Something old, something new

by Nicholas Laughlin on August 18, 2010

Dust jacket os the first edition of Escape to an Autumn Pavement

Dust jacket of the first edition of Andrew Salkey’s Escape to an Autumn Pavement. Image from the H.D. Carberry Collection of Caribbean Literature, University of Illinois at Chicago library

This week, the CRB glances towards both the past and the future of Caribbean writing. First, Jonathan Ali considers Andrew Salkey’s 1960 novel Escape to an Autumn Pavement — long out of print, but recently reissued by Peepal Tree Press in their Caribbean Modern Classics series.

“Salkey’s reputation appears to rest more on where he happened to find himself at a certain point in time, rather than what he wrote,” Ali argues.

Unlike the best work of his contemporaries, none of Salkey’s novels can be said to occupy the upper reaches of the Caribbean canon. His other books — like his sadly overlooked 1972 travelogue Georgetown Journal — are virtually unknown. If anything, Salkey is probably best known (at least, by a certain generation of Caribbean readers, your writer included) for his children’s books, the hugely popular Hurricane (1964) among them.

Why? Ali suggests that, at least in the case of the novel in hand, it may have something to do with Salkey’s subjects and approach.

Set in London, Escape to an Autumn Pavement tells the story of a Caribbean immigrant of mixed race and middle-class background riven by his identity. That alone would be enough to make for a serious case against the book — the Tragic Mulatto has never been popular in Caribbean literature — but to crown things off, the character in question is also quite possibly gay.

We also publish this week two poems by the young St Lucian writer Vladimir Lucien, who currently lives in Trinidad. Twenty-two years old, Lucien is at the promising start of what your Antilles blogger hopes is a long and fruitful literary career. I’m pleased the CRB is one of the first magazines to publish his work. Keep an eye on him.

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