latin.‖ Wilson Harris History. on Arawak zemi.The Cross-cultural Multidimensionality and Syncretic Interpretation of History in Wilson Harris‟s Work Based on the Study of The Guyana Quartet ―There is no economic solution to the ills of the world until the arts of originality […] open the partialities and biases of tradition in ways that address the very core of our prepossessions.
It is often described as standing on the frontiers of acknowledged categories of literary and cultural studies. Namely Palace of the Peacock. When I was trying to describe the Quartet by some simplifying terms I encountered an unexpected difficulty. because it is history that brings about different aspects of 8 . The Guyana Quartet – the work of Wilson Harris that will be dealt with in the following text consists of four pieces of fiction. I think The Guyana Quartet makes a very useful source for study of the search for original literary form that was sought by many writers of postcolonial world.1. The Far Journey of Oudin. In connection to the cultural boundaries that occur in The Guyana Quartet I intend to consider the influence of history and its perception and interpretation which is inseparable from the cultural tradition in the way that they affect each other. The Whole Armour and The Secret Ladder. I chose this quartet of novels as a source for this thesis.1 The Objective Wilson Harris is a highly original and extremely productive Guyanese writer. because of its connection to history and culture of former British Guiana and because it was the first set of novels Harris wrote after his emigration to Great Britain. After a research on The Guyana Quartet itself and critical material concerned with Wilson Harris‘s work. because as Harris says ―every boundary line is a myth‖ (Palace of the Peacock. The work of Wilson Harris is considered to be extremely complex and therefore considerably demanding for wider readership. challenge and break. I would like to give my attention especially to the most notable cultural boundaries challenged in the text. 22). Introduction 1. I decided to focus on some of those frontiers he is said to occupy.
A. What I see as a vital characteristic of the text in question is. 1). The author is able to deal with the topics in many dimensions simultaneously. alchemy.M. parables of man in the living landscapes. This characteristic is described by J. hypotheses on time and space.culture and it is culture that forms our understanding and perception of history in a way that neither of the two concepts could be fully understood if they were to be dealt with in isolation. that it is the interpretation of the multidimensionality of The Guyana Quartet based on my reading and long-term study of the text with the full awareness of the cultural bias and the lack of knowledge in some areas of post-colonial. and much else‖ (Bundy. Jungian archetypes. One of my aims is to try to interpret the multidimensionality of the text of The Guyana Quartet with its possible implications as a specific kind of fictional art reflecting the position of the author himself as well as the legacy of the culture and society he inherits. The past. Bundy who defines the work of Harris as addressing the vulnerability of the age and identifying new areas of imaginative resources in the culture. quantum physics. He says that: ―Harris‘s literary art is a highly individual fusion of hidden traditions of the imagination. dreams. Harris‘s texts are multi-layered. He uses all kinds of boundaries which do exist at one level but can be crossed or erased completely in another dimension. the present and the future are just one of the dimensions that are treated syncreticly. the great Western tradition. native cosmogonies. It is therefore possible to find in Harris‘s texts characters from different historical eras and places coexisting within the common imaginary space of the text and imagination. colonial and pre-colonial culture 9 . the aboriginal religions and cultures of Central and south America. fables of history and society. His work encompasses the influences from all over the world and yet it preserves its high originality and uniqueness.
and history of the American continent that might have an effect on my judgement. that of the character (as the interpreter of the fictional world influenced by the author encoding his meaning into the text as well as the reader with his or her decoding of it) and finally that of the reader himself or herself who brings into the interpretation his or her own cultural and individual background. Cudjoe. Considering these two approaches to the creation of meaning of any text helps the reader to perceive its complexity. Kenneth Ramchard or Louis James and Harris‘s own critical approaches expressed in a great number of essays on his own work and on the issues of literature and culture in general. Michael Gilkes. 87). This vision of the text which exists on more than one level is shared by Edward Said who describes the existence of a literary work in his famous work Culture & Imperialism. Selwyn R. Samuel Durrant. As a critical reader of The Guyana Quartet I see this reader/critic interpretation as one of the dimensions embedded within Harris‘s work which is in accordance with his idea of a multidimensional structure of the meaning of the text. being aware of these possible sources of misunderstanding on my side of the interpretation. However. He says that ―A novel exists first as a novelist‘s effort and the second as an object read by an audience‖ (Said. I would like to make it an integral part of the reading and interpretation itself. Harris emphasises the importance of the intuition and subjectivity within the life of a creative person and therefore I would like to use this approach as one of the arguments against the application of principal European theories and concentrate instead on the use of individual interpretations of Harris‘s work by authors such as Hena MaesJelinek. Harris himself acknowledges the unconscious that influences author‘s work and inscribes into the text meanings that may be hidden to the writer himself at that 1 0 . The text itself can be seen as comprised of several points of view (interpretations): that of the writer – Harris (as the interpreter of the world as the author understands it and describes it). Fred D‘Aguiar.
239). History (understood as an interpretation of the past rather than the Western3 concept of history as a recording of facts) and cultural heritage are two of the essential areas of concern for West Indian1 writers in general. To concentrate on the main principles and ideas of Harris‘s syncretic vision in one accessible piece of writing I decided to consider only the elementary relationships of the historico-cultural level. 1 1 . Because of the unifying principle that penetrates all dimensions of Harris‘s work. I choose these two motives because of its importance in postcolonial literature but also because of the uniqueness of its treatment in Wilson Harris‘s work. 2002.particular time. I will try to single out the particular aspects of the dimensions. The multidimensionality with its overarching concept of unity is so complex that it would be impossible to discuss all the possible aspects of this multifarious piece of art. and is according to me the main objective of the interpretation of the text itself. community and the world itself. something the author can never really know where it is going. discuss the possible interpretation of their characteristics and boundaries between them and then present a potential implication of the unity of such dimensions as an attempt to create a new kind of consciousness on the level of individual. Fred D‘Aguiar describes Harris‘s ―imaginative writing‖ as something bigger than he is. That is what Harris calls intuitive writing and intuitive imagination (Fred D‘Aguiar. This subconscious dimension is also the place where the reader has the opportunity to enter the text creatively and imaginatively give the text meaning that might be very different from that intended by the author.
In this section I will deal with three of them – syncretic interpretation. The first one is the ―syncretic interpretation‖. Syncretism means a reconciliation or fusion of different forms (―syncretism‖. The syncretic interpretation of The Guyana Quartet resides in the possibility to link and unite the particular elements of separate dimensions across their boundaries to form a meaningful whole that encompasses the singularities without giving preference to any of them. dwells mainly in Harris‘s free mixing of historical eras whose representatives co-occur within the same fictional space of the novels and relive the historical events that appeared in the genesis of the Caribbean but also in other parts of the world. Harris does not limit himself to the description of the local experience only. which will be discussed in the first part of the text. Its characters come from many different strata of society and cultural as well as racial backgrounds. Europeans.1. Cross-culturality The title and the text of this work use many terms which need explanation. Although the Caribbean experience can be read in the text. He sees most of these events as a kind of archetypes that are relevant to all societies of the world. Harris utilizes cultural aspects of all these cultures ―whose 1 2 . Multi-Dimensionality.2 Basic Terms: Syncretic Interpretation. The syncretic interpretation of history. The same unifying principle occurs on the level of culture which is tightly connected to the concept of history. The Guyana Quartet is the work of surpassing relevance. Encyclopædia Britannica) and the first person to use it in connection with Harris‘s work was Edward Kamau Brathwaite (Bogie. Asians and their descendants. We can find there Arawak and Carib Indians. multidimensionality and cross-culturality. Africans. 57). for they are complementary to each other.
Therefore I would like the reader to bear in mind.promise of fulfilment lies in a profound and difficult vision of essential unity within the most bitter forms of latent and active historical diversity‖ (Harris. 1967. 45). The term multi-dimensionality is connected to the previous term – syncreticism. In Harris‘s conception. He uses the archetypes that are present in many cultures and explores their creative potential by reinterpreting them according to several traditions in order to transform the images from one symbol to another until he reaches a kind of their unity by giving all of the symbolic interpretations the same value that contributes to the cross-cultural syncretic vision with meaning that should be universal for all societies without denying its particularity within the older cultural tradition. By the term ―multi-dimensionality‖ I therefore mean the unanimity of the unique dimensions cooperating in the syncretic interpretation towards the creation of an all-encompassing vision which might serve as an example for a further development of ‗postcolonial fiction‘ towards the new literary stage that is by some critics. Harris‘s texts reflect and penetrate various kinds of dimensions which we. such as Erin O‘Connor or Maia Dauner. according to the European tradition. usually interpret as separate entities. However insufficient this label is. that it is only a helpful devise in structuring this piece of critical work and placing The Guyana Quartet within a certain group of texts in the 1 3 . called ‗post-postcolonialism‘ (O'Connor. 217-246). As stated in the introductory paragraph. The term ‗postcolonial fiction‘ is used here as a rather conventional label for the fiction originating in the region or created by the authors born in the areas once under the influence of the colonial powers – in this case the Empire of Great Britain. I will use it in this paper in order to make the connection in which this kind of work is usually seen. they are inseparable particularities of a wider entity that is able to accommodate all of them without an unnecessary friction of their uniqueness.
temporal and geographical terms rather than comparing the content and form of the works that might fall into this category2. As the form and narrative technique of The Guyana Quartet (with almost all other literary and cultural aspects of the work) do not fit into the standard theoretical categories, I will try to demonstrate my interpretation of its originality in what I called ‗multidimensional syncreticism‘ with the help and comparison of those standard interpretations, terms and attitudes that may enable the reader with European educational background to perceive similarities as well as differences in an approach of the writer who himself was influenced through his upbringing by European culture. As a university student in a European country with what we call ―Western civilisation‖ I am aware of the possible cultural bias caused by the education I received, but I am also considering it as a part and parcel of Harris‘s work which does not deny the European heritage playing an important part in the evolution of the West Indies and Harris himself. The third term to be introduced here is ‗cross-culturality‘ as opposed to the more familiar term ‗multiculturality‘ (which is widely used in contemporary cultural and literary criticism) and also as the opposite notion to nationalism (Durix, 87). The collection of critical texts Theatre of the Arts contains a rewritten account of a discussion of Gordon Rohlehr, Stuart Murray, Fred D‘Augiar, Hena Maes Jelinek and Wilson Harris. Harris talks there about his need of cross-culturality in the following way: […] I don‘t see this transfer happening, I must confess, in Europe, because you have groups that are totally against each other, totally polarized; I‘m suggesting that there is a psychical possibility that those groups can inform and instruct and change each other by trials of the
imagination. That is cross-culturality, that is profound crossculturality. […] You have nation-states; the nation-state is concerned with what happens in the nation. And, really and truly, this, in my view, is a great tragedy, because over the centuries humanity should have come into a more cross-cultural medium (Harris, 2002, 236, 243). In the interview with Fred D‘Augiar in an issue of BOMB 82 from winter 2003, Harris makes a clear difference between cross-culturality and multiculturality. His idea of the distinction between the two concepts and the limitations of the multicultural society is very close to Roy Arthur Glasgow‘s description of a ‗plural society‘ of Guyana ―which owes its existence to external circumstances, and lacks a common will‖ (Glasgow, 146). Harris states the greatest deficiency of multicultural society as follows: Cross-culturality differs radically from multiculturality. There is no creative and re-creative sharing of dimensions in multiculturality. The strongest culture in multiculturality holds an umbrella over the rest, which have no alternative but to abide by the values that the strongest believe to be universal. Cross-culturality is an opening to a true and variant universality of a blend of parts we can never wholly encompass, though when we become aware of them we may ceaselessly strive for an open unity that they offer. In this quantum way we may forestall the tyranny of one-sided being (Harris qtd. in D‘Aguiar, 2003). From the above-mentioned quotes we can see the position of cross-culturality within the community of all people and understand Harris‘s attempt to create a new consciousness through the arts of imagination that would be truly universal and therefore accessible to the people all over the world. It is a kind of higher order toward
which we should strive to evolve. In his notion of cross-culturality (as differing from multiculturality) Harris proposes an all-encompassing unity of people that would allow individuals as well as communities to cross the boundaries, or rather erase any boundaries which are in fact only cultural concepts with only ‗mythical‘ existence. The importance of cross-culturality in The Guyana Quartet and in fact all of Harris‘s works is not just the concern of the writer about the region where he comes from, it is deeply embedded within his own personality. It is well described by A.J.M.Bundy in his introduction to Selected Essays of Wilson Harris where he says that ―Harris‘s own blood-mix reflects that of the Guyanese nation: English, Hindu Indian, Afro-Caribbean and indigenous Amerindian ancestors all contribute to Harris‘s antecedents, so that in his very genes Wilson Harris embodies cross-cultural community‖ (Bundy, 1). In Harris‘s fiction, his personal history with the multiplicity of his ancestors and the history of his nation and its antecedents fuse in a unity reflecting on each other and unifying thus the level of the individual with the higher order of the community (on national as well as global level). This cross-culturality of Harris‘s ancestry is demonstrated in the cross-cultural racial composition of individuals as well as crews that populate The Guyana Quartet (Bundy, 25).
He was born in 1921. correlate in a significant way with the aspects of the mix of cultural influences in Guyana. African and Amerindian ancestry. in return. education and cultural background of the society he lived in) on his work I decided to devote some space to Harris‘s ‗personal history‘. affect the way of formation and development of this basic individual level. He lived and worked in Guyana as a government land surveyor till the end of the fifties when he emigrated to England. Syncretic Interpretation of History 2. To introduce the author himself and to demonstrate the influence of his background (ancestry. The choice of the term ‗personal history‘ is used purposefully to show the interconnectedness of individual and communal life in the context of ‗history‘ (this problematic term is to be discussed later in relation of history to myth and reality). because the facets of his personality. poet and critic. Harris‘s background was one of the reasons why I was so interested in this author and his work.2. Wilson Harris is a Guyanese novelist. It also supports the idea of multidimensionality of existence and experience where personal life is inseparable from the communal and global history in the way that it is the foundation stone on which the more complex levels of existence are built which. The knowledge of the savannas and bush of the interior he gained as a land surveyor has formed the setting for many of his books and the Guyanese landscape is one of the 1 7 . Harris is of a mixed European. It could be said that he is an ideal representative of the country he was born in. that are reflected in his work.1 Personal History: the Dimension of the Author as Individual As I have already suggested. there are many layers in the structure of Harris‘s texts.
‖ Like Harris he also studied in Canada and Britain. From The Guyana Quartet it is apparent that Harris wants to arouse the feeling of responsibility in every reader for the present as well as future genesis of the world (inner personal world and universal global world). He sees himself as a true representative of Guyanese society. after all. 383). The Guyana Quartet draws heavily on his experience as a land surveyor. If he wishes the readers to accept the responsibility for the world we live in. In passages like this one it is clear that personal experience of the author played a significant role in the choice of characters. is described as a man whose father was African. 104). he must first accept it himself. but I would say it is not really Harris‘s purpose to describe himself (or characters very close to himself) in the texts he creates. but it was not only there he had to feel the ‗burden of his ancestry‘ (The Secret Ladder.dominating themes in his fiction (Maes-Jelinek. There was something guilty and concrete he had to learn to face. but it is also the need for personal responsibility that might be taken for the most significant aspect for this particular choice. his mother half French and half British with some Amerindian blood. Nevertheless it made him profoundly uneasy at times. Fenwick. for example. 1995. 2002. Narrator also shows the feelings that are connected to such a background when he says about Fenwick‘s ancestry that ―he was not ashamed of the unique vagaries and fictions of the ancestral past. Far from it. 1 8 . but also the ancestral mixture of Harris‘s origins can be found in these characters. Not only the education. he was proud. I believe it is this acceptance of responsibility he is trying to achieve himself through his work and along with him he takes his readers. In fact The Secret Ladder is set exactly in the area that Harris surveyed in 1951-1952 with the same purpose as the character of Fenwick – assessing the ―possibilities of damming the area to provide a supply of constant irrigation for coastal rice farmers‖ (Louis James. 139).
79).But it is not only the characters that seem to draw their substance from the author‘s personality. Cribb has found out that names of the characters in Palace of the Peacock are not purely fictional. The most obvious example of the fusion of material and imaginative dimensions into the complex being is the merger of Donne and Dreamer in 1 9 . I think this is because it is quite difficult to perceive several dimensions of meaning at once. this scientific approach is used also symbolically and the materialist face of the characters develops through the hardships of discovery towards the more complex existence where the material joins the imaginary to coexist in a unified being freeing itself from the constraints of the past. of events and lives and real people‘s stories.J. In dealing with this aspect of human nature Harris uses characters like Donne in Palace of the Peacock or Fenwick in The Secret Ladder who reflect his personal experience of the objective science of geology and hydrology used to inflict control over the living landscape of the Guyanese interior. Cribb‘s findings support the idea that Harris‘s personal experience is maybe more important in his work than might be expected because of the complex and highly imaginative use of the text. Harris‘s work with textual images allows him to embed them with the meanings on the levels of personal as well as communal and global experience. However. T. They are in fact the actual names of crew members that took part in one of Harris‘s upriver surveying expeditions. in Burnett. it ―seems likely that more of the detail of that fiction is based on actualities. The scientific (rational and material) way of life is one of the allegedly antithetic faces of the existence and experience (the other being the intuitional/emotional). than tends to be assumed‖ (Cribb qtd. According to Cribb. In this way Donne from Palace of the Peacock and Fenwick from The Secret Ladder can reflect Harris‘s alter ego of a surveyor but also the archetype of the colonizing power and its difficult quest of inner transformation.
