Prophetic Visions of the Past

The Arrivants and Another Life

Authored by: Lorna Burns

The Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature

Print publication date:  June  2011
Online publication date:  June  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415485777
eBook ISBN: 9780203830352
Adobe ISBN: 9781136821745


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The pairing of two of the Caribbean’s best-known poets, Kamau Brathwaite and Derek Walcott, to many, evokes the tensions and antagonisms of a specific moment in the history of Caribbean literature. In particular, Brathwaite’s The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy (1973), which brought together three previous volumes – Rights of Passage (1967), Masks (1968) and Islands (1969) – and Walcott’s autobiographical Another Life (1973) together suggest something of the critical environment in the post-independence era. While this critical history is an important background to both texts, the resulting polarization of Brathwaite and Walcott as two poets offering wholly incompatible views on the place of Africa in contemporary Caribbean and black consciousness, problematically ignores the important points of convergence. The opposition of Brathwaite and Walcott as poets can be traced in the critical history of their works (see, in particular, Ismond 1971; Collier 1985; King 2000), while both authors have, in different ways, contributed to the debate (Walcott 1997b; Brathwaite 1974). Critics that side with Brathwaite’s reading of Walcott include Dathorne (1981: 235–40); Irele (1994: 724); and, to a lesser degree, Torres-Saillant (1994: 699). Critics mediating the divide include Baugh (1982) and Rohlehr (1970).

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