COMING FOR TO CARRY
Volume 11 Number 3.
Exile has provided many West Indian authors (Austin Clarke, George Lamming, V.S. Naipaul and Samuel Selvon, for example) with autobiographical material for a novel, and the Tobagonian writer of this first novel set in Canada has used the same source: his own experience. "A novel in five parts" suggests music, as does the title, from the well-known spiritual. There are in fact several voices narrating Omoh's career at a Canadian university, which is a succession of embarrassments and catastrophes reminiscent of Candide. Like Candide, after the final crisis (an accident) he comes to the realization that happiness lies in the simplicity of home:
For the first time, too, Omoh had to
The style of this quotation contrasts effectively with the wordy, "pretensive" (as the West Indian expresses it) patches of narrative appropriate to the student's image of himself and the basilectal creole of the other students' "old talk." The contrast between the conscious and the unconscious (the latter being the dream scenes and the stream of consciousness in Part Four) is made clearer by the typographical device of double-spacing the text. The experiment of employing differing styles and registers is successful, but the story is too predictable and Omoh too slight a character (like Candide, again) to carry the weight of Elliott's artistic ambition.
The novel would be of interest to mature young adult readers studying the impact of immigration on Canada (and of Canada on immigrants). It would also be worthwhile directing their attention to Elliott's plays.
Philip K. Harber, Toronto Board of Education, Toronto, ON.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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