9). Chinese and above all the tribes of the indigenous population – Arawak and Carib Indians. Spanish. Portuguese. In this way Harris reworks his own experience as a scientific worker who lives in a more and more materially oriented world and on the other hand he is urged to speak from the position of an artist – writer who believes that the only way to regeneration and resurrection of the people that would lead to their not only physical but also spiritual freedom can be achieved only through the creative imagination (Ashcroft. Africans. A similar composition of people reoccurs in Fenwick‘s men in The Secret Ladder whose composition includes the peoples from all era of the Guyanese history. In The Whole Armour Harris moves 2 0 .Palace of the Peacock whose existence and relationship is from the beginning dubious. The other experience – the one of being a descendant of many peoples – often occurs in Harris‘s work in his choice of characters. Dutch and German). They are usually representatives of all the peoples that left their trace in the West Indies – that is European nations (especially British. Even though here the cultural background of main characters is much less varied than in the other three novels. 34). the resonances of other cultures appear in the individual characters as their immaterial roots or as the memories of the landscape through which they must pass. himself a mix of an early conquistador as well as the modern colonizer. Their link transforms from brotherhood to twinship only to transform itself later into the two dimensions of the same person whose ‗material I‘ strives to reconcile with his ‗spiritual I‘ (Harris often uses the pun eye/I and talks about seeing through ‗the dead open material eye‘ or ‗living closed spiritual eye‘) (Fraser. One of the clearest examples of this ‗bringing together all the ancestry‘ is the crew in Palace of the Peacock whose leader is Donne. East Indians. Another case is The Far Journey of Oudin where Harris turned to the cultural group that was not so significant in any other novel from The Guyana Quartet – East Indians.
Donne and Fenwick can be both seen as fictional representatives of Harris‘s own personal ancestry. Harris is not only a fiction writer. Harris (through the characters like Fenwick) indicates that there is a ―real danger of succumbing to a facile. From the points stated above it is clear that in his work Harris draws on his multilayered personality. Luckily. But it is not race that plays a decisive role in the search for the unifying vision. it is quite challenging to digest the densely accumulated metaphorical language and multidimensional structure of Harris‘s fiction.again towards the mixed group of characters that is so typical of the greater part of his work. He recognizes that the ‗legacy of the past‘ raises a much deeper question than one simply of racial origin‖ (Gilkes. it would still be extremely disputable to interpret his The Guyana Quartet only from what we can learn about his life. The four novels that comprise The Guyana Quartet were published subsequently after Harris‘s emigration to England in 1959. As I have already stated above. All this is true and therefore a close reading and willingness to open-minded approach is necessary for the critical reader to grasp the text and its meaning or rather the multiplicity of meanings. Racial as well as educational realities that contributed to the formation of Harris‘s individual personality reflect themselves in his works. we are able to interpret more clearly his texts that are often considered very abstract and densely metaphorical (Maes-Jelinek. Thanks to the great amount of his non-fictional critical work where he comments on his own work or his beliefs about life and the universe in general. The greatest difficulty of the text may be seen to lie in the form of Harris‘s technique of narration. For the European reader growing up in the linearity of realistic narrative of the European novel. 87). His first novel Palace of the Peacock was published in 2 1 . Although Harris‘s background clearly influenced his worldview and his work. romantic pride in a racial ‗heritage‘. but he is also a considerably prolific author as far as the critical work is concerned. 2004).
but it is probable that it was not only the memory of his native country. In The Guyana Quartet we witness the free mingling of these influences of the surroundings on the level of personal.1960. 170). 2008). the suspension of the constitution and the increasing division of society along racial lines‖ led to the sense of chaos and insecurity (Muray. and The Secret Ladder (1963) (Maes-Jelinek. It is difficult to judge how much the emigration contributed to Harris‘s creation of The Guyana Quartet which employs so heavily the sources of his experience and memories about the Guyanese landscape and history. The remaining three novels followed soon after: The Far Journey of Oudin (1961). Harris is trying to see the situation of the postcolonial Guyana in a wider context of the whole world that suffers from similar problems from time immemorial. He also tries to show the reflections of 2 2 . Unlike them. Harris is aware that the writer (and of course the reader as well) are influenced by their personal history and also the history of the region where they live. 21) it is undoubtedly concerned about the development of the West Indian community in the local as well as global context. the reader with his own culturally-implied biases and even the characters who live under the circumstances of their fictional background. Personal history of Wilson Harris can be found in the text of his fiction as one of the important aspects of the story. Harris was not indifferent to the situation that threatened the ideals he believed in and therefore although his fiction is far from being nationalist (he in fact disagrees with the work of authors writing protest national literature) (Harris 1995. but also the political and cultural situation that occurred in the Caribbean during the 1950s. The Whole Armour (1962). These influences then have impact on the person of the author himself. communal and world history. Harris does not limit himself to national history like many of his contemporaries. where ―the breakdown of democracy.
and hoped together. culture or race. 19). common ancestry.this situation on the level of individual who lives under such conditions whether he or she is aware of it or not. I spoke just now of 'having suffered together' and. and require a common effort (Renan. Because of the still prevailing connotations this word carries (especially those connected to race. I prefer the term ‗communal history‘ as it avoids the stereotypical interpretation of nation as a group of people connected through language. history and origins). for they impose duties. In the following section I will move away from the individual history of the author and concentrate on what would be usually called ‗national history‘. Where national memories are concerned. in the past. If I use the expression ‗community‘ instead of ‗nation‘ in connection to the West Indies I understand it in the same way as Ernest Renan explains the true substance of nation in his essay ―What Is a Nation?‖ After discussing the misleading characteristics often associated with the concept of ‗nation‘ he concludes that: More valuable by far […] is the fact of sharing. enjoyed. in the future. and of having. suffering in common unifies more than joy does. griefs are of more value than triumphs. a shared programme to put into effect. or the fact of having suffered. a glorious heritage and regrets. The record of the communal history in the next section 2 3 . in relation to the West Indian region I incline rather to the more neutral term ‗community‘ which is able to accommodate the ongoing search for the expression of common identity that would lead to the unity of its members (were it on local or global scale). indeed. Unfortunately such a perception of the word ‗nation‘ is not as widespread as it should be. These are the kinds of things that can be understood in spite of differences of race and language.
I would like to juxtapose the two seemingly opposing perceptions of history – the European and the West Indian one.will be described more or less from a European perspective in order to outline one of the important dimensions of Harris‘s fiction. 2 4 .
Harris‘s attitude is different. What language had he save the darkest and 2 5 . The bitterness of this standpoint can be found especially in V. This vain longing is depicted in The Far Journey of Oudin where one of the brothers – Hassan – whose grandfather came to Guyana from India sets his heart on return to this land of his father‘s ancestors to find peace of mind: Hassan has just got the obstinate idea in his burning head that he wanted to return to India to circulate his ashes on mother-soil.S. 208). Kaiser protested.2. The Caribbean itself is often seen as a region without history or only with the history of conquest and colonization. Therefore it is rather a history of the European influence in the West Indies – the point often made by West Indian authors such as George Lamming or Jamaica Kincaid. He refuses a ―total recall of an ‗authentic‘ African past or a sentimental privileging of indigenous Amerindian cultures as a ‗true‘ ancestry‖ (Green). Many of the postcolonial authors are looking for their history and identity in the context of their ancestors from different continents (for Naipaul it was India) only to find out that the roots were thorn away and there is no possibility of return. Naipaul‘s work (Ramchard.2 The Dimension of Communal History and an Impact of the Western Historiography From the European point of view the history of the Caribbean region is often perceived as beginning by the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus and continuing by the subsequent colonization (and later decolonization) of the region. he‘s not afraid to claim the roots of European and also Amerindian ancestry. If he returned he would be looked upon as an outcast and an untouchable ghost. 1974. Although he is often inspired by African and East Indian roots of the Caribbean people.
And where we do come to take notice of our history. 181). Throughout The Guyana Quartet he relentlessly returns to the pre-Columbian roots of his society in which he sees the possible resurrection of the Guyanese identity out of its lethargy and bitterness stemming from the feeling of the loss of the roots and history of the people in the formerly colonized world. Remember too how much he had forgotten. he cannot go back to ―the mother‘s shell and womb‖ (The Far Journey of Oudin.frailest outline of an ancient style and tongue? Not a blasted thing more. to history. In the time of crisis Hassan dreams of his ancestors‘ land but Kaiser doesn‘t want to return. no culture. no history. Here he can be rich. Some of the characters reflect this attitude which was held by many people at the beginning of the postcolonial era. the imperatives of a contemporary culture are predominantly those of a relationship to this past. 181). Back in India he would belong to the untouchable caste and he would be poor. to culture. Moreover. in Cudjoe. 181). The quest for the resurrection of identity in The Guyana Quartet originated from what Rhonda Cobham calls ―the moral and aesthetic maiming‖ of the West Indian population caused by the pacification and extermination of the native 2 6 . However. leave the rice plantation and go as a Negro pork-knocker to look for diamonds and gold (The Far Journey of Oudin. Yet in the Caribbean and in Guyana we think and behave as though we have no past. 10). they no longer have the connection that would make it possible for them to return. Harris‘s approach is much more complex as he tries to see the region in a wider context of the world and the bitter experience of colonialism as only one part of a ‗story of the Caribbean‘. He says that ―we are all shaped by our past. He refuses the idea of a historylessness of the Caribbean. of the Old World…‖ (Harris qtd. Kaiser scolded him (The Far Journey of Oudin. it is often in the light of biases adopted from one thoroughbred culture or another. 1995.
―Wilson Harris has called this syndrome ‗victor-victim stasis‘. 11).populations after the discovery of America at the end of 15th century and the subsequent exploitation of the region during the period of plantation system based on African slave labour. The list below presents ―the post-European contact of history‖ outlined in the Introduction to Selected Essays of Wilson Harris reflecting the deterministic interpretation of the history of the West Indies. partial success in coercing these indigenous peoples into labour (early sixteenth century) 3) Second phase of commercial slavery. Guyana and the post-European contact pattern of history: 1) Mutual discovery: a European nation-state encounters overseas indigenous peoples (fifteenth – seventeenth centuries) 2) First phase of commercial slavery. and an exploration of the way in which this stasis has affected contemporary West Indian society is a central theme of his The Guyana Quartet‖ (Cobhan. importing African labour and setting-up plantation infrastructure (seventeenth – nineteenth centuries). 21) and it is useful to mention this fable in connection to the deterministic reading of history in older works by Europeans and also the presentation of such history through the educational systems both in the West Indies and in Europe which contributed significantly to the shadowing of perception of the Caribbean history on both sides. the contesting over territory by European nation-states (Portugal with Spain. England with Holland and France) leads to overall consolidation by a single European nation-state (early nineteenth century) 2 7 . History of the West Indies seen from the European perspective is what Harris calls ―the fable of history‖ (Bundy.
What is so misleading about this model is its alleged objectivity and matter-of-factness. 21). the Madeira Portuguese) and Asiatic low castes (southern India.4) Abolition of commercial slavery: occasions of revolt (colony) and movements of social conscience (Europe) lead to gradual phasingout of African trade in humans (after 1809). yet it is exceedingly misleading‖ (Bundy. one. of self-evidence. in fact with a high degree of persuasion. Considered from the non-Western point of view. China. Korea) into seven-year contracts of labour (mid-late nineteenth century) 6) Depreciation of single-crop economies and gradual collapse of financial base leads to a series of Commissioned Reports on future of colony: introduction of separate Constitution and universal adult suffrage accompany gradual withdrawal of nation-state from immediate sphere of influence (post-First World War) 7) Self-determination (Independence) and Commonwealth: sense of world community founded on the shared language and the cultureheld-in-common of that language (since 1946) ―This is a plausible model. seemingly. it is a persuasive kind of propagandistic idea which was used to further subjugation of the conquered nations whose histories (or myths of histories) were transmitted mostly orally and the absence of written accounts facilitated the consolidation of the imposed version of history. and the fall-out of former enslaved labour into agricultural or urban subsistence (after 1843) 5) Indentured labour: coercion of low-status Europeans (for Guyana. In this case the history was presented as beginning by the discovery and following conquest of the region by the 2 8 . one.
This is what Harris fights for so relentlessly. He believes it is important to acknowledge and accept the past.European powers. With the independence of the postcolonial nations and their attempts to find their own 2 9 . I used this brief ‗Westernized outline‘ of the Caribbean history as an illustration of the view that for a long time prevailed in the schemata of most scholars. The fossilisation of the stereotypes was embedded deeply in the social and educational system of the Empire and the fragility of West Indian identity was reinforced through such institutions as well as by the historical events themselves. 1995. because forgetting about the horrors of the past would result only in their more probable return (Maes-Jelinek. The fact that most of the indigenous population ‗disappeared‘ in the following years after the conquest helped significantly to erase the memories of the time coming before the discovery of the land by Christopher Columbus. because they (or their ancestors) came from different parts of the world with their own pasts and the West Indies offered them only the history of conquest. when the earlier history is known and when the horrors of slavery and conquest are acknowledged. Even today. The current population which consists of representatives of the peoples from all over the world is struggling with the idea of their past. 140). With the official history written by the conquering authorities it is logical that it was written in their favour. Harris understands that the European presentation of history of the region worked on the shaping of the West Indian perception of history in general and also on the inappropriate sense of identity stemming from the alleged historylessness of the population. the shame of the nations who participated in such affairs leads to their avoiding these topics that should not be ignored. but also the sense of identity within the community itself and in wider context the position of this community within the higher order of the world and universe. By identity I mean not only the sense of self-perception of an individual.
identity and history within the global context the new possibilities of interpretation occurred. It is now quite common to study the pre-Columbian history of people and places. Yet stereotypes still remain strongly embedded within cultures and their transmission from generation to generation is slowing down the process of reinvention of other ‗fables of history‘ which would acknowledge their limits and allow several fables to coexist without struggling for a sovereign position in the global context. The problems of the whole concept of history will be discussed in the following part of the thesis where I would like to show the different perception of history in Harris‘s fiction and his use of myths and reality as dimensions that have always something in common and from whose pool of concepts and ideas the notion of history itself draws its essence.
2.3 Multidimensional Interpretation of History within the West Indian Context
2.3.1 Defining History
What is so problematic and controversial about the concept of history? It is probably the impossibility to come to agreement about what exactly history is? Britannica Concise Encyclopaedia describes ‗history‘ as follows: ―the discipline that studies the chronological record of events (as affecting a nation or people), based on a critical examination of source materials and usually presenting an explanation of their causes‖ (―history‖, Encyclopædia Britannica). From the above-mentioned definition we can derive the main principles of the practice of writing about history – historiography which tends to preserve the chronology of the events recorded and provide the reader usually with the ‗objective explanation‘ of these events. The European tradition of historiography can be divided into two main branches whose basic characteristic is a chronological record. The two major tendencies in writing about history are evident from the beginnings of the European tradition: ―the concept of historiography as the accumulation of records and the concept of history as storytelling, filled with explanations of cause and effect‖ (―historiography‖, Encyclopædia Britannica). The second concept of historiography as storytelling utilizes the narrative techniques of artistic expression, but it is still far away from Harris‘s perception of history and historiography. The above quoted definitions are the product of a traditional Western perception of history as a scientific discipline that is limited to the factual records
collected into meaningful units with the chronological logic and structure which is so typical of the European mind. Such interpretation is usually highly valued for its objectivity and authenticity. However; in the eyes of the West Indian author like Harris, this kind of historiography is neither objective nor authentic. Its alleged objectivity that stems from the limited approach to the topic of past suppresses what Harris calls ‗the subconscious reality‘ of the West Indian whose past is described mostly through the eyes of a short-term observer who has no knowledge about the real situation of the region and whose understanding of the implications of the past is necessarily constricted (Benitez-Rojo, 180-183). The attempts to write the history of the Caribbean from the perspective of the colonized population started properly with C.L.R. James and his masterpiece The Black Jacobins. Since then there were many attempts to deal with the ever-problematic and still painful topic of history. West Indian artists adopted history and the past as one of the major topics that need to be written about to challenge the older status quo of the alleged historylessness of the region. Harris also utilizes the topic of history and the past, but in a more creative way than other writers. For him, history is a kind of storytelling, but not only in the way that a chronological record is made more readable thanks to the skilful narrative techniques of historiographers who embellish the dry facts collected for their purpose. Neither does he concentrate only on the point of view of the colonized. For Harris, history really is a story in its literal meaning. History is a story or rather a myth written or told from a particular position of the writer or a character as an individual within the community that affects the author through its perception of history and which is in reverse influenced by the ‗myth of history‘ presented to him by historiographers. This mythological aspect of history is crucial to the understanding of Harris‘s work and it is therefore necessary to discuss this point in greater detail. The term ‗myth of history‘
The other aspect of this term is the actual use of myths or fables that are not refused by Harris as irrelevant to the dealing with the past. 3 3 .which I use here is one of the ways to show the subjectivity of the interpretation of history so that instead of one objective ‗history proper‘ we are presented with many interpretations – ‗myths of history‘ that acknowledge the subjectivity of the author and the community who treat the material of the past according to their tradition and beliefs. but are used as tools to understand more the past that is preserved not in writing but in a collective memory of people in form of the stories which were kept alive through the oral transmission.
whereas myth is perceived as a rather fictional. He sees myths ―as the legacy of a common human ancestry‖ (Maes-Jelinek.2 History as a Myth and “the Subconscious Reality of the Caribbean Experience” When we try to juxtapose the seemingly disparate concepts of history and myth we can see. myths carry within them the long-remembered as well as the already forgotten pasts of people and reinforce the present events through the archetypal patterns that tend to reappear in histories and mythologies of all cultures and nations from time immemorial. history is usually directly connected to the idea of reality and scientific objectivity. Harris talks about the ―underground imagination that could empower Caribbean and other Third World people if we recognized and 3 4 .2. 633). 107). In History. History as a story is indebted to the mythological tradition which served as an early medium of historiography all over the world. Harris sees a great potential in the memories preserved in myths and history itself. that in Western tradition. The Guyana Quartet is a perfect example of Harris‘s understanding of these two notions in the circumstances of the Caribbean tradition. 1994. a view later expanded by Carl Gustav Jung in his theory of the ‗collective unconscious‘ and the mythical archetypes that arise out of it‖ (―myth‖. It is in fact quite close to the ideas of Sigmund Freud who ―viewed myth as an expression of repressed ideas. The borderline between history and myth is smudged and the question of reality as an opposing dimension to imagination loses its significance.3. but is not usually perceived as really reflecting actual events of the world (Gilbert. Fable and Myth. Encyclopædia Britannica). imaginary notion which might contain subtle references to reality. In comparison to the globally young tradition of written historiography.
