Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A SMALL PLACE

I have been reading Jamaica Kincaid's "A Small Place". Jamaica Kincaid, who was actually one of my instructors, now mostly gardens, I believe. If she keeps writing, I think she will win a Nobel. "A Small Place" is a thin book, anorexic almost. But my god, it's powerful. It's utterly gorgeous language, simple and all-encompassing in the way that a blue sky is simple and all-encompassing, and the savage ferocity with which Jamaica attacks her English colonizers is something to behold. Here is a nugget of gold:

"The Antigua that I knew, the Antigua in which I grew up, is not the Antigua you, a tourist, would see now. That Antigua no longer exists. That Antigua no longer exists partly for the usual reason, the passing of time, and partly because the bad-minded people who used to rule over it, the English, no longer do so. (But the English have become such a pitiful lot these days, with hardly any idea what to do with themselves now that they no longer have one quarter of the earth's human population bowing and scraping before them. They don't seem to know that this business was all wrong and they should, at least, be wearing sackcloth and ashes in token penance of the wrongs committed, the irrevocableness of their bad deeds, for no natural disaster imaginable could equal the harm they did. Actual death might have been better. And so all this fuss over empire-what went wrong here, what went wrong there-always makes me quite crazy, for I can say to them what went wrong: they should never have left their home, their precious England, a place they loved so much, a place they had to leave but could never forget. And so everywhere they went they turned it into England; and everybody they met they turned English. But no place could ever really be England, and nobody who did not look exactly like them would ever be English, so you can imagine the destruction of people and land that came from that." Pg 23-24

It's as if she takes this whole event of invasion and occupation and colonization of this small island nation of Antigua and she strips away the varnish and the paint and she shows you what it was actually like and it's so simple and so ugly. And that's what colonization is: it's so simple and so ugly and so 19th century that people think it just doesn't exist anymore. Or people do know that it exists and it's Kitty Genovese all over again - being stabbed to death in broad daylight while whole bunch of cowardly people look through their beautiful curtained windows.

So anyway I have had "A Small Place" on my mind these last few days, perhaps partly because I am in Dharamsala right now, which is a small place in its own special way.

1 comment:

drokpa said...

wow, that section was pretty powerful. i will pick up a copy of a small place soon. reading that quality of writing makes me want to be a writer. but the obvious talent/skill also makes me realize i couldn't be one :) have fun in dharamsala!