In This Chapter

The Lives of Others

Happenings, Histories and Literary Healing

Authored by: Alison Donnell

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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Both History and literature tell us stories. Yet, as a rhetorical structure that offers stability to the ideology of the ruling classes, History (as opposed to more humble, ragged-edged and everyday histories) confirms the significance, legitimacy, authority and legacy of the powerful. In the Caribbean, where the ideologies of Empire and the historical processes of colonization caused the death of untold numbers of people and denied the humanity of many more, writing the histories of person and place is always already at odds with the claims of History. For the majority of the region’s inhabitants, the conditions of historical possibility had been set by movements of violence and erasure – colonialism, the transatlantic slave trade, indenture. As Derek Walcott pithily expressed it, the encounter between History and the powerless was commonly one of denial and invisibility: ‘I met History once but he ain’t recognize me’ (‘The Schooner “Flight”’, 1979: 8).

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