It helps any reader to cast away the limitations of the pretaught way of reading and deriving meaning of the text and opens new ways of interpreting images in the text with the awareness that there is in fact a limitless number of possibilities how to understand everything that surrounds us.understood it‖. It is not just the official record that forms what history is. Thanks to Harris‘s insight into several cultural traditions that interfused in the West Indies the reader is presented with several interpretations of the same image/symbol within one text. Such an experience was not valued for its potential regenerative power that is so vital for Harris‘s work. Myths therefore are not an opposing medium for the transmission of memories in The Guyana Quartet. The way out of this dilemma rests according to him in ―the subconscious reality of the Caribbean experience‖ (Cudjoe 1995. Because myths are a highly symbolic way of transmission of messages. they allow its readers to interpret the symbols in a way that is relevant to the situation in which they find themselves or they can interpret them according to their cultural tradition . 2). ‗The underground imagination‘ or the ‗subconscious reality‘ (which contains the suppressed memories of the violent past as well as the memories of pre-Columbian and non-Western roots of culture) represents the part of the postcolonial existence which was rendered primitive and not objective. Through his narrative 3 5 . It serves as the channel for the ‗collective unconscious‘ which is able to contain the memories of the suppressed or forgotten past. It is rather a more universal one that manages to preserve the main ideas and tidings without limiting interpretation. Harris considers it necessary to write against what he calls a ―kind of historical stasis which has affected the Caribbean […] for many generations‖. often transmitted through the medium of fables and myths. I think this is the biggest difference between Harris‘s conception of history and that of the conventional interpretation of the historical events that took place in the West Indies.
L. The richness of the text of The Guyana Quartet is not simply in its images as they are presented within the four novels. The dilemma of history of the Caribbean stems 3 6 . 175-176). That is in fact Harris‘s own way of employing the reader‘s unconscious into the reading the same way he claims to use his own while writing.technique and work with images Harris manages to influence the reading process itself. I think this is one of the most significant aspects of The Guyana Quartet that made me so interested in Wilson Harris as an author as well as in West Indian literature itself. The more the reader knows about different cultural influences that work within the West Indian culture the more complex vision he experiences within every particular image. James. Harris is not the first one who has attempted to work with the past of the region creatively. That is impossible with The Guyana Quartet. He helps the reader to see through the limitations of the unilateral point of view and accept the possibility of other interpretations of the same text (Toliver. If it is genuine literature. 1967. But even without the scientific approach that considers the different meanings of symbols in different cultures the reader can still read the text by implying his or her own possible interpretations that might as well be purely intuitive and subconscious. 74). It lies in the way Harris helps the reader to open his or her mind to new approaches and possibilities. The topic is of such an importance that many writers try to find a suitable way to treat this complex motif in order to find an appropriate form that would be expressing the West Indian experience.R. I believe it is this limitless source of interpretations that makes his work so difficult to approach. it expresses more than it knows‖ (C. ―Literature as Harris very well sees is not an accident. The images are multidimensional and everchanging with their ungraspable substance that undergoes the eternal ‗unfinished genesis‘. As a critical observer I cannot state with much assurance that such and such image symbolizes this or that.
There is a kind of ―unreality‖ about history that reoccurs in its presentation by the writers from the West Indies. the area was occupied by different tribes. The main storyline of the book is situated in the environment of a small village of Barbados. This led to the perception of history as something that is not very real. The nearly lost past of the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Caribbean is one of the realities that contributes to the shaping of West Indian perception of history. The only possibility to revive that past is now through the imaginary exploration of the myths from the eras preceding the conquest by European colonizers (Green). after whom the whole area is now named. As I have already discussed above. A rewarding example can be taken from George Lamming‘s In the Castle of my Skin. were conquerors themselves. they were part of the conqueror-conquest story of the region.‖ 3 7 .‖ said Trumper. But it is not only this mythical past of the original inhabitants of the land. not present in everyday life. West Indians were taught about the history of the Empires and their influence in their land rather than about the past that was relevant to their own lives.from the historical events themselves. the history of the pre-Columbian period was almost lost because of the decimation of the Amerindian population and also because of the absence of the written record of this history. The Caribbean region was populated by indigenous population which was later decimated by the conquering nations of Europe but also before that. Although not in such a scale as Europeans. It is also the official history of the colonizers which formed for such a long time a central part of the educational curriculum. When small boys talk about King Canute there emerges an interesting situation: ―Canute. Children attend a local school and have history lessons concerned predominantly with British history and the history of their island is mentioned only in connection with the history of the Empire. ―King Canute. The Caribs.
‖ ―You mean a story?‖ said Boy Blue. 3).‖ said Trumper… (Lamming. The past must be connected to the present and the future. ―It‘s hist‘ry. However. This idea is very different from the one held by most European scholars and laymen as well. ―Harris asks us to dig deeply into the subconscious of Caribbean reality so as to widen and deepen our sensibility and thereby discover ‗an original West Indian architecture of sensibility which it is still possible to create if we look deeply into the past‘‖ (Cudjoe 1995.‖ said Trumper.‖ asked Boy Blue. ―He‘s the king in the hist‘ry book. ―He don‘t live. getting angry. The influence of the Enlightenment on the perception of information as reliable facts that are meant to be trusted is something natural in the environment of the Western civilisation. it preserved this sense of unreliability about history within itself. ―If you want to call it that. Fable and Myth he‘s trying to explore ―the subconscious reality which holds our true being‖. As we can see. Although Lamming‘s work can be called realistic. the past is very important for Harris and because history is connected to the past. the story that is. In History. because it influences what comes after and that that comes 3 8 . He calls the ―European prison/prism of interpreting and understanding reality‖ a ―static nonhistory‖. ―But where he live.2 said Trumper. the past and therefore history is not something static in Harris‘s opinion. It is not something that is fixed only in the past and can be objectively observed from distance.―Where he come From?‖ asked Boy Blue. Harris‘s texts refuse the materialistic objectivity much more openly. The point about this example is the understanding of history as a story. 119). in fact. something the ―historians have failed to examine‖. it has to be taken into account. irrelevant to the lives of the schoolboys.
together with the metaphysical bent‖ through which he achieves to ―pull away from the thing-oriented. memory. The idea that history and the past are something fluid and therefore not fixed supports the importance of mythology as a medium through which we can approach these two concepts. In spite of the limitations of the European historiography Harris.S. 43).after then influences our understanding of what came before. and myth. Authors like V. in Lloyd). We can therefore never really disconnect the history from the present moment. others – like Lamming turned often towards Africa) and the inability to link one‘s identity to these roots often led to great disappointment. These authors were looking for the roots of their identity outside of the region (Naipaul and other writers of East Indian origins in India. It is the space that may be said to contain the unconscious or subconscious dimension. The subconscious reality of the Caribbean experience is reflected throughout The Guyana Quartet. A great amount of the West Indian authors started to solve this 3 9 . materialistic world of empiricism to a worldview that recognizes a deeply hidden order mocking the limitations of our rigid forms and concepts‖ (Jonas. unlike many of the earlier and even contemporary Caribbean authors. vision. Naipaul were criticized for not being able to accept their own society and describing it as a backward and even primitive in many aspects (French qtd. neither attempts to get rid of the European influence and nor does he copy it blindly like many before him did. In her comments about The Whole Armour Joyce Jonas points out Harris‘s ―emphasis on dream. Mythology offers us the space where the imagination is allowed to search for the possible interpretations of the past and history that would be more compatible with the West Indian (or any other) experience. The influence of the past on the present and the future bestows on it the notion of fluidity and the ‗unfinished genesis‘ which is one of the important notions of Harris‘s critical work.
3). Through his books Harris is able to communicate his worldview which is astonishingly open and welcoming. East Indian and Amerindian origins that are all equally relevant to Harris‘s and Caribbean experience. Harris seems to be able not only to accept the European influence on his work. Coming from the former British colony with mixed racial origins. Harris is trying to pursue the path towards the creative independence further and through his notion of ―unfinished genesis‖ admits its incompleteness. Although he is deeply concerned about the people of the Caribbean and is trying to solve the problem of their identity. This is not the sole case of the West Indies. On the other hand he gained much of the European experience as well through the colonial and postcolonial system of education. The same notion is characteristic of many postcolonial countries including African countries.problem by writing nationalist literature. but to openly incorporate it into his work where he is able to creatively transform it together with other influences of African. but also the strength of this fluidity and ever changing character of the human imagination trying to achieve freedom. The influence of European literature and culture cannot be doubted. 1995. If we return to the comment by Cudjoe that Harris asks us ―to dig deeply into the subconscious of Caribbean reality‖ to ―widen and deepen our sensibility‖ in order to be able to discover the ―original West Indian architecture of sensibility‖ it is apparent that it applies to the much wider readership than it might be at first noticeable (Cudjoe. Harris assumes the position of the mediator between the West Indian and Western world. In my opinion. he does not limit himself to the single aspect of history but works instead along the whole ―reality – 4 0 . he has the background of the Caribbean reality embedded within his experience. nationalist literature seems to be rather only a developmental stage in the pursuit of the true creative independence. Talking from the position of the highly original and not always understood author. However.
dreams and myths. Myths contain the archetypal patterns and issues that are relevant to all cultures. 4 1 .imagination continuum‖ which is able to incorporate facts as well as visions. 1966. Because of that the imagination of the reader is activated and in an attempt to grasp the meaning of the symbol or image he/she becomes more involved with the subconscious which begins to influence his/her perception after the traditional one-dimensional approach proved to be insufficient (Louis James. 113). To use them together in one work and give them the transformational character that presents their interpretation from several angles enables the reader to perceive these archetypes out of the traditional fixed framework. The use of mythologies from different cultures helps Harris ―to reinforce his structure and extend meaning‖.
3. Yet it does not mean that the influence of this tradition limits the possible interpretation of the text and that it will serve as the super-ordinate principle governing our understanding.2. He strives to achieve a unity of all these facets of Caribbean history. This fact must be taken into consideration as it will inevitably influence our understanding of the text. It rather enriches the tradition of the West Indies by adding another aspect to the multidimensionality of the region‘s tradition. this is necessary in order to free himself/herself and hopefully also the whole community from its oppression. Whether we like it or not a Western civilisation and its conventions are actively involved in the creation of the meaning of this text that deals with the past whose part it influenced. Through the presentation of history/past in the text of The Guyana Quartet we can see that it is in fact cultural conventions that determine the interpretation of events in what is then (from the point of view of the present) understood as history. However. What is therefore important is not rejection of this tradition.3 Harris‟s Syncretic Presentation of Multi-dimensional History in The Guyana Quartet Coming to terms with the effects of Euro-American culture on the West Indian experience is a difficult task for a post-colonial writer. Like Harris I (as a critical reader of The Guyana Quartet) received a European-oriented education. but its acceptance as only one of many that are relevant in this context. Neither does he reject it in favour of an African. East Indian or Amerindian individual heritages. Not accepting it would lead to preservation of ―the inbuilt censorship in West Indian historical convention‖ which was kept through the colonial education for such a long 4 2 . What is unique about Harris‘s approach in The Guyana Quartet is that he does not limit himself to the influence of Europe.
and takes part in. All of the voices of the past. those who disappeared in the past and those that are forerunners of the future (Cristo. Beti. the colonized (Mariella and ‗the folk‘. Cristo must meet those who form parts of his past – those that are the living fossils in him and 4 3 . a dreamlike recapitulation of the whole. Posseidon‘s followers). Harris‘s interpretation of the topic is therefore not only providing the insight for the non-Caribbean reader. runaway slaves. During his adventures as a fugitive in the forest he experiences. It is only when all of histories are acknowledged that the new beginning can appear. By this breaking of conventional boundaries we can see history as ‗a living fossil‘ that is no longer buried in the past without any creative potential. whole civilizations—appears to be running blindly as if from some cataclysmic disaster‖ (Gilkes. Fenwick. Harris allows his characters from different dimensions of time and space to cross the boundaries of those dimensions and appear together in the imaginative space of the subconscious reality. To achieve such a harmonious unity of coexistence. The Guyana Quartet gives the reader an opportunity to see history of the region from Harris‘s perspective which mixes several subjective insights – those of the colonizers (Donne. futile process that has been Guyana‘s (and the Caribbean‘s) history: a charade of successive conflict and flight where everyone— Caribs. Oudin. but also for the West Indian one whose perception was clouded by the imperial influence. Beti. The permeability of time dimensions appears for example in The Whole Armour when Cristo has ―to undergo an initiation into selfhood. the present and the future have their function and purpose. Sharon. Dreamer when unified with Donne). In order to reach his own complete Self. Oudin. 77). Ram.time (Cudjoe. Mohammed). 1995. 9). It is only after the characters representing all the diverse personalities and nations meet and acknowledge their mutual dependence that the possibility of truly free and responsible existence of individual and community can take place.
because they thought he was one of them. There was a big battle between Arawaks and Caribs a long time ago‖ (The Whole Armour. History is interpreted subjectively but from several points of view and the finiteness of events in the past is transgressed by the free mixing of history (or rather histories from different times and spaces) with mythology. All these images must Cristo confront on his way to self-recognition. 340) Still running from his pursuers he turns into an image of a runaway slave when he sees his reflection in the water (The Whole Armour. As I have already stated above. At the same time the quest for the rediscovery of the community‘s past is also a quest of the individual for the spiritual substance of his ‗Self‘ which is at the beginning overpowered by the ‗material Self‘ which suppresses the spiritual consciousness like colonialism suppresses the memory of the conquered communities. The high proportion of subjectivity is typical of his fiction and adds to the originality of its form. Harris believes ―that a cleavage exists […] between the historical convention in the Caribbean and Guianas and the arts of the imagination‖ and that ―a 4 4 . 337). The presence of the Arawak Indians and the search for their settlement in Palace of the Peacock may be seen as the search for the true origins of the Caribbean people within this almost forgotten history of the West Indies. he turns his attention towards the more distant past of the region and stresses the origins of the Caribbean in the pre-Columbian time.‖ (The Whole Armour. Later the same experience appears but this time with the Carib Indians: ―Couldn‘t understand where in god‘s name they‘d come from. Harris does not see the past and history as something static and objective. On his journey through the bush he meets first a group of the Arawaks: ―The Arawaks I saw belonged to two or three centuries ago. Although Harris deals with the colonial dilemma of the region.the Caribbean community. He was afraid of them. 341). but they left him alone. And then I realized they took me for one of themselves.
4 5 . His ideal of cross-cultural and multidimensional unity is a global concept that may be applied at any level of reality.philosophy of history may well lie buried in the arts of imagination‖ (Harris 1995. but the rest of the world as well. Through The Guyana Quartet he re-interprets and imaginatively recreates the dilemmas of history which burden not only the West Indian community and the author himself. 18).
The Influence of the Multidimensional View on the Search for a New Form Suitable for the West Indian Expression – Refusal of Western Realism The Guyana Quartet is the first set of novels that Wilson Harris produced and the topic of past and history connects all of them.3. The European form of expression which prevailed in literature of the colonial period appeared to be insufficient and unable to reflect such a kind of reality. In search of form which would be able to express the complexity of West Indian experience Harris turns away from the realism which is incapable of dealing with it because of its fixed understanding of reality and chronological representation of time. He believes in the power of art that can heal the wounds inflicted by the past as well as resurrect those parts of West Indian identity that are buried in the subconscious of the community as well as within every individual. Harris‘s work is not just a personal struggle to reach the reconciliation with the West Indian history or to define his own identity and position within the community. Harris therefore had to look for an original and new way of expression that would be truly West Indian and that would be capable of freeing literature from the constrictive representation of reality. According to him it is the creative (or re-creative) potential of art that should become the source of rebirth of West Indian identity. Hena Maes-Jelinek says that Harris rejects 4 6 . The question for the West Indian author like Harris is how to present historical events that played a significant part in the genesis of the Caribbean community.
He believes that these constituents of the Caribbean identity must be retrieved in order to achieve the spiritual freedom and liberate the community (in regional as well as global sense) from past errors. 139). barely surviving Amerindians. vanished Caribs. It is in the absences and silence that one can look for the 4 7 . 1995. unconscious and unacknowledged elements that shaped the West Indian psyche‖ (MaesJelinek. He perceives similar submerged existence within the Guyanese landscape which ―is alive with the spirit of earlier generations. 1976. These expressions imply that despite of the alleged unreality or inexistence the past is still able to influence the present and the future through the imprint it has left in the world (Burnett. 73). a fact which makes authoritarian and inadequate to render the ‗dismembered psychical world‘ of the Caribbean (Maes-Jelinek. 179).the realistic mode of writing characteristic of the main tradition in English fiction because it is too intent on capturing the actual or external reality at the expense of the unconscious in both man and nature. This characteristic of Harris‘s fiction is well described by his own term ‗the living fossil‘ (Harris. 1995. 139). 33-39) which he uses throughout his work and which was named equally fittingly by Victoria Tolliver as ―presence in absence‖ (Toliver. hidden. From this standpoint no past is really forgotten or lost completely. but it is nevertheless present. His fiction is highly experimental and deeply rooted in the West Indian experience. He associates realism with ‗linear persuasion‘ and ‗restrictive convention‘ and regards it as part of the prevailing ideology of a given period. In contrast to the realistic mode of writing he ―explores the lost. It can be buried deep in the subconscious of the individual or community. 1995. runaway slaves and their oppressors‖ (Maes-Jelinek. 139).
