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newspapers are not interested in serious work, English publishers will only publish the cream of West Indian literature and, most disheartening of all, the public for their work in the West Indies is limited to the writers themselves and a few fellow-travellers. The aims and interests of the writers in the whole area are the same- -to create a West Indian literature; but Jamaica lies 1,200 miles from British Guiana and writers from the islands and the two continental colonies can never find cohesion by discussion and a sense of physical proximity. A programme called 'Caribbean Voices' is broadcast each week from London to the West Indies and this has done much to encourage Caribbean writers and poets. West Indian writers talk of the necessity of a literature of their own, but the conditions are so difficult that all writers who have managed to be published in England with success—and many who have not been published at all---have come to England. Edgar Mittelholzer, a Guianese, came to work in England after his first novels were published, but has returned disillusioned to the West Indies, to Barbados. A fellow West Indian writer said of him, 'Mittelholzer may have felt an exile here in London, but when he goes back he's just as much an exile, because there is no one who can talk his language.' Mittelholzer was markedly less successful when he wrote about England; he knows the source of his inspiration and mostly remains as faithful to it as James Joyce to the Dublin of his youth.

The leading intellectual in British Guiana today is Mr. A. J. Seymour, a poet and critic who is also the Chief Government Information Officer, and editor of a literary magazine, 'Kykover-al'. He is typical of those West Indians who, having absorbed European culture by education, believe that the West Indian writer's duty is to remain in his home area and create its literature there, however discouraging the conditions. In an essay called 'The West Indies of the Future and the Writer' he calls for a greater sense of cultural self-sufficiency, though elsewhere he makes it plain that the culture of Europe must play its part in the culture of the West Indies:

'In spite of shaping influences in the past and present for which everyone is grateful the time has come for the area to create its own standards of excellence, to reject anything that savours of accepting a place of subordination. Instead of the abstract and conventional, the

symbols of poetry and art must be realistic and concrete, reflecting and accepting the unpleasant conditions around us where they exist as so many challenges to our organizing and remedial ability. Feelings of doubt and inferiority must be cast away and an atmosphere of optimism and pride created in their place. Who are the great leaders, what are the great events in our regional history? Let them be known and celebrated. The great and good future of the region becomes an aim towards which we must strive more steadily and knowingly. There must not be impossible dreams but the plan of our action in the entire society must be an inchmeal advance, making do with little, being patient with small successes but always building slowly upon them to higher but manageable aims.'

Mr. Seymour speaks well for the large section of reasonable, moderate Guianese who understand the dangers of precipitate action. In another essay, 'The Creation of Quality in the West Indies', he sees all West Indies society as a pyramid from which the top has been sliced and says that it is a race against time for West Indians themselves to complete the pyramid with an élite, in the Eliot sense, people with an understanding of true 'quality'. He believes that the formation of the typical West Indian family, and particularly the reluctance to educate the women-folk, has done much to hold back this creation of quality, by which 'spirit and beauty weave nationhood'. At one point in his essay Mr. Seymour has some interesting observations to make on the mystical, irrational and religious element in the West Indian which has had an effect on the literature. 'There are writers in Guiana', he says,

'who express this religious feeling.... I look upon these expressions. both overt and hidden, as part of the dynamic of the West Indian community life which strives to equate the intellectual with its moral vibrancies, an element for whose roots we should look far back to the part played by the Church in this region as an institution which built up the personality of the slave and the emancipation, and gave him confidence in himself and in his powers to grapple with the environment around him.'

One of the questions which occupies Guianese intellectuals is whether a 'West Indian way of life' exists. In a symposium on the subject in ‘Kyk-over-al' there were contributions from a doctor of medicine, Dr. Frank Williams, a minister of religion, the Rev. E. S. M. Pilgrim, an educationist, H.-M. E. Cholmondeley, a journalist and historian, P. H. Daly, a sociologist, Ruby Samlalsingh, a poet, Martin Carter, and the novelist

Edgar Mittelholzer. Dr. Williams sees the unity of West Indian life in its spirit of easy-goingness. The development of the colonies, he feels, can only come when the latent possibilities for sacrifice, effort and discipline are released. Mr. Carter's analysis was perhaps the most profound and best argued of all, and the quotations which follow are of great interest in assessing the attitudes of mind and the preoccupations of anti-British Guianese intellectuals. Here, as in his poetry, Carter's special emphasis is on the survival of the effects of slavery. 'Out of the complex of situations, traditions, influences', he writes,

'that have gone into the making of the way of life in this region, the institution of slavery in the beginning lies at the foundation of the ' psychological make-up of the people.... Emancipation in the 1830's tōōk the chains off the hands and the feet, but the psychological constitution woven in the gloom of the plantation remained. If this is true, then there is no need to stress the psychological continuity here implied. And it is at this point that we come to recognize the real meaning of the term "West-Indian colonial", relating in this context a political situation to a cultural condition in order to make possible a deeper realization of status in terms of world humanity.... The cultural process is one of cross pollinations, of infinite selection, rejection, permutation, transformation. This was the very secret of the miracle of ancient Greece, that meeting ground of the wisdom of the ancient East, Africa and Europe. What is happening with us here is obviously the same process in another world, where the psychological necessities are rooted in the slave-patterned experience of the West Indian colonial. And it is these necessities that go to give that almost demoniac energy and vitality to the unrelenting rhythms of the steel band with its emphatic physical imagery.... Only when a West Indian can experience himself as a human being will he be in a position truly to celebrate his spiritual possibilities. It is when his status as colonial is abolished that he will come into his own human self-possession.'

Edgar Mittelholzer is the leading Guianese creative writer. He is a member of a well-known family in the Colony, the inheritor of the blood of an eighteenth-century Swiss settler. In the parlance of the Colony, which he frequently uses in his novels, he is a 'high-colour man'. Mittelholzer's mixed blood has influenced him as a writer; while African or East Indian writers are conscious of race they are not troubled by the problems of a mixed heredity which have clearly obsessed Mittelholzer. For this reason I think his work does not fall neatly into the category of West Indian writing. His heredity has given him something of the unconscious, inborn traditions of Europe

and he clearly writes with no sense of emulation or imitation of a culture which is not his own. His novel The Life and Death of Sylvia is a fascinating, though prolix, study of Georgetown society, the immense subtleties of colour-snobbery, what he calls 'the tangled mass of cliques and clans and sub-clans'. This is the world where 'high-colour' and 'low-colour' are preoccupations, where parents plan for their daughters to marry men with lighter skin than their own and a white skin is the hope and aim of all. This world of the 'coloured people' must not be confused with the African world where such preoccupations are less important and life in consequence is happier.

Rum Shop (Georgetown)

Sylvia in The Life and Death of Sylvia is the daughter of a pleasant, irresponsible English engineer who marries a girl who is half African and half Amerindian. During her childhood Sylvia's social position is assured by her father's white blood and the fortune he made in a sweepstake. But her father is murdered, and by legal trickery a lawyer who passes for white takes over his estate. Sylvia, used to good living and untrained

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for work, begins her slow moral decline towards starvation and death, but she refuses always the lawyer's offer to give her a house and an allowance if she will be his mistress.

I read this book before going to British Guiana and while I was fascinated by its delineation of a social formation more subtle even than our own I imagined that Mr. Mittelholzer was taking, in Sylvia, a special case and that her unquestioning acceptance of hopelessness was not typical of the society she lived in. I think Mr. Mittelholzer has, in fact, made Sylvia's case extreme in order to provide a horrific story, but he