Stephen Slemon comments on this regenerative potential of West Indian experience in his study of magical realism. but also a kind of revolt against the mode of the dominant culture.‖ This silencing of otherness was typical of the colonizing communities. The long periods of oppression were able to erase many cultural aspects of the colonized people. Dubois calls this the ―illiteracy of Imagination‖. Because the revealing of the suppressed realities and the exploration of the subconscious is so important in the process of discovery of the truly West Indian expression. This point is supported by Harris‘s refusal not only of 4 8 . understands the realistic form as a kind of authoritative mode that limits human imagination. [he] consolidates the prejudices and biases into absolute truths and thus contributes reinforcing the world‘s blockages. it is only logical. In this way the refusal of realism means not only the inclination to a different form that would be more suitable for expressing the reality from the West Indian point of view. But Slemon also suggests that ―awareness of this can provoke the imagination into recovering lost aspects of self.‖ Absolute concepts represent ―Man‘s limited vision‖ and ―his inability to free himself from the constraints of authoritarian reason‖ (Dubois. He says that ―the silencing of otherness is inscribed into the colonial encounter. 180). 204). He states that the inability of men to see beyond the ―veil of appearances that he takes for reality. like Dubois. that realistic novel is not the suitable medium to work with these aspects of human experience. 417).resurrection. habitual absences in the postcolonial consciousness‖ (Slemon. The main reason for Harris is I believe the real difference in perception which is characteristic of his community. Harris. However. I believe that this idea of revolt against the imperialism that is often seen as implied in the authoritarian aura of realism with its ―claim to fashioning an accurate portrait of the world‖ is not the main reason for its refusal (Faris.
realism. Through this idea we may come back to Harris‘s interpretation of history of the region where he fights against the idea of ‗historylessness‘ of the area which in fact has its long and complicated history worth exploring and that should free itself from the constricting systems that were imported at one part of the historical development. or gutted by exploitation. As Samuel Durrant says that while ―realistic novel can register the ‗fictious presence‘ of the absent tribe only as fiction because it relies on the distinction between the actual and imaginary‖ the form of The Guyana Quartet is capable of ―registering the ‗absent presence‘ of the tribe thanks to its openness to the imaginary and mythical expressions of the past that form an undeniable part of West Indian reality‖ (Durrant. but also of protest national literature of the West Indian writers. 1995. because it is not composed of events fixed in an historical sequence but of moments whose potentiality remains to be unlocked. Inspired by the work of his predecessor Edgar Mittelholzer Harris‘s perceives his work as the ―inner corrective to historical documentary and protest literature which sees the West Indies as utterly deprived. 2000). we begin to participate in the genuine possibilities of original change available to a people severely disadvantaged (it is true) at a certain point in time‖ (Harris. Durrant further develops these ideas in the essay ―Coming Home ‗Upon threads of Desolation‘: The Reversal of Prophecy in Wilson Harris‘s The Dark Jester‖ where he comments on Harris‘s concept of history and past as follows: […] the past is never over. To ―go beyond realism‖ means at the same time to go beyond the European conception of Caribbean past and embrace the subconscious reality of mythical histories of past generations that were present in the Caribbean long before Christopher Columbus set sail. 21). Harris abandons fictional realism precisely because it is bound to confirm the linearity of events and thus fails to recognize the 4 9 .
African and other myths as they all share the same archetypal images such as the creation myth. In The Secret Ladder it is Fenwick‘s relationship to Posseidon (the figure representing the runaway slaves – the Maroons) and there are many other such examples throughout all the four novels. or the symbol of a quest or journey to the origins. He offers different approaches to the same text/symbol/image and its interpretation and thanks to that influences his reader‘s perception of the text. He mixes Greek. but on another level the same victor-victim relationship occurs on the communal dimension in the relationship of the European colonizer to the conquered Arawak Indians.212). 2002. it is not surprising that characters from all eras of history can occur together in all four novels of The Guyana Quartet and that they all live the ‗reality‘ they have in common. which itself shows a repetitive pattern. It is mainly through the archetypes that Harris embeds the mythological elements into his text. 211. I think it 5 0 . By understanding the past events as something that reveals its true potential only in connection with the present. As we can see Harris uses the archetype of victor-victim relationship that is universal for all cultures and he recreates it to show its creative potential by enlivening it by the actual historical events that are relevant for the West Indian community.‖ […] ―The meaning of historical events is not immediately accessible at the moment of their occurrence. Thus for example in Palace of the Peacock Donne has to deal on one level with his relationship to his lover Mariella whom he treats like his inferior. Through the transformation of symbolical images and their free mixing with reality.revolutionary potential of forgotten moments in history. Harris manages to unify the great cultural variety of sources of his inspiration and offers the reader an opportunity to experience the fluidity of imagination that can be common for any culture. Amerindian. and events only assume their significance in a momentary coincidence with the present (Durrant.
In his essay ―With Covered Eyes: Amerindians and the Arts of Seeing in Wilson Harris and Steve McQueen‖ Michael Mitchell points out the basic idea of Amerindian belief that there is a harmonious relationship between material and spiritual dimensions of the universe.is a very important aspect of Harris‘s art. Jorge Louis Borges and other 5 1 . Harris‘s technique of writing does not only reflect the needs of the contemporary world but it also seems to draw heavily on the pre-Columbian tradition as well. than it would be the boundary between the coast and the interior. These tendencies of writing are also often found in literature of South American writers. he succeeded in his mission to find a cross-cultural form of expression that would free his but also any other community from the burdens of past. If he has managed to lead at least some readers towards the more creative reading that does not let itself being constricted by the culturally-determined traditional attitudes. 1999. Thanks to its geographical position Guyana is in a somewhat different position than the islands of the Caribbean. The geographical position of the country also suggests a greater link to literature of the rest of South America – magical realism. Only the fact that Guyana is part of the continent and therefore is not cut off from the land by the sea gives it a special position among the Caribbean countries. 114). Some critics place Harris alongside the authors such as Gabriel García Márquez. Harris in The Guyana Quartet proves that he is capable of the ―art of weaving the material and the spiritual together‖ (Mitchell. The struggle for delimitation of borders of the country itself was extremely problematic and it supports the idea of the vagueness of frontiers that are in fact only the social construct not necessarily reflecting reality4. because it is through the ‗creative imagination‘ that Harris wants to achieve the freedom of consciousness (Harris. If there ever was something like a transitional territory. Moreover. 158).
5 2 . East Indian. Their transformation suggests the link with their origins but it also implies their change and adaptation to the new environment with its potential for even further ‗unfinished genesis‘ that would reflect the present changes and still keep the links to the origins thus changing to the past what was then the present and making present what was once the future. There are beliefs of African. 12). 252). Authors of magical realism like Harris see the ‗canonical realism‘ as something that cancels out the actual world‘s diversity ―in order to create fictional worlds of great intensity. What we can learn from Harris‘s mode of writing and that of magical realists‘ is the fact that they do not associate their vision with something separated from reality.South American magical realists (Fraser. It is ―inherent in the myths and superstitions‖ of the people and in the ―very topography of the Americas‖ (Delbaere-Garant. 226). Harris‘s attempts to find an adequate form of expression necessarily take into consideration this constant presence of beliefs and superstitions in lives of the Caribbean population. the text must be semiotically multidimensional. Although I would not agree with this placement completely I agree The Guyana Quartet shows some significant characteristics that are typical of the genre of magical or marvellous realism. The magical aspects of the text are not artificially created to embellish the fictional space. In order to be able to contain the influences of several cultures at once and to capture a true substance of reality and not just its one dimension. Amerindian as well as European origins that remained preserved in the collective consciousness of the society and that were themselves transformed into new beliefs by undergoing their ‗Middle Passage‘ across the tides of history. It is this ‗semiotic potential‘ of art that is at the core of Harris cross-cultural vision. but narrow semiotic potential‖ (Wilson.
This ignorance of the earlier (or simply ‗other‘) cultural tradition which was connected to the tribes of the indigenous population and undervaluation of imported cultural influences is the greatest bias of the colonial era. the sense of cultural void accompanied the idea of ‗historylessness‘ of the region. With the almost lost memory of 5 3 . However. this was an era of the European political and cultural domination in the Caribbean and it still leaves visible traces in contemporary society of the region.1 Historical Development and its Influence on the Cultural Tradition of the West Indies The previous chapters dealt with the dimensions of history and its interpretation. we realize that the diversity of cultural influences is immense. When we take into consideration the long history of the society in the region. The Cross-cultural Multidimensionality 4. Like the pre-Columbian history that was almost erased from the West Indian memory. Different ethnical groups that were brought to the region during the colonial period were integrated into the new culture.4. The problematic side of its influence stems from the attempts to establish supremacy of this particular tradition over others during the colonial era. That led to the strengthening of its position within that part of social life that is considered to be of a ‗proper cultural value‘. the trend of the postcolonial age is to destabilize the hegemony of the Western canon to the advantage of traditions that were for a long time considered primitive or nonexistent. Each dimension of history that was mentioned influenced in some way the cultural development of the West Indian community. Luckily.
are better equipped then most national or regional cultures to enable an ‗art of creative co- 5 4 . some elements of these cultural influences survived and underwent a kind of transformation which is depicted in The Guyana Quartet in such an original way. the imposed canon of the European expression gained supremacy (Maes-Jelinek. Although Harris concentrates on the unifying overarching principles of existence that would have global implications. His main concept is the already mentioned ‗crossculturality‘ that is the principal subject matter of the following section of my thesis. in spite of all the attempts to suppress the ‗primitive‘ forms of expression (especially those from Africa that were brought to Americas with slaves). In the postcolonial era. the West Indian writers felt the need to revise this cultural diversity and free it from the burden of the past. he uses the Guyanese society as a medium through which he tries to arouse the cross-cultural consciousness in his readers. China and several European countries. Later. All these components of world cultures came together in Guyana and created a special cultural situation that even under the strict control of the Britishoriented education was not completely silenced. the cultural variety was increased by the immigration of the indentured labourers from India. precisely because of their particular history and hybrid nature. However. the Caribs as well as the influences of Aztec and Mayan culture. 140).the pre-Columbian art and the censure of the traditions imported during the colonial era. with multiple influences from outside. 1995. The history of Guyana embraces the pre-Columbian legacy of the indigenous population of the Caribbean – the Arawaks. The Guyana Quartet is Harris‘s first set of novels where he is searching for an appropriate form of expression as well as the topics that would reflect the true substance of West Indian but also global reality. ―Harris insists at several points in his writings that Caribbean culture and society. With the conquest and slavery came various African beliefs that mixed with the indigenous and European influences.
historical recovery and catalyst for liberatory social change‖ (Emery. Harris. If the reader responds creatively to the work before him. If the text is truly cross-cultural. 3). 112). the Caribbean experience carries within itself an immense imaginative potential that should be explored in order to find the truly cross-cultural expression that would be free of any domination and oppression. Mary Lou Emery says that ―Harris‘s writing activates the individual imagination as a project of collective. 158). The work is created by the author who is at the same time created by this work and on the same level 5 5 . Thanks to the complicated history of the Caribbean and the richness of influences it brought about. 1966. The decisive principle of ability to handle the text successfully should therefore stem rather from the reader‘s ability to accept the unique form of expression and allow it to awaken the subconscious and intuitive imagination which according to Harris leads to his creation of the text and therefore must also be present during its reading. 1995. The success of Harris‘s venture can be measured by the accessibility of his work to readers of different cultural background.existence‘ [that] is of the utmost importance‖ (Harris. 140). who is called ―a pioneer of cross-culturalism‖ breaks down the barriers between men and civilisations and shows his reader the possibility to see every aspect of his work from different perspectives that are all deemed relevant in the process of understanding (Maes-Jelinek. Basic idea of this statement can be applied not only to the content. 1999. but also to the form of Harris‘s work that serves author‘s purpose. the chance of misinterpretation caused by his ignorance or distraction by geographical and cultural foreignness is minimised (Ramchard. it should be accessible to any reader regardless of the prevailing tradition of his or her society. 2002. If the aim of his work is to activate the cross-cultural imagination of the reader. then the reader must be forced to be actively involved in the creation of the meaning of the text.
95).the reader makes the meaning of the text as the text recreates the reader‘s perception and experience (Gilkes. 5 6 .
East Indian and African mythology.and postColumbian dimensions allows me to point out the particular contributions different ethnic groups brought into the region during the historical development of the Caribbean territory. I will discuss these among the post-Columbian dimensions. but it also enables me to further draw on the ‗unfinished genesis‘ of the Guyanese (as well as Caribbean and global) society with all the particular dimensions that together transformed and created what Harris calls ‗true cross-culturality‘ that unites all the contributing elements into one syncretic vision and imagination.2 Pre-Columbian Dimension Because history and cultural development go usually hand in hand. Another group that is more connected to the Caribbean area and whose culture is still preserved in some elements of the Guyanese life are the Arawaks. The division into pre. Pre-Columbian dimension comprises of the cultural tradition of the indigenous population of South and Central America and also the early conquering tribe – the Caribs. It would go against the main point of this thesis about complexity and syncreticity of the text of The Guyana Quartet to strictly divide the cultural stimuli into separate categories. because in spite of their earlier 5 7 . Because Guyana lies on the South American continent. Although there are more cultural elements that pre-date the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus – such as Greek. there are also considerable influences coming from the ancient cultures of the Aztec and Mayan civilizations. the particular dimensions of cultural influences that play an important part in The Guyana Quartet will be discussed in two main groups – pre-Columbian and post-Columbian. I would like to stress that I chose this division only for organisational reasons to make the structure of the discussion easier to follow.4.
but also creates marginal spaces in which the silenced voices of totalizing systems can speak‖ (Slemon. In his critical work The Womb of Space Harris proposes the new strategy of interpretation and also ―the way of reading the text back into the cross-cultural imagination that many forms of postcolonial critical studies actively seek to promote‖ (Slemon. The vagueness of the memories calls for the highly imaginative process of writing and reading that is so characteristic of The Guyana Quartet. Stephen Slemon adds that ―print. The resurrection of pre-Columbian roots of culture and history are one of the central concerns of The Guyana Quartet as well as other Harris‘s works. So it is in spite of these totalizing and restrictive powers that the marginal spaces and silences become the potentialities through which the almost lost tradition can be resurrected. the orally preserved tradition was seriously threatened. They are approachable from several angles and therefore not limited in the scope 5 8 . However. Another danger to the communal memory was brought about by a European ―obsession with print‖ that has ―made all memory of the past irrelevant‖ (Slemon. 421). The problematic aspect of these pre-Columbian origins is their sustainability through time. inevitably contains and fixes the past as dead record of the monuments of achievement. With the immense decrease of the indigenous population after the conquest. Thanks to the mythical nature of orally transmitted memories they possess a kind of universal patterns or archetypes that are common to all cultures of the world. 418). Harris like other postcolonial writers is concerned about the loss of these oldest traditions that suffered the fate of the nations who were their preservers. 418).origins. in obliterating the need for memory. their impact on the West Indian culture began after the European conquest and immigration of several ethnic groups (especially African and East Indian) who brought their traditions with them.
according to the Aztec philosophy. but also the political one. or the imagery connected to the mythical figure of a feathered snake Quetzalcoatl in the stories but it is rather an overall concept and idea of the work that draws on the older traditions of perception and expression. 18). The source of those underlying patterns and rhythms that governs. The legacy of pre-Columbian civilisations is reflected maybe more distinctly in the form and pattern of Harris‘s writing then anywhere else. Harris uses these archetypal images and symbols in his work and offers his reader several dimensions of interpretation including the one which echoes the ancient civilisations of the Americas. 1967. any life stems from nature itself and in order to ensure a ―happy survival of the community one has to discover what those rhythms were and to follow their complicated but regular beat‖ (Harris. The Guyana Quartet wants to preserve this balance and ―art of weaving the material and the spiritual together‖ (Mitchell. The mythical perception of nature and reality in general among the so called ‗primitive‘ cultures makes a significant connection between the material and the cosmic/unconscious world. the Writer and Society Wilson Harris declares his indebtedness to George Valliant who studied the civilisations of pre-Columbian Mexico and who described the nature of the Aztec philosophy with its central pattern. 114). It is not only the artistic concern. The return to preColumbian philosophy which turns away from the purely realistic and materialistic thinking connected to the European Enlightenment philosophy is necessary in order to meet the needs of the rapidly transforming global culture of our day. The same concept of philosophy is typical of the communities like Amerindians who live in the harmony with nature. Mary Lou Emery considers Harris‘s way of 5 9 . We meet ancient figures like the Great Arawak mother or Orehu – the Mother of Water (Bruno) – embodied in the character of Mariella from Palace of the Peacock.of possible interpretations. form and rhythm. In his critical work Tradition.
is their role as icons signifying ―the ‗inner space‘ or ‗hidden perspectives of the Caribs‘ totemic world‖. Realism proved to be unsuitable for this purpose. They are connected to the spiritual world and become the springboard for further imaginary transformation. waterfalls. and so the myth-oriented preColumbian tradition with its potential for imaginative reading was given its chance. it is difficult to recover the pre-Columbian heritage of the West Indies. 2002. and as such. jaguars. not passive. Another significant function of the zemis. historical recovery and catalyst for liberatory social change‖ (Emery. 112).writing to be the one that is able to ―[activate] the individual imagination as a project of collective. In the rocks. It is connected to his understanding of Arawak zemis5 and the landscape of Guyana itself. representing the ―collective unconscious of the whole people‖ (Gilkes. sun and other parts of the Guyanese landscape and nature that are loaded with imaginative potential. rivers. 119). 117). Harris‘s search for new expression and way of reading is therefore also the rediscovery of the philosophical approach to perception of reality that allows more complex understanding through which the cross-cultural vision would be possible to achieve. Through the living fossils. man can then try to rediscover ―what he had been for ever seeking and what he had eternally possessed‖ (Palace of the Peacock. the memory or absence of memory remains. apart from their function as ‗the living fossils‘. 1995. landscape is alive. 6). jungle and the ancient fetishes that were preserved. As I have already stated. trees. snakes. These two aspects are closely connected and when reading The Guyana Quartet we can discern these elements of the pre-Columbian cultures in the iconic representations of natural symbols such as birds. and it is able to preserve the memory of the past that may be forgotten by men (Emery. rocks. In accordance with the Amerindian philosophy. This heritage is ‗the living fossil‘ Harris often talks about. In this way the bird images that appear during the pursuit of the folk in Palace of the Peacock ―at the 6 0 .
Tonantzin (Our Mother) which may be an aspect of Cihuacoatl (snake Woman) was transferred into the image of Christian Virgin (Harris. xix). In another vision the metaphor of a bird resembles the fatal killing of the albatross of Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner only to change itself again and again until the final cosmic transformation into the peacock takes place. he also acknowledges the significance of other origins that contributed to the current shape of 6 1 . Another example of such transformation can be followed in the transferring of cults that took place after the discovery of America and the arrival of missionaries form Europe. 182) resonate with the images of the Mexican feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl that signifies the ―evolutionary wedding of earth and sky‖ and outer and inner space (Harris qtd. Women from The Guyana Quartet oscillate between the Great Arawak Mother of Waters. and/or vodun symbolism of birds as mediators between material and spiritual worlds (and also between the living and the dead) that are close to the Arawak perception of the bird as a ―spiritual eye‖ (Maes-Jelinek. 110). 19). Every character (animate or inanimate) possesses several aspects of his/her Self that all contribute to the complexity but also real unity within that Self without which the true freedom cannot be achieved.height of the crew‘s agitation and despair‖ (Toliver. in Emery. The ungraspable and unfixed character of symbols is not perceived as a disadvantage by Harris. Although Harris stresses the importance of the pre-Columbian roots of the West Indies that according to him form an inseparable part of the Guyanese identity. 1995. Harris exploits this transfer even further in his female characters. 2002. but at the same time reflect the genesis of culture up to the present day and even further. Vodun Mama Legba and Greek Fury to the dualities of virgin – whore of Christian tradition. 1967. It is their ability to transform that makes it possible to use them as the basis for a new form of expression that is able to bear the resonances of the past.
the Guyanese culture. themselves comprise the ‗real‘ historical legacy of postcolonial space‖ (Slemon. 6 2 . in time. The Guyana Quartet by the ―wide pluralizing of origins annihilates the privileging or monumentalizing of any one of them and suggests that the ‗shreds and fragments‘ that come down from them in distorted form. 417).
4.3 Post-Columbian Dimension The discovery of Americas and their following conquest by European powers had a fundamental impact on the following development of the whole continent. The most significant pre-Columbian European cultural aspects that play a significant part in The Guyana Quartet are those from the ancient Greece whose mythologyinspired historiography suited Harris‘s philosophy of history. The non-European traditions follow the similar trend in a way that many of them share the ancient roots that were brought from the former motherland to the new country and often underwent significant transformation while adapting to the needs of the new environment. 6 3 . I divided the post-Columbian cultural dimension into two branches – European and non-European. Because of the scope of this thesis and the limited possibility to research this topic. The European tradition includes not only the post-conquest developments but also the ones that preceded this period and were brought along with the newer influences of the incoming ethic groups. I will concentrate only on few examples of these ethnical imports with the emphasis on African traditions that occupy the central place among the topics of The Guyana Quartet and whose interpretation I can more soundly support by the evidence from available critical works. India and China. Among the most significant non-European traditions are those that came from Africa. Since then the West Indies experienced a great influx of influences from all over the world that lead to the present-day melange of cultures.
St John of the Cross. B. is perfectly acceptable for Harris as well as other writers like Derek Walcott or Alejo Carpentier. nor a continuing protest against the slavemaster that can only perpetuate the old roles‖ (Mikics. 389). Apart form the pre-Columbian civilizations of Europe The Guyana Quartet draws on the younger tradition as well. John Donne is also partly used as a model for one of the characters in Palace of the Peacock – the conquistadorial figure of Donne with his sensitive rather poetic-oriented twin/half 6 4 . Gerard Manley Hopkins. If we consider the choice of inspiration coming from the European art. Robert Browning. What might seem inappropriate for those writers who are trying to rebel against this part of West Indian cultural inheritance. T. W.1 European Tradition The Guyana Quartet offers a great deal of the European-inspired images and symbols. According to them. S. Yeats and William Blake. European culture is therefore accepted and utilized along with the rest of the cultural traditions. Throughout the whole The Guyana Quartet the chapters are introduced by short passages by authors like John Donne. the strangeness and richness of the Caribbean setting demands a completely new approach – neither ―an impossible return to the African roots that have been irrevocably changed. Eliot.4. we notice that the strongest influence comes from the Greek mythology and its heroic epics and then from the Christian mythology.3. Harris uses many quotations from the famous writers and poets who are either connected to the era of colonization of the West Indies or those that played a significant role in the formation of the British literary canon. In The Far Journey of Oudin we can even recognize a reference to an ancient Nordic god Odin or the character from the Arthurian legend (Fisherman King) (Gilkes. 58-59).
850 BC) is himself an obscure figure about whom little is known and even the possibility of multiple authorship surrounds his 6 5 . Even in this facet of cultural heritage Harris turns to those resources that are most fit for transformation into the new cross-cultural vision – ―the great archetypal myths of literature‖ (Louis James. the Christian myths and the myth of El Dorado which is most directly connected to the American landscape. In Tradition the Writer and Society he states that ―since the Greeks. Furies whose nature is every now and then adopted by the female characters from all the four novels. The transitional character is one of the basic conditions for Harris‘s cross-cultural enterprise and he sees this potential in the Homeric mythology. 1967. the important figures and events connecting the Caribbean with Europe are not the main source of inspiration. But older peoples. tribal peoples as [he] calls them […] have preserved a mental outlook not purely static‖ (Harris. He excelled in Latin and his knowledge of the canonical works of art is profound. 84). 1999. 58). From the classical figures we can encounter Gorgon transformed partly to the character of Jordan from The Secret Ladder. Homerus (c. 176). 226). The Guyana Quartet is undoubtedly inspired by the classical mythology – especially by Homer‘s Odyssey (Pozzi. all classical European philosophy has revealed a static outlook. but like all the images in The Guyana Quartet they are all of a transitional character.Dreamer (Louis James. The most explored myths in this respect are from three different dimensions: the Greek myths. 1999. However. or Poseidon who despite being a former slave keeps the divine aspect of his person. There are many hints that may be interpreted as referring to some classical archetype. Harris‘s preference for the Greek art and philosophy is most probably the outcome of his education but also his own idea of the creative form of art. like in the case of references to Amerindian legacy through the characters of their mythology or the events in history concerning their population.
mastering the forces. 113). Derek Walcott and many others. 9). to final self-discovery‖ (Louis James 1966. can be seen as ―a figure of the glob al poet‖. The archetypal journey like the Odyssey became the cornerstone and starting point for many modern writers regardless of their origins or background. threatening disintegration. William Defoe. as well as the character of Odysseus. 181). According to him Odyssey is ―the classical story of a man leaving a decaying civilization (Troy). 1999. and coming at last to harbour‖. mastering immense spiritual and physical dangers through courage and integrity. exploitation. Joseph Conrad. One might see the inspiration in works of James Joyce.person. Every generation and every culture can find there underlying images and concepts that are common to every community and their interpretation depends on the particular tradition. and colonialism. His work predates the city culture characteristic of the later Mediterranean civilisation and it ―comes directly from a folk imagination‖ which does not yet possess the fixity of interpretation and expression (Louis James. This motif ―recurs in the West Indian pattern of a journey from the older cultures of Europe. Although the full utilization of this archetype which is described above by Gilkes was fully exploited in Harris‘s Eternity to Season its first appearance comes from Palace of 6 6 . By using Greek as well as other myths Harris reinforces structure of his work that is closer to the epic poems of the folk tradition than to the modern European novel and extends implications of images that develop much more complex identity with multiplicity of meanings. Odyssey is a great archetypal myth that is often referred to in West Indian literature because of its structure that resembles the fate of the Caribbean. Michael Gilkes describes this connection in the critical work Wilson Harris and the Caribbean Novel. The utilizability of this work resides in its form and choice of topics (Fraser. He. of the middle passage. It is truly global in its character and it allows the infinite recreation – ‗infinite rehearsal‘ as Harris would call it.
52). I believe that the transferability of the mythical characters allows the readers to apply the archetype that is globally valid and interpret it according to the cultural tradition close to one‘s background. The journey to the past and origins and the search for the unity and integrity of the Self as well as that of the whole community forms the background of the whole novel where the twin-character Donne/Dreamer undergoes many dangers while sailing on the boat and facing the powers of the ancient gods and elements of nature. like Mariella (the old Arawak woman) and Oudin also contain the elements of a spidery god-trickster Ananse/Anancy whose character originated in Africa and was transformed by the Middle Passage into a new original character. it is easier for me to compare my reading to these kinds of myths that are familiar to me. Because of the multilayered structure of the whole work its characters resonate with echoes of several traditions at once. Poseidon. I perceive Donne/Dreamer as a character comparable to the archetypal figure of Odysseus in a way that they are challenging burdens of their community as well as those of their own personality. Characters of virgins and whores with names often resembling those of the Bible (Mari-ella. Poseidon is both the Greek god of the seas but also the descendant of slaves ―the black king of history‖ (The Secret Ladder. However. In the same way as he works with Greek myths Harris makes use of the great myths of Christianity. references to Christ-like figures (Cristo. 370). flapping ragged fins of trousers on his legs‖ (The Secret Ladder. As a critical reader educated in Europe. 369) […] ―dressed in a flannel vest.the Peacock and has its resonances in other books of The Guyana Quartet as well. Magda). carpenter in the Palace of the Peacock) and other characters who may be read as stemming from 6 7 . He is one of the metamorphic figures of The Guyana Quartet. They function as guides on the great journey and their presence is necessary on the way to re-discovering the ―true substance of life‖ (Palace of the Peacock.
334). The most open link to the myth of the life of Christ is in the third novel of the trilogy – The Whole Armour whose main character is Cristo. The rebirth of the community through sacrifice and acknowledgement of one‘s responsibility is of central importance in The Whole Armour and The Far Journey of Oudin. baptism but also sacrifice. Cristo must be sacrificed despite his innocence. which is usually very strictly upheld in European literature. In his search for the new West Indian but also global expression Harris explores the creation-myths with the seven-day cycles. the son of a whore-goddess figure Magda and Abram. Apart from the archetypal figures Harris also re-works here the main topics. Even this allegedly static archetypal motif of creation. Within the seven day-journey in Palace of the Peacock Donne finally recognizes his imaginative Self of a Dreamer and the crew is re-created anew in their second death through which they can finally reach the Palace of the Peacock/palace of universe/heaven/alchemistic stage of cauda pavonis which corresponds with the act of creation of the universe. He and Sharon are ―the first potential parents who can contain the ancestral house‖ (The Whole Armour of God.the Christian tradition (for example Abram-Abraham) mix freely with other characters who have origins in different cultures yet they appear side by side on the background of a new cross-cultural literature. 6 8 . their underlying Christian archetype is more directly connected to the myth of creation which follows the seven day pattern of creation of the universe. He is to be resurrected through his son that will be born and his death is the opportunity for people to start anew. the motives of resurrection. It is in the act of creation that ―events gained their substance and universal meaning‖ (Palace of the Peacock. Although it is also present in the remaining two novels – Palace of the Peacock and The Secret Ladder. 101). when transplanted into the West Indies opens suddenly to new points of view.
and all would be strung together like a new immaterial genesis and condition. 226). So the oldest fable ran. Through his cross-cultural vision of art Harris creates a highly original literary form that draws on old as well as modern sources that are available to the artist. From what we read in the above-quoted passage from The Guyana Quartet. were needed to strip and subtilize everything. Perhaps seven. too. his vision is to reach freedom through the imaginative creation or re-creation of the past. but also the language and iconography of Christianity in a very original way. 417). This 6 9 . The seven beads of the original creation had been material days of efflorescence and bloom to distinguish their truly material character. Harris uses here not only topics.Although the Christian faith was brought quite early into the region by missionaries and later promoted as the official religion of the colonies its interpretation underwent changes due to different philosophy of the population that still maintained their ways of thinking and expression coming out of folk and tribal traditions. The originality. But now the very opposite realities of freedom were being chosen (The Secret Ladder. is of a vital importance as he himself claims. Seven days which would run in logical succession in time but nevertheless would be appointed or chosen from the manuscript of all the spiritual seasons that had ever been. In The Secret Ladder the re-creation is mediated on by Fenwick: Seven days it had taken to finish the original veil of creation that shaped and ordered all things to be solid in the beginning. which is so often ascribed to his texts. because ―originality is a living response to tradition‖ (Pozzi. Each choice – drawn from its claustrophobic epoch – would be a sovereign representative of its age.
Under the rule of James I he led another unsuccessful expedition to Guyana. At that time it was considered a fact and it is also presented in such a way by Raleigh. After the fantastic discoveries of Aztec gold by Hernán Cortés in the sixteenth century the conquistadorial expeditions of all European imperial forces clang to the idea of the golden city of Manoa.original recreation and utilization of the archetypes of different cultures makes it possible to fashion new truly cross-cultural literature that does not dwell in the stereotypes or fixed interpretations of particular cultures. and Beautiful Empire of Guiana6 (Raleigh). One of the well-known figures who took part in the search for El Dorado was Sir Walter Raleigh who led an unsuccessful expedition up the Orinoco River in 1595 which he described in his famous work The Discovery of the Large. The third type of archetypal mythology that plays a significant role in The Guyana Quartet is the story or stories of El Dorado. 7 0 . 2000). All the images. He places a great weight on the involvement of the individual on personal. His account of the expedition helped to promote the myth and when reading the Discoverie it is obvious that Raleigh did not doubt the existence of El Dorado. Harris was no doubt aware of this work and the transformation of something that was believed to be the fact into myth is the ideal space for him to explore with the imaginative possibilities it offers. Origins of the legend of the city of gold are directly connected to the Americas and especially the South American continent. Guyana was one of the possible locations where the city was believed to lie. The problematic point about this approach is the responsibility Harris demands as one of the crucial conditions for achieving freedom of expression and truly syncretic vision. symbols and acts of remembrance. communal and global levels. piety and homage that emerge in The Guyana Quartet should lead to individual‘s recognition of responsibility for the past that is also directed towards future (Durrant. Rich.
The crew of Palace of the Peacock undertake their journey several times (there are two journeys suggested directly but the cyclic. The quest which forms the underlying organizational structure especially in Palace of the Peacock resembles the search for the City of Gold by the conquistadorial Donne and his ―El Doradonne crew‖ (Harris. To reinforce this abstract non-material aspect of the quest Harris turns to another device that was brought to the West Indies after conquest – alchemy. On the level of the present the search for El Dorado continues ―carried out by present-day Guyanese society beneath the slogan of ‗repossessing the interior‘. 1985. 189). or rather spiral. potentially rich in natural resources‖. 8). From the West Indian point of view. The quest for El Dorado is therefore not only the conquering enterprise. which refers to the economic exploitation of the inland territory. The question of material gain and loss resulting from the exploitation of the land occupies heavily minds of Donne and Fenwick on their way towards the acceptance of responsibility for the past as well as the future. 7 1 . annihilating everyone and devouring himself in turn‖ (Palace of the Peacock. pattern of the universe in which Harris believes leaves the further development open). the concept of alchemy resembles the traditional tribal philosophy that is natural for this region. Like the search for El Dorado. 26). but also the ―discovery of collective psychic state. Although its origins are from the Americas it nevertheless demands the imaginative re-creation that would reflect the similarities but also the changes of the world that appeared since its first appearance. From what we already know about Harris‘s approach to the treatment of mythology and its archetypes it would be against the nature of his art to only adopt this myth.There are many references in The Guyana Quartet to the myth of El Dorado. The first voyage into the interior was only an innocent ―excursion into the interior country‖ that took place ―long before he had conquered and crushed the region he ruled. which Guyanese society has lacked‖ (Benitez Rojo.
The same idea is presented in the novel The Alchemist by Brazilian writer Paolo Coelho who writes that ―the world is only the visible aspect of God. which is a source of eternal life and possesses the power to turn any metal to gold.L.alchemy used to have its stable position in the scientific world of educated people of its age. The fluidity of alchemical processes that consist of several stages of creation serve as ideal metaphors and symbols for Harris‘s fiction and he employs them especially in connection to the El Doradean mythology. As the central goal of alchemy is the creation of the Philosoph er‘s stone. is to bring spiritual perfection into contact with material plane‖ (Coelho. And that what alchemy does.R. Its virtual disappearance followed the more and more material orientation of the society which began to refuse its immaterial and ‗irrational‘ concepts. The ‗true gold‘ is not the material form of mineral. The emphasis of the original concept of alchemy was more on the creative process of the quest itself and the final outcome was the ultimate understanding of absolute unity of things which connects the material and the immaterial in all dimensions of the universe. agnostic humility and essential beauty rather than vested interest in a fixed assumption and classification of things‖ (C. 150). 1965. James. 14). Harris‘s work is clearly informed by some of the main principles of alchemy including the poetry of science and explosiveness of nature with its characteristic ―solution of images. The Guyana Quartet revises what was ignored by the modern Western philosophy and science – the considerably low importance of the material gain (gold) that could be achieved at the end of alchemical process. In Palace of the Peacock Harris achieves the final stage of the alchemical process of creation when the crew reaches Palace of the Peacock (resembling the term cauda pavonis used in alchemy for the climax of creation) which is 7 2 . the alchemical quest for this creative climax corresponds with the quest for El Dorado – the City of Gold. Harris is not the only author that makes use of the alchemical symbolism in his work.
Alchemy. and last but not least the unity of Self (Durix. as well as myths that were once part of everyday reality. 176). the city of God. was forced to the margins of attention by the postEnlightenment era with its orientation on the material dimension of existence. heaven or universe. I would probably choose one of the alchemic imageries such as the one used by Louis James when he describes Harris‘s quest for an original form that underpins all his work. 7 3 . Harris who is considered to be a modern visionary writer joins the post-war struggle of art to find new forms of expression which begins to turn back to the potential of creative imagination. which connected science with philosophy. 97-98). If I should try to characterize The Guyana Quartet according to its role and achievement within the contemporary literary field.at the same time the city of gold (spiritual gold not only the mineral). He describes it as ―a search for ‗the true substance of life‘ through the alchemy of the imagination‖ (James 1999.
In contrast to the pre-Columbian and African lore they can build on the written accounts and collections of works of art that demonstrate its continuance and development. Although. One of the reasons for such a treatment of one of the elements of West 7 4 . There are two main sources of cultural influence. New World or Europe he nevertheless involves characters of these groups into the ethnical mix of his characters. We may see both China and India as countries that possess a solid long-lasting cultural genesis with a structure similar to the European. We may find them among the members of the crew in Palace of the Peacock or The Secret Ladder.2 Non-European Traditions The historical development of the West Indies which was considered in the first half of this work clearly shows that after the conquest of the region by European powers it was not only their culture that was imported to the Caribbean. The Indo-Guyanese make up about one half of the total number of population. but the only work which is set in the East Indian community is The Far Journey of Oudin which takes place on rice plantations.4. 12). Harris does not employ Asian (East Indian and Chinese) elements as much as those from Africa.3. Because of the limited access to the materials I have about the Asian culture and also its different position in the genesis of a new cultural tradition in Guyana I will concentrate mostly on the African roots and its genesis in the Caribbean background. so their visible presence in social life is inevitable (Griffiths. apart from the European one – African and Asian. as far as symbolism and imagery is concerned. these ethnical groups adopted a different role within Harris‘s texts. Asian culture does not leave such a noticeable imprint in The Guyana Quartet. Although there was a considerable immigration from India and China after the abolition of slavery provoked by the urgent need of a cheap labour.
related to the Hermetic arts‖ (Gilkes. I must admit this is a mere speculation on my side which tries to discern some possible processes in Harris‘s creative process and the reasons that led him to make use of or leave out particular cultural components.Indian culture may be caused by the lack of deeper background knowledge about the community which might prevent Harris from employment of so many Asian components within his work as he did with African. European or Amerindian cultures. I will therefore comment briefly on those that can be found in The Guyana Quartet but whose appearance is rather occasional. This classic work of Chinese philosophy is ascribed by its translator Richard Wilhelm to the monk Liu Hua-yang who is believed to write it in 1794 (Wilhelm. The most notable source of Chinese culture appears in the epigraphs that introduce some chapters of the The Guyana Quartet. 61). interconnected images and metaphors reflect the alchemical nature of his imagination. This Taoist text shows some similarities in its pattern and basic concepts like the philosophy connected to Vodun or the principles of alchemy. The philosophical text Secret of the Golden Flower preserves the character of pre-modern science. Like alchemy it still draws on the time when philosophy and science were not separated in a way they are in the modern era. the use of imagery is closely related to the mediaeval Art of Memory which is. The Guyana Quartet oscillates between the fictional novel. Michael Gilkes describes the characteristic pattern of Harris‘s process of creation: ―Harris‘s use of densely woven. and then I will devote more space to those that are reoccurring within the text and whose connotations play a more significant role in the construction of the meaning of the whole text. in turn. The source of the quotations and also possible inspiration for Harris comes among others from the Secret of the Golden Flower (introducing The Far Journey of Oudin and the book four of The Whole Armour). Indeed. xv). non-fictional 7 5 .
I think this may be the 7 6 . In accordance with these philosophical traditions Harris‘s works reflect both rational and intuitive ways of perception.account of the personal as well as global reality. East Indian images are quite rare and very subtle. in McWatt.com). 131). the resurrected Christ and the trickster character Ananse with African origins (Harris qtd. As mentioned earlier in this chapter. What is also important to understand in connection to the intuitive perception is that it ―accumulates and improves with practice and time [and that] rational thought benefits from an enhanced acuity of intuitive perception‖ (answers. The Far Journey of Oudin concentrates on the East Indian community and an overarching topic of an archetypal master-servant relationship echoing the heritage of slavery and its transformed version in the community of indentured labourers. In comparison to other novels that are mainly set in the interior of Guyana and composition of characters is clearly cross-cultural. the exceptional attention to the East Indian community in the West Indies is found in only one novel of The Guyana Quartet – The Far Journey of Oudin. its presentation in The Guyana Quartet is somewhat different from references to other cultural traditions. As far as East Indian culture is concerned. The main story-line is set on a rice-plantation between the coast and savannahs. but it also manages to turn in passages to the philosophical meditation. The return to older cultural traditions that not yet separated the material and imaginative / rational and intuitive perception is a logical outcome of the quest for new form that would reflect needs of a newly developing postcolonial community but still preserve traditions of people living in the West Indies. We may identify some links to deities of India – especially the many-armed goddess Kali that appears as one of the transformations of the spidery figure which possesses archetypal resonances to many cultures including the Egyptian Osiris (who is a mythical figure connected to death but also resurrection).
115). In comparison to the East Indian or Chinese culture African influences had a very complicated position in the slavery society and even later after the abolition its position was considerably threatened by the preferred European canon and the suppression of the foreign ‗backward‘ sources. The most directly discernable imported cultural heritage is the one brought to the West Indies from the African continent. This transformation of older beliefs with others that came into its way and a creation of a new and original expression is in accordance with Harris‘s idea of a cross-cultural imagination that is able to join together all the partaking elements under one syncretic vision (Louis James. characters of 7 7 . Attempts to eradicate the ‗primitive‘ pagan beliefs were consistent. but never fully successful. 1999. African traditions suffered a harsh fate of those who survived the Middle Passage after which the peoples of the same language and similar culture were separated in order to prevent slave uprisings. the whole lot of symbols. as it is depicted rather as another cycle of the re-occurring pattern of a more universal motif of conqueror-conquered/master-servant/victor-victim duality which Harris is trying to overcome by his cross-cultural syncretic imagination. popular mythological characters and patterns of folk narrative were brought together and transformed into the new system of beliefs that was accommodated to the new environment into which they were brought.reason for less direct references to this dimension of cultural heritage in The Guyana Quartet. Although the African motives and images. In The Guyana Quartet we can find many instances of tribal imagery such as the spider figure-god Anancy. like the rest of the adopted elements from different cultural traditions. possession dancing (transformed into the popular limbo dance). In order to preserve at least some parts of the cultural heritage and the possibility to keep the basics of tribal philosophy. are transformed they still keep their particular characteristics that preserve the cultural link to the African continent.
shamans/mambos7/hungans8 and other characters connected to the Vodun beliefs which combine elements of West African and Christian religions. Its shape-shifting nature was able to contain new roles it was forced to adopt. 1999. 20-22). Because of the significance of the Anancy and limbo imagery in The Guyana Quartet (and in the Caribbean in general) I will try to discuss these two multi-layered symbols in greater detail to show its significance for the idea of cross-cultural imagination. as well as the multilayered interpretation of the limbo dance. All of these images are connected to ancient beliefs of Africa but also to the West Indian region and its history. It was able to embrace characteristic attributes of slaves with their resilience and even trickery typical of this character but also those of slavemasters (such as deceitfulness) (Tiffin. For example in Wishrop‘s second 7 8 . Especially the character of Anancy – a trickster. still preserved the link to people of the African origin. Anancy is a very complex image with African roots. 115). 1999. I agree with him in the sense that Anancy (whose origins undoubtedly come from Africa) even after undertaking the perils of the Middle Passage and transforming itself according to needs of the new environment. The spidery imagery is often used more or less directly when he appears in the text. carry within them the transitional character of reality and the transformational tendencies of the individual and society within conditions such as those of the West Indies. This character is one of the animistic deities that are often connected with pagan beliefs of tribal societies. 114). Kamau Brathwaite considered Anancy to be ―the voice of the African identity‖ (Louis James. From characters of The Guyana Quartet who are most closely associated with this dualism (or rather multidimensionality) of Anancy is Wishrop – the British member of the crew and a driver of the boat in Palace of the Peacock who is a representative of self-destructive yet potentially re-creative desire (Louis James.
They do not bring about the transformation itself. xxvi-xxvii). when he drives their boat through dangerous rapids. 1985. 120). Although he is often depicted as a lame deformed deity its purpose is to guard the gate or pathway (in The Guyana Quartet the gate to the universe/heaven/spiritual consciousness/self-knowledge…). Helen Tiffin sees Anancy as a recurring image in West Indian literature which serves as ―a complex metaphor for both the Caribbean historical experience and the Caribbean psyche as product of this experience‖ (Louis James. of the crew. 1999. They usually appear at the moments of physical or psychical climax and announce the possibility of new beginnings and changes. 81). It is the whole crew itself that ―[swarms] like upright spiders. half-naked. But it is not only this character who possesses Afro-American resonances of Anancy complexity. driven by the naked spider of spirit‖ (Palace of the Peacock.death. 114). 10). In ―A Note on the Genesis of The Guyana Quartet‖ Harris says that the ―spider metamorphosis is Daedalian [but also] native to Afro-American bridges in space and thus it enhances the mixed blood. scrambling under a burden of cargo they were carrying ashore‖ (Palace of the Peacock. In words of Michael Gilkes they ―initiate a new state of consciousness in a rite de passage‖ (Gilkes. the dangers. the potentialities‖ (Harris. 25). They serve as agents of change. A ‗rite de passage‘ is itself a reoccurring image that takes forms of several 7 9 . He is therefore seen as a guide or liberator which was also the role of a mambo/houngan (Vodun priestess/priest) represented in the Quartet by shape-shifting woman Mariella or half beggar-god figures of Oudin and Poseidon (Crahan. Another important facet of Anancy-character is its traditional role in the West Indian and African belief. the mixed metaphysic. the whole boat ―[crawls]. but they open the ‗windows of universe‘ through which a new vision may come. They carry a burden of their past and ancestry which represents the potential source of destruction but also redemption if the crew can creatively and intuitively explore it.
between consciousness and unconsciousness.initiation rituals of different cultural traditions including the trial by fire (also purgatorial fire) in The Far Journey of Oudin. 96). Like Anancy (itself ―a modified version of a West African prototype‖). the baptism in the river in The Whole Armour or the Carib bone-flute ritual of Palace of the Peacock. The dancer of limbo is trying to pass spread-eagled (resembling a human spider) under the bar that is lowered after every successful attempt. The complexity of limbo-symbolism is enhanced by Harris‘s play on the pun limb-limbo and its possible interpretation in the West Indian context which multiplied the dimensions of meaning this originally African tradition was able to express (Toliver. According to Harris. the dance itself resembles the physical as well as ‗psychic reassembly‘ of identity in the New World (on all dimensions – individual. 10) typical of texts of The Guyana Quartet. 1999. It is like a gateway between Africa and the Caribbean. communal and global) (Louis James. Fable and Myth. 1985. limbo dancing is a recreation of the situation that appeared on the ships crowded with slaves during the Middle Passage to America. The 8 0 . Symbolism of the initiation ceremony and the transitional ever-changing character of Anancy figure has a lot in common with the concept of limbo dancing which represents another of the ―convertible imageries‖ (Harris. Limbo dance comes out of possession dances that were brought with African religions into the West Indies where it took a new shape echoing both the African origins and the transformation after the Middle Passage. between the old and new worlds as Harris describes it in History. limbo was a ―renascence of a new corpus of sensibility that could translate and accommodate African and other legacies within a new architecture of culture‘‖ (Durix. Apart from the traditional transitional character of possession dances where dancers move between physical and spiritual worlds. 114). 175).
past. world-wide perspectives while remaining an original feature of Caribbean cultural reality (McWatt. Watt about the plurality of meanings this Anancy and limbo imagery expresses. as they involve myths and concepts from the Christian/Catholic tradition. such a relatively minor cultural feature as the limbo dance is made to involve and to resonate with multiple. but also the Christian concept of ‗the limbo‘ which is the border place or an intermediate state between heaven and hell (Harris. Another interpretation of the pun on ‗limbo‘ originates in the resemblance of words limbo and limb which plays into Harris‘s hand as it suits perfectly the Caribbean situation of the alleged historylessness and the loss of identity. The word is of Teutonic origin and it means ‗border‘ (―limbo. As the originally African way of expression limbo is in itself a kind of ―shared phantom limb‖ whose presence is felt despite its material absence (Toliver. 1999. the puns themselves – rely on a kind of cultural cross-fertilization. early Nile Valley cultures and Hindu deities. In this way. 174). 131). 157).‖ Encyclopædia Britannica). According to him the most important fact is that all areas of meaning evoked by the puns – in fact. limbo may be read as another realization of a universal archetype which is of a cross-cultural validity and in this case it reflects particularities that are relevant for West Indian tradition. As we can see. Through this pun the limbo-image may help the quest of West Indian writers who are trying to revive the ‗lost limbs‘ of their society – its origins. these are all fused with the West African notion of the Anansy spider god and a knowledge of the maritime mercantile practices of the European slave trade.gateway imagery evokes not only the Middle Passage and crossing of space. traditions. I share the opinion of Mark A. 8 1 .
8 2 .This idea is clearly in accord with Harris‘s point of view about the new literary form that would allow a truly cross-cultural imagination got rid of the culturally aroused biases that build the barriers of stereotypes and prejudices limiting the possibilities of creative imagination.
There are actual (physically undertaken) journeys into the interior of the jungle. 30). As it was suggested in the previous chapters. Cross-cultural Imagination as a Quest for Achieving Personal as well as Global Freedom The first part of the section which discusses the cultural dimensions of The Guyana Quartet was oriented towards the particular traditions that contributed to ―the cultural plurality‖ of the West Indies (Despres. but also the metaphoric and imaginative journeys into the interior of one‘s soul. Historical development of the Caribbean region brought them all together and on the threshold of the ‗postpostcolonial‘ era it gives rise to the necessity to transgress the borders between individual cultures and evolve from plurality (multi-culturalism) to multi-dimensional unity (cross-culturality). one of the basic archetypal themes that underline the whole structure of The Guyana Quartet is the quest/journey. The last part of this thesis will therefore concentrate on this archetypal theme that is so important in The Guyana Quartet and in Harris‘s art in general. into the forgotten past of oneself and the community or the quest every reader must undergo if he or she is to achieve the freedom offered by the cross-cultural imagination. In Harris‘s multidimensional fiction this journey appears on several levels. In the following section I would like to continue with the cross-cultural concept of Harris‘s fiction and one of its main aims – to free the individual but also the community (in a regional as well as global sense) from the burdens of the past. 8 3 . I have been trying to show these tendencies on Harris‘s use of particular elements of several pre-Columbian and post-Columbian traditions in The Guyana Quartet. irresponsibility and limited vision.5.
Economic freedom from poverty and legacies of history is according to him only a fantasy that conceals the reality of dependency on the obsession of accumulating wealth which can only be achieved through the exploitation of others and thus preserves the master-servant status-quo (Green). The dangers of materialist societies dwell according to Harris in forgetting of spiritual values. Such societies cannot. Oudin must be sacrificed. 1967. Through Oudin. He must accept his ―immateriality and nothingness‖ (The Far Journey of Oudin. 9). Beti becomes the womb of a new beginning. according to Green. who dares to break away from the master-servant pattern to become ―the forerunner of a new brilliancy and freedom‖ (The Far Journey of Oudin.1 The Idea of Freedom Achievable Through Art Harris strives for the freedom of art that is according to him a possible solution to the recurring ills of all materially-oriented societies. 206). achieve a true freedom – a ‗creative freedom‘ which reaches beyond ―mere economic independence and the fixity of the antiquated pattern of master and slave that is here reasserted in a different guise‖ (Green). We can best see this danger in The Far Journey of Oudin where the master-slave pattern of society continues in hands of those who were once slaves themselves (indentured labourers). 210).5. the agent of creative possibility. 211) and ―obey his spiritual desire that cancelled out Ram‘s command‖ (The Far Journey of Oudin. He believes that there must appear a ―new architecture of the world‖ which would be based on ―a profound understanding and revelation of all factors that combine into the phenomenon of effort and achievement not for one race of men but for all mankind together‖ (Harris. The will of power is destructive for Mohammed as well as Ram who become totally dependent on it. 8 4 .
She is a guide of the crew leading them on their search for inner spiritual freedom. In Palace of the Peacock the impulse for a change comes with the character of an Arawak woman who appears at the climax of agitation when crew are steering their boat towards their second death. I believe where Harris explores the depths of the soul and the past he does not merely look for the identity which is in fact present all the time (it is the living fossil of all the pasts. 326). presents and futures that create it) but he is rather trying to find the right way to express that identity that is so often claimed to be lost along with the history of the West Indies. not direct providers of freedom) in The Guyana Quartet are those coming from the depths of the past and subconscious (Maes-Jelinek. Refusing any part of one‘s history only strengthens the burden it placed on those whose legacy it constitutes.R. 2001. James. they are expressing one‖ (C.In a way that the material freedom is not sufficient for a true freedom of individual and community. On the dangerous rapids she becomes the Great 8 5 . Characters that are carriers of the possibility of freedom (they are the catalysts which enable the process to take place. the freedom from the legacies of history is also a mere ‗fantasy‘. Giving preference to one tradition over the other prolongs an ―eternal primitive condition that masquerades as freedom by repudiating historical change. 143). Freedom from the past is achievable only through its acceptance and understanding of its impact on the present. it is merely a self-protective posture that denies ―the fluidity of an ethnicity-in-process‖ (Green). because as C. 1995.L.R James says about postcolonial societies ―the mass of the people are not seeking a national identity. such ‗blindness‘ towards the ‗unfinished genesis‘ of society would deny that community any possibility to expres s their true identity.L. There is no escaping the past. From what we already know about Wilson Harris and his fiction.‖ Whether this masquerade stands for the Western tradition or preaches the ideas of Negritude.
62). 56). In her presence the crew remembers the evils they caused to other people and they must finally face their responsibility for it. There the duality of muse-fury/virginwhore joins the two main female characters – Sharon and Magda (echoing the Christian symbolism of Mary Magdalen). 188). and 8 6 . A similar image is present in The Whole Armour of God. Her person opens ‗the doors‘ into the subconscious and memory of each character and urges it to come to the surface. into the imagination) (Toliver. When Sharon fuses into one with ―the serial dreadful vision of Magda‖.e. The image of a female character in The Guyana Quartet is linked to the imagery that was used in connection with the overseas empires of Great Britain. As the rest of the figures who are carriers of change she is both irresistible and terrible at the same time. It is the female characters of The Guyana Quartet in general that are usually seemingly marginal characters carrying the seeds of freedom within themselves. On the other hand. ―the crew‘s ancestral embroidery and obsession‖ (Palace of the Peacock. They serve as guides for men on their journey into ‗the womb of space‘ (i. She brings the change that threatens their habits and passiveness of their lives in a material society. 307-308). The underlying image of a woman who represents the colony itself comes from the time of Sir Walter Raleigh who used it in his The Discoverie of the Large. She brings into their minds not only the evils of the communal past but also the dark sides of their individual past hidden in their soul. ―all [melts] with tenderness and she [gains] the reins of freedom‖ (The Whole Armour of God. she is also a muse and a lover bringing possibility to break the old chains of master-servant relationship.Mother of Water herself who is ―flowing back upon them with silent streaming majesty and abnormal youth and in a wave of freedom and strength‖ (Palace of the Peacock. Rich. She represents the society that almost disappeared from the surface of the world and reminds the crew of the origins they share with the land they live in.
brutal violation‖ (Emery.Beautiful Empire of Guiana. Thus the archetypal depiction of Guyana (like most of the conquered New World) as a sexually inviting woman is 8 7 . 84) In relation to this poem we can readily read Mariella from Palace of the Peacock as the ancient Arawak woman and an abused mistress of Donne (a character resembling some aspects of the European poet himself). Moreover. They are often subjected to rape and humiliation from the male ‗conquistadorial‘ figures. Mary Lou Emery shows the vital symbolism of rape in connection to the West Indian history in her work ―Limbo Rock: Wilson Harris and the Arts of Memory‖. in Emery. My Empire. 1995. 116). Hena Maes-Jelinek sees one important aspect of female characters in Harris‘s fiction in their embodiment of ―the psyche of the modern Guyanese‖ (Meas. but also as a land itself that suffers the abuses and exploitation at the hands of its conquerors. safeliest when with one man man‘d My Myne of precious stones. 1995. 1995. 114). In the period of conquest female depictions of conquered lands appeared in the literary works of Sir Walter Raleigh but also John Donne who portrays the New World as a seductive mistress in his poem ―To His Mistris Going to Bed‖: ‗O my America! My new-found-land.Jelinek qtd. My kingdome. 115). She says that the ―scenes of rape and the language of rape become threshold moments for the predominantly masculine consciousness of the narrators and central characters‖ (Emery. she can be interpreted not only literally as a raped woman. often. marriage and. How blest am I in this discovery of thee! (Donne. In West Indian context such sexually oriented imagery reflects the traditional depictions of conquest in the visual and literary art of 16th century Europe where the conquered lands were consistently figured as dark women awaiting ―seduction.
―The immaterial creation of freedom‖ calls for the abandoning of purely material images (The Secret Ladder. 210). As I have tried to point out during the previous parts of this thesis. 1994. The reader. 8 8 . they are at the same time guides showing their males paths leading to imaginative freedom and they become the wombs in which the whole/unified identity is re-born.established since the early times of its ‗written history‘. his own community and the world itself. together with characters of The Guyana Quartet and the author himself. who is according to Meas-Jelinek Harris‘s ‗main character‘. Although female figures are often abused and play the role of a victim. 371) but when reaching ‗the city of God‘ they turn into the images of ceaseless creative potential through which one can find a ‗true substance of life‘. 446). enables the texts to transgress the boundaries of a single small community and reach towards the syncretic global vision of a crosscultural expression (Maes-Jelinek. They are the Furies carrying what first seems to be ―the daemon of freedom and imagination and responsibility‖ (The Secret Ladder. must reach beyond the rational materialism of the modern era and dig deep into the potentialities of all dimensions that contribute to the complexity of each individual. The Guyana Quartet breaks the ‗shell‘ of such archetypes and offers a more complex perspective – In this case on the sexual symbolism in the master-servant duality. The orientation on the reader.
I believe that the significance of the symbol of ‗quest‘ or journey on a global scale is caused by its analogy with the pattern of life itself. Earlier descriptions of South American fiction written in the tradition of magical realism (with which Harris is often at least partly connected) talk about the cyclical pattern as one of the major characteristics of this genre. 265). In the whole The Guyana Quartet.2 Archetypal Motif of „Quest‟ as an Image Capable of Reflecting the Cross-cultural Imagination Quest is the archetypal motif common to virtually all cultures in the world. 20). However. we would hardly find a more suitable one.5. underlies particular storylines on all dimensions of the narration. as Harris says in Tradition the Writer and Society. The third and last main thematic section of this work (the previous ones being historical and cultural influences on The Guyana Quartet) will be devoted to this motif. 1967. If we were to choose a symbol able to contain several dimensions of a plural global society as well as to unify them into a cross-cultural vision resonating with all the particularities which comprise it. I have to agree with Selwyn Cudjoe who abandons the earlier concept of cyclical narrative form and interprets this structure as being closer to a spiral pattern which preserves the recurrent scheme of events but does not deny developmental progress (Cudjoe. originates in the ―frail heart-beat of man [which] is the never-ending fact of creation‖ (Harris. I chose it because of its significant position in all four novels of The Guyana Quartet and also because of its character which corresponds with the cross-cultural concept of Harris‘s work and his idea of ‗unity in diversity‘. 8 9 . the never ending cycle of births and deaths (in human lives but also those of the landscape). The life-force of a man itself. 1980.
there would be no hope for achieving freedom through the imaginative art. Although we follow the crew who begin to realize they have already lived through this episode of their lives/deaths. where the crew re-live their second death (and possibly not the last one). there would be no possibility for change at all at any level of existence. which would inevitably be jailed in the circular repetitive pattern. The clearest example of Harris‘s concept of ‗the infinite rehearsal‘ in The Guyana Quartet is represented by the first novel – Palace of the Peacock.Such an idea reflects more accurately the ‗infinite rehearsal‘ Harris often talks about which suggests the repeating aspect of reality but also its ‗unfinished genesis‘. This understanding of Dreamer‘s role in the novel is enhanced by the narrative technique where the narrative voice shifts between the material narrator Donne and the imaginative narrator Dreamer until in the end there is only one narrator ―I‖ whose ―panoramic view‖ at the end of the novel smudges the 9 0 . Through universal symbolism of some images it is possible to preserve the idea of ‗the infinite rehearsal‘ (especially in connection to history and its never ending victor-victim struggle) but also show its transformatory powers in different surroundings and the strength of art as a promising medium which can overcome limitations of individual traditions. Archetypal imagery is an extremely suitable way to solve this problem. Without the possibility for change. Dreamer‘s observation of the whole event and his direct participation in it make it possible to move ‗a step further‘ towards the possibility of spiritual freedom – one step in the ‗unfinished genesis‘ of the universe. In fact. His and Donne‘s change of consciousness breaks the vicious cycle and their realization of their role in the world and their responsibility for its past as well as the future shows the limitations of their preceding standpoint. There is always some ‗brighter future‘ to be strove for and the rehearsals of previous experiences enable the individual to overcome wrongs of the past if he/she accepts his/her share of responsibility for it.
but I think I can say it is the one where the creative quest begins. or all of these together (Toliver. He repeatedly rereads and reworks his own writing and keeps reinterpreting the fictional material in his narrative (Maes-Jelinek. Harris assumes the responsibility of the role of a ‗pioneer‘ who by personal example shows the path to the potential followers. 174). One of the possible ways to deal with the particular dimensions is to sort them out according to its ‗generalizability‘. communal (regional) and global dimensions. 141). Harris is trying in his work to solve out the problematic presentation of a global vision of human experience.objective/subjective boundary. 1995. Multi-dimensional concept of The Guyana Quartet offers the reader several layers on which the symbol of a quest works. With its contradictions and antagonisms it seems to be virtually impossible. It makes the reader wonder if the final vision is seen through the eyes of either of the two characters. Like other images in The Guyana Quartet the symbol of quest joins the individual. From this creative technique it is obvious that ‗the infinite rehearsal‘ is not only the topic but most importantly an artistic method. With regard to this style of writing we must also try to see its significant influence on the reading process itself. I would not dare to superimpose the individual dimension over the other layers of his work. Where does then lie the crosscultularity of The Guyana Quartet? Being aware of the limitations and biases of every individual vision (narrator‘s and/or character‘s) he is trying to consume these biases through the working method he employs. 187). which I believe was Harris‘s main aim. The reader can then follow his lead and become actively involved in this quest into ‗the womb of space‘ – the quest of creative imagination (Toliver. the reader becomes part and parcel of this process. Harris himself. By following the genesis of the creative process itself. their syncretic new Self in which they have fused. Personal responsibility and refusal of passive existence is therefore a cornerstone of the search for a cross-cultural 9 1 .
Only through the constant reinterpretation of what he had already written before can he create the opportunity for cross-cultural expression that is achievable in the consciousness of the reader (Harris himself being a reader and ‗rereader‘ of the text). 1994. By constant rehearsal of symbols that Harris as a narrator rewrites from different perspectives. the reader is offered a space to utilize his or her imagination creatively and re-interpret the presented text with regard to several cultural traditions that appear to play a significant role in the text or in the background of the reader. Narrative voice of the novels is usually not clearly identifiable.expression. Author‘s and reader‘s personal active involvement in the genesis of a contemporary cultural tradition belongs to the most particular dimension of experience in The Guyana Quartet – that of the individual. They fulfil their purpose as catalysts that make possible the changes that occur not in the text itself but in the consciousness of the reader who is the most crucial participant or rather collaborator in Harris‘s imaginative process. Individual dimension of The Guyana Quartet therefore encompasses layers of individual characters. narrator and/or author. In The Guyana Quartet they are. 210). But even as an author Harris does not assume the ‗universal vision‘. He is aware of the fact that his vision is also subjective and necessarily partial. ―the agents through whom a vision is being expressed‖ (Maes-Jelinek. and reader. but inevitably only partial. Their interpretation is important. Sometimes it is closer to the view of the characters and sometimes it is closer to the position of the author. Harris goes beyond the particular interpretations from the position of characters of his novels. Moreover. Like the re-writing by the author. as Hena Maes-Jelinek says. the reader‘s re- 9 2 . because without personal effort activating the imaginative creative processes there is no way of achieving a true spiritual freedom. characters are not created in a traditional way like those in the realistic novels of a European tradition.
they also enter the metaphysical dimension of their character. but he is allowed to enter it only after he is able to ―see his own nothingness‖. imagination – can be found. but they are inevitably drawn to its spiritual counterpart. Both Donne and Fenwick struggle to keep their material. when he is finally ―free from material restraint and possession‖ (Palace of the Peacock. If ‗the womb of space‘ is in fact an act of creation. Those who remain spiritually blind cannot enter the womb of space/palace of the peacock/universe/city of gold. he returns for a while to the shelter of rationality and materialistic science.e. In Palace of the Peacock Donne climbs the waterfall towards the palace of the peacock. He can no longer ―rid himself of the daemon of freedom and imagination and responsibility‖ (The Secret Ladder. As they enter the interior of the land they belong to. It is the constant exploration of the complexity of every image or symbol that actually becomes the place where ‗the womb of space‘ – i. In danger they turn instinctively towards the older status quo in order to keep their power over the others. 371). Materialism and science which are close to both surveyors represent the safety of passivity. In the remaining two novels we can also find those who suffer 9 3 . This kind of quest for freedom which is sought in The Guyana Quartet is undertaken by its characters who (like the author and the narrator) must endure the perils of the journey into their inner selves. 95). 108). rational existences. In the same way Fenwick in The Secret Ladder opposes attempts of Jordan and the rest of his crew to return to the older practices of power preserved through fear. which can only be achieved through the act of imagination. irresponsibility and ignorance. it becomes clear that the quest for freedom must be of a spiritual character. but he soon recognizes the insufficiency of this cowardly retreat.reading soon reveals the insufficiency of any ―intellectual preconceptions‖ that must be abandoned due to their stereotyping essence (Gilkes. When Weng is almost killed and Fenwick fears for his life.
The inner quest (undertaken by the reader. Cristo and Oudin are the sacrificial figures who are pre-destined to bring the change at the expense of their uncomplicated and stable existence which was before safeguarded by their passivity and ignorance of their creative potential. all the four novels deal more 9 4 . These quests are of a larger scale and their participants often represent individual ethnic groups of the West Indian community or the universal.from the new feeling of knowledge and responsibility. In the central characters of all the four novels of The Guyana Quartet we can find the inner struggle of the material and spiritual parts of man‘s Self – represented most visibly in Palace of the Peacock by ‗the dead seeing material eye‘ of Donne. and the narrator/Dreamer with a ‗living closed spiritual eye‘. which play a significant part in the recovery of one‘s personal as well as collective origins. The mythical figures poss essing paternal potential appear in The Secret Ladder (Poseidon who leads the descendants of the runaway slaves) and most notably in The Whole Armour where Harris creates a character of Abram with several references to the archetypal father of the Christian belief – Abraham. Apart from these important figures. Within the sphere of the West Indian region the individual search for one‘s origins corresponds to the expeditions the main characters and their followers undergo while looking for ―an absent father figure or for a neglected cultural heritage‖ (Durix. it is rather those split characters t hat become guides for the reader on his or her quest into the interior of his or her imagination. historical or geographical origins. 84). global community of humankind as such. author and characters) is paralleled on another level by more externally-oriented images of quests of either mythological. Although communities in each novel have their mambos/houngans who become their guides on the journey towards the ‗true substance of life‘ or ‗the womb of space‘.
The dramatic scenery of the rainforests and mountains of Guyana is ―the interior of a landscape within which men lose themselves to find themselves‖ (Gilkes. 9 5 . Thus the quest into the interior of the rainforest becomes the quest beyond the superficial existence into the hidden spiritual dimension of individual soul. Where on the individual level there is ―a constant movement towards a reclamation of the inner life‖ there is often on the external level a re-discovery of the neglected interior of the Guyanese landscape (Gilkes. The contrast of material and spiritual facets of personality is transformed into the juxtaposition of the mountainous. but superficial outer existence and his neglected. he felt the power of the ―physical interior‖ of the Guyanese landscape on the ―metaphysical interior‖ of man (Green). The extreme conditions of the interior position its visitors into the boundary situation which acts for Harris as the necessary breaking point signalizing the possible change. and virtually unpopulated interior and the flat thin stripe of coast with the majority of population. 84). Even here the motif of a quest proves its complexity of application when it leads members of its community ―back to their personal and collective past‖ where their heritage can be re-discovered (Durix.R. James points out in his essay ―Wilson Harris – A Philosophical Approach‖. As they find the lost heritage of their predecessors they also uncover the origins of their own identity. I agree with Michael Gilkes who understands this juxtaposition as a perfect natural (or rather geographical) ―metaphor for man‘s highly developed. 4). The parallel between the inner life of the individual and the interior of a landscape is not a mere metaphor for Harris. 4). From his own experience as a land surveyor. It is through this technique of ‗retrograde progression‘ that Donne pursues the Arawak woman Mariella and her folk into the interior of Guyana or Cristo meets the Carib and Arawak Indians in the bush. underdeveloped inner Being‖ (Gilkes. 4). As C.L.explicitly with the problem of dereliction of a cultural heritage. impenetrable.
but ―in an extreme situation in the hinterland of British Guiana . in C. Jaspers claimed that ―when [one] is living in [the] extreme limit boundary situation [one finds] out what man really is and what he is likely to become‖. Portuguese/Afro-Scot (Cameron). The most direct reference to the analogy of the expedition into the interior of a landscape and that into the inner Self can be found in Palace of the Peacock. 10 12). Beginning on the personal stratum. wild animals. 1999. 1965.Harris shares here some ideas of a German philosopher Karl Jaspers about the influence of the boundary situations on the consciousness of a man.L. Such limitations would prevent his fiction to express the true cross-cultural identity which he strives to achieve.R. and the realities of human life are stark and clear‖ (Jaspers qtd. 101). It includes the Indian (Vigilance). Apart from indicating the diversity of origins of the author. However Harris does not limit himself to the individual and West Indian dimension. James. with difficulties of food. which forms the necessary base for any action to take place. floods. As I have already mentioned in connection to the personal history of Wilson Harris. African (Carroll and Jennings). The identities are both ethnic and psychological (Louis James. the mixture of ethnical roots that forms his individual background appears in the composition of the crew in the novel. German/Arawak (Schomburgh) and British (Donne/Dreamer and Wishrop). On the example of the crew from Palace of the Peacock we may observe the transition from a more specific level to the global one through the employment of the 9 6 . ‗True Being‘ reveals itself not in the everyday life in Georgetown. he progresses towards the broader interpretation of his images and finally he outstretches the imaginative possibilities of the text even further into the universal dimension. in which [one] has to deal with rivers. they at the same time demonstrate the wide range of cultural and racial traditions of the West Indian community whose composition is of the same richness.
Louis James sees the great advantage of these sources of inspiration in their ability to mix what Harris calls ―interior cosmic‖ and ―exterior cosmic‖ (Harris. 1999. and whose explorations of the natural world corresponded with the profound interest in the potential of one‘s consciousness. Fable and Myth in the Caribbean and Guianas. He describes the significance of the complex mutuality and the limitations of false racial codes in his critical works The Womb of Space and History. The journey into the interior of one‘s soul was vital for the discovery of ‗true gold‘.archetypal symbol of quest inspired by Homer‘s Odyssey and/or the alchemical process of creation connecting both material and spiritual worlds. 20). Using these universally interpretable archetypes allows Harris to employ some of the European concepts which play significant part in the genesis of ‗global culture‘ without necessarily reminding the reader of the imperial past and the problematic relationship of countries like Guyana towards the cultural influences imported by the British or other conquering nations. I pointed out Harris‘s attempts to incorporate all of the seemingly opposing elements of culture into the single unity of text that would fulfil the demands of the cross-cultural expression. ―beneath the incompatible appearances of different cultures it is possible to discern a mental bridge or treaty of sensibility which connects all cultures as part of a single nexus of community.‖ If community tries to repress alien elements in their 9 7 . In the first part of the thesis (chapter 2) devoted to the influences of history on The Guyana Quartet as well as in the second part (chapter 3 and 4) which talked about the cultural development caused by those influences. 1967. Moreover Odyssey was based on exploration and commerce of an ancient Mediterranean culture whose ―maps marked not conquest but quest‖ (Louis James. The same is true of the philosophy of alchemy which predates the colonial world as we now know it. 101). As James Green points out in his essay ―Mapping the Guyanese Dreamspace‖.
Harris blends it with the philosophy of alchemy and shifts the meaning of the search for material wealth (Manoa‘s city of gold) to the journey towards the spiritual treasure – search for a ‗true gold‘ in the interior of one‘s soul. who through the ordeal of his journey home from Troy undergoes the internal transformation. we may point out the already mentioned New World myth of El Dorado. Harris shows. Although this El Doradean legend has a rather regional character. Rejecting their syncretic past and their striving for a false wholeness arise from the fear and misunderstanding of the ―unknown interior‖ (Green). but also with the rest of the community which is also working hard to prevent any radical change which might threaten it. Donne – they all struggle within themselves. Amerindian and other components that appear side by side in The Guyana Quartet. especially through Cristo and Oudin. Donne. Fenwick. but every individual can make the difference with respect to the whole community – in a national or global sense. European. Cristo. In the section devoted to particular cultural influences that shaped the contemporary West Indian culture I spoke about African. In all the four novels we perceive the struggles of characters for the preservation of the old ways in which they feel more secure regardless of the enslavement which it inevitably brings for masters as well as servants. This myth is common to the American and European lore. they only ―consolidate their mask of superficial homogeneity‖. To the global character of the whole quartet contributes Harris‘s employment of many elements coming from various social traditions. that some sacrifices are inevitable. In relation to the archetypal image of a quest.origins. Only some of them are able to trespass the boundaries of habit. Fenwick. Like Odysseus. Oudin and Cristo turn away from the path of material gain on which they first set and take the more difficult but internally satisfying way towards the 9 8 . Oudin.
633). the city of gold. it becomes more pressing than ever before. at the time of an awakening post-postcolonial world and the expansion of the globally shared time-space of mass communication. 8). 1994. but also that of the whole community. Harris leaves the possibilities for interpretation open and instead of presenting his opinion as the most suitable one. In this way the symbol of a quest or journey works simultaneously in several imaginative areas. However. The concept of knowledge and understanding that may heal the ills arising from the differences between societies is by no means new. I have already mentioned Harris‘s attitude towards the West Indian community that 9 9 . In global context communities are forced to coexist and share the same physical or at least virtual space.spiritual freedom. Thus El Dorado. The transition from individual to global or/and internal to external existence manifests the inevitability of cooperation on all levels. By choosing characters and images from various mythologies which originate all over the world Harris supports his concept of cross-culturality and its universality. He becomes the guide who opens new door of imagination for the reader on his or her quest for knowledge and spiritual freedom. he only suggests potential ways of understanding the highly metaphorical texts of The Guyana Quartet. bears a resemblance to the city of God (Harris. If the creativity of human imagination is capable of overcoming the problems caused by the restrictive essence of the ethnically-oriented perspective the direct involvement of the reader into the creative process becomes essential. 1984. The interconnectedness of all the dimensions shows the necessity of the personal involvement of every individual in the struggle for personal/inner freedom. Coexistence of such a great diversity in one meaningful concept proves the ―humanity‘s inexhaustible potential for creativity‖ which presents a possible way out of the limitations and instability of the contemporary multiracial world (Maes-Jelinek.
1 0 0 .thanks to its historical and cultural background serves as an excellent metaphor for the global multiracial community of the contemporary world. if he breaks the limitations of alleged objectivity of the materialistic world and awakens the subconscious elements of readers‘ imagination then we can say he succeeded in guiding at least some of his readers towards the nonconflicting vision of cross-cultural world. If Harris manages to activate reader‘s imagination and show him or her new ways of reading/seeing.
The Guyana Quartet shows the potential for new beginnings in the form of literary expression that surpasses the postcolonial works of art which were unable to let go of the past wrongs. I have tried to embrace at least partly its immense complexity and I hope that I managed to demonstrate the futility of the attempts to generalize a literary piece of this kind. This appears to be quite a challenging task with regard to Wilson Harris‘s The Guyana Quartet. the question of the past raises another question – that of its presentation and interpretation.6. In contrast to such texts Harris‘s novels imaginatively transform those ‗burdens of history‘ into a source of new creativity. Closely linked to the events that took place in the region (but also its different interpretations by various ethnical groups). Conclusion One possibility to write a concluding chapter is to sum up the text that was discussed. I will therefore briefly sum up my own work whose structure reflects mainly the European principles of critical writing which allow easier monitoring of the development of the critical writing and its following study. Related to the historical aspects of the individual and communal past is of course the issue of cultural genesis in a West Indian society (dealt with predominantly in chapter 4 and in the brief transitional chapter 3). Under the influence of The Guyana Quartet I divided the body of the thesis into three main mutually interconnected sections – the first being the role of the historical development on the genesis of the author Wilson Harris as a modern representative of post-postcolonial fiction but also its crucial impact on the shape of contemporary Caribbean society. which moves 1 0 1 . but its treatment by Harris in The Guyana Quartet makes it a special work. The motif of the past is nothing new in literature of these regions.
121-122). The reason why I did not offer any kind of summary of the four novels that form The Guyana Quartet was that there virtually is no possibility to do so without downgrading the whole work and its purpose. 1 0 2 . If I can describe Harris‘s work in any simpler way. For a more direct presentation of basic ideas and concepts of The Guyana Quartet I chose the motif of a ‗quest for freedom‘ (internal as well as external) exactly because of the complex character of this image which reflects all the particularities of dimensions mentioned before and at the same time transforms it in accordance with Harris‘s philosophy of cross-culturality. I would characterize it rather as ‗a process‘. It shows that there are. no ‗stories‘ (in the sense that they cannot be presented linearly and their meaning is not hidden in the storyline itself). On the background of these two mutually linked basic concepts (covered in chapters two to four) I tried to show the main concepts and techniques that are employed in The Guyana Quartet. The only novel that has a somewhat easily presentable linear structure of the plot is The Secret Ladder. I understand this impossibility to re-tell the plots of Harris‘s texts as one of its vital characteristics. The third part of the work (described throughout the chapter five) follows this line and uses the findings from the previous chapters to illustrate their implication on the literary production of Wilson Harris.the whole problem towards the cultural sphere whose rich soil nourishes the growth and evolution of the medium of literature. 180). The whole The Guyana Quartet is an imaginative act of creation (in the mind of the author and hopefully also the reader) aroused by the revisionary and reinterpretative quality of the text which should ―help us find equilibrium in the midst of a multiplicity of truths‖ (Toliver. 2002. in fact. but even here the summarization of its storyline would sound rather absurd. Harris believes there is a need for ―new ways of reading reality‖ which demand new responsibilities of the readers (Emery.
What he is trying to do is. 112). Here we can see how Harris understands the global community as in fact forming ‗one spiritual family‘ (Palace of the Peacock. The Guyana Quartet is in fact a kind of manifesto for the new peaceful global society. 9). From the position of an artist Harris wants to actively participate in the necessary change of the contemporary society which is still unable to deal effectively with the growth of global interconnectedness of the whole world and the violence that often accompanies the clashes of different social groups. I believe Harris did not think that any reader should reject the cultural tradition and background that formed his or her critical reading/thinking in the first place. 2002. I think. 169). 39) of ―a new cross-cultural community which is grounded in an individual sensibility‖ (Muray. He believes that even the radically different modes of thought and life can coexist in an imaginative unity and that 1 0 3 . and historical recovery and as a ―catalyst for liberatory social change‖ (Emery. Harris himself talks about the necessity of a new architecture of the world (in the spiritual sense of the word) that may be achieved through ―a profound understanding and revelation of all factors that combine into the phenomenon of effort and achievement not for one race of men but for all mankind together‖ (Wilson. 1967.Being not only an account of characters and situations. The Guyana Quartet is a work of art with an aim to activate the individual imagination as a project of collective. By involving the reader in the creative process Harris stimulates the imagination of an individual and opens original ways of reading/seeing that are necessary for the birth of a new ‗architecture of the consciousness‘. to establish a balanced technique of interpretation suitable for anyone regardless of the differences in one‘s origins. The role of every individual is seen as crucial in this respect. The Guyana Quartet works hard to involve its reader in the process of uncovering or discovering new ways of seeing which would be free from the culturally-induced biases.
2002. Moslem mythology contains the symbol of the peacock as the gatekeeper of Paradise (Gray. The Guyana Quartet is like this peacock‘s image – variegated. Everyone can find there the metaphor relevant to him or her in different situations. sometimes chaotic. and the vault of heaven. With every re- 1 0 4 . The beauty and harmony of all the colours that form a peacock‘s tail resemble the rich mixture of peoples of Guyana and the whole world. xvi). We could go further and find still new possible interpretation of this incredibly fruitful image. complex. I would like to end up this account of a new way of seeing created in The Guyana Quartet by an image from one of its novels – Palace of the Peacock. At the same time it is the Christian symbol of eternity and resurrection as well as vanity and the eye-like patterns in its tail are compared to the stars.art is the right medium which can offer the space for such a syncretic wholeness which would be rich in the great diversity of resources that comprise it and yet offer the crosscultural expression that would connect them all through the individual‘s ability to see beyond the previous fixed boundaries of separate civilisations. yet universal and harmonious. mysterious. and in China and Japan. Only such ‗complex reality‘ he believes ―enables man to curb the claims of his ego […] and forego his thirst for power at all levels‖ (Maes-Jelinek. Many Indian temples still contain depictions of peacock who accompanies deities such as Lakshmi. the peacock is sacred to the goddesses of mercy. the sun. The reader can identify himself/herself with it and yet see other possible interpretations that may arouse from the change of circumstances or experience one gains in the course of life. the moon. the universe. The image is the peacock whose name appears even in the title. and Kama. Kwan-yin and Kwannon. Tucker). Brahma. For me the main message of the whole book which I tried to cover in this thesis was the idea of ‗unity in diversity‘ and the symbolic image of the peacock embraces this idea completely – physically as well as metaphorically.
reading of the text and the deepening knowledge of the world new perspectives appear and the text becomes alive with new meanings that arise from reader‘s imagination. 1 0 5 . In this I find the spiritual freedom that springs from ‗the infinite rehearsal‘ of everyone‘s life.
Harris seems to approach the topics and literary forms in innovatory ways that appear to be more suitable for the reality of the modern world.A. the reader is the main object of Harris‘s attention. What is special about The Guyana Quartet is its treatment of such issues. 1 0 6 . With respect to the statement above. This does not mean. His emphasis on the imaginative sphere of perception and the personal responsibility of every individual shift the attention of the reader towards the new possibilities of interpretation and allows him or her to overcome ―burdens of the past‖ which for such a long time occupied the pages of postcolonial texts. the biggest part of this thesis is devoted to such influences on Harris‘s work. His aim is to recreate even the darkest parts of the West Indian history into a fruitful source that may activate readers‘ imagination and open to them new ways of seeing that may enrich their point of view and also help them to overcome the stereotypical perceptions that are often deeply embedded within the culturally-imposed perspectives.Summary The conclusion of this M. In comparison with other postcolonial writers. thesis suggested the aim with which I interpreted The Guyana Quartet as a unique work of art and its possible implications for the development of literary art in the postcolonial countries but also in the rest of the globally interconnected world. as it is through him/her that the spiritual freedom of the individual as well as any community can be achieved. of course. I chose this particular author for a specific reason. that Harris avoids the topic of the past and its influence on the society and its culture. Harris is actively involved in the development of a new society and its struggle for the physical as well as spiritual independence. On the contrary. Like most of the Caribbean writers. Harris manages to work with the topics of the colonial past without the pessimism and bitterness of some of his predecessors.
Naopak je proměňuje v bohatý zdroj inspirace se schopností aktivizovat imaginaci čtenáře. jehož autorem je Wilson Harris. Považuji tento literární text za jedinečný zdroj inspirace a ukázku moderní umělecké post-koloniální tvorby ukazující nový možný směr v ývoje literatury nejen v rámci post-koloniálních zemí. kterému se během čtení Guayanského kvartetu otevřou možnosti interpretace textu a percepce reality jako 1 0 7 . ale zejména za spirituální svobodu a nezávislost jedince i celé společnosti.Resumé Závěrem bych chtěla poukázat na prvotní účel této magisterské práce. Harris dokáže pracovat s tématy koloniální minulosti bez zbytečné hořkosti a pesimismu charakteristickými pro některé z jeho předchůdců. Narozdíl od jiných autorů (jako je například V. Jako většina Karibských autorů Harris aktivně reaguje na vývoj společnosti a přispívá svým uměním k boji za fyzickou. ale i v celosvětové globální společnosti. Větší část této práce se zabývá právě působením historie a kultury na Harrisovu tvorbu a jeho jedinečné zacházení s těmito vlivy. Snaží se navést čtenáře na nové způsoby vnímání a chápání reality.S. Dílo Wilsona Harrise jsem zvolila kvůli jeho unikátnímu přístupu k tématům i k literární formě jako takové. Naipaul) kteří ještě zůstávají věrní realistickému pojetí. ze kterého vycházela má interpretace Guayanského kvartetu (můj překlad). podle mého názoru. volí Harris. která klade nové požadavky na všechny složky lidské komunity včetně literatury. Ty mohou pomoci překonat stereotypní pohled mnohdy nevědomě uchovávaný individuálními společenskými tradicemi. formu vhodnější pro vyjádření složité a komplexní reality charakteristické pro karibskou oblast a čím dál tím více pro celý svět. Jeho snaha vyrovnat se s temnou historií karibské společnosti se promítá do důrazu jaký klade na imaginativní stránku vnímání a individuální zodpovědnost jedince vůči světu.
Tímto způsobem Harris boří hranice stereotypů omezujících možnost svobodného vnímání a vyjadřování. která vidí každého jedince jako jedinečnou bytost schopnou přispět k dosažení svobody bez nutnosti útlaku jiných na fyzické i psychické úrovni. Harrisův hlavní přínos vidím v jeho snaze dosáhnout svobody skrze umění a jeho kreativitu. 1 0 8 .takové. Snaha otevřít čtenáři nové obzory a poukázat na omezující moc stereotypního vnímání podporuje jeho vizi.
The Caribbean can be therefore understood as a broader term which would include also the regions on the American continent – such as Guyana which I concentrate on in this thesis. It is concerned with the problematic interpretation of the prefix ‗post‘ in expressions like post-colonial or post-modern (the idea discussed in Homi Bhabha‘s influential work The Location of Culture) (O'Connor). In geographical context the West Indies usually describes a large group of islands that form a crescent separating the Caribbean sea from the Atlantic ocean (―West Indies. Because several critical works that were quoted in this work do not differentiate between the two. For the purpose of my thesis I decided to differentiate between these two expressions – postcolonial and post-postcolonial. In literary context words West Indian and Caribbean describe the artistic tradition with certain characteristics that connect regions which employ them. However. Rather than considering them as only distinct in temporal terms I understand the difference between these two concepts as a difference in the developmental stage and the sphere of their application.Notes 1) the West Indies. Postcolonial is understood in 1 0 9 . these two expressions are often used interchangeably.‖ Encyclopædia Britannica). but they are also used differently depending on the situation they are employed in. In this respect the geographically based division between the islands and the mainland looses its significance. the Caribbean – Both of these labels carry politically problematic implications. I decided to follow this pattern and use these expressions as synonyms that reflect the similarities of artistic expression influenced by the comparable historical development of the area. 2) postcolonial and post-postcolonial – The term post-postcolonial as opposed to the term postcolonial is used for example in the critical essays of Erin O‘Connor or Maia Dauner and Cynthia Foo.
this work as representing the era following the end of the direct colonial supremacy in the world. As the basis of my interpretation of the term I take the explanation presented in Encyclopaedia Britannica in connection to the Western arts. I see Wilson Harris as a pioneering figure of post-postcolonial fiction because he transgresses the boundaries of colonial impact on the society. the move from postcolonialism towards the post-postcolonial stage follows the change in the treatment of topics and language itself. performing. but I believe that it is so deeply established within the literary and cultural criticism that to avoid it might be even misleading. and visual arts of Europe and regions that share a European cultural tradition. if understood only in connection to time-scale. or a truly cross-cultural understanding of the remaining one which would erase its negative connotations. be taken into account. 3) western – The adjective ‗Western‘ is often perceived as politically incorrect in connection to the postcolonial studies. They are characterized as ―the literary.‖ Encyclopædia Britannica). 1 1 0 . To avoid any biases caused by its political implications I am trying to use this term as neutrally as possible. There remains the need to coin a new neutral term. Although this term still carries the stigmatized name of ‗colonialism‘ it is used analogically with other expressions used in literary criticism. Where the area of interest is narrower and does not include the American branches I prefer to use only the word ‗European‘. However. as far as I am concerned. postcolonialism would be an eternally relevant concept with the imperial supremacy as the pivot of the cultural development of all the countries involved. Concentrating on the sphere of art not only the continuation but most importantly its genesis should. With respect to literature of the West Indies. including the United States and Canada‖ (―Western arts.
G Bartholomew for The Edinburgh Geographical Institute (Bartholomew).4) borders – I enclose the map of the British Guyana from 1896 to illustrate the ‗ficticiousness‘ of boundaries of the territory. 1 1 1 . Borderlines were constantly changed according to the new discoveries by particular imperial powers and it was usual that parts of land were claimed by several nations at once. The map was created by J.
1 1 2 .
The rituals of voodoo are often led by a hungan. and the Provinces of Emeria. The whole title is: ―The Discovery of the large. During these rituals the worshippers invoke the loa by drumming. and feasting. such as the invoking of the loa‖ (Lindemans. Captain of her Majesty's Guard. and other Countries. 2 April 1997). 6) Sir Walter Raleigh – The Discovery of Guiana is an account of Raleigh‘s exploratory voyage undertaken in 1595. 13 April 1997). Each dancer then behaves in a manner characteristic of the possessing spirit and while in an ecstatic trance performs cures and gives advice.5) zemi – idols of religious spirits (―zemi. with their rivers. and beautiful Empire of Guiana. adjoining. together with a hungan. leads the rituals in voodoo. 7) mambo – ―A priestess who. and ga signifying chief‖ (Lindemans. singing. dancing. hun in Fon being a synonym for (vodun) deity. 1 1 3 . Amapaia. Its literal meaning is deity-chief. Lord Warden of the Stannaries. and her Highness' Lieutenant-General of the County of Cornwall‖ (Raleigh). 8) hungan – ―The Haitian term for priest or spirit master of the voodoo cult. with a Relation of the great and golden City of Manoa. which the Spaniards call El Dorado. Knight. derived from the Fon of Dahomey. Aromaia. rich. and the loa take possession of the dancers. Performed in the year 1595 by Sir Walter Raleigh.‖ Encyclopædia Britannica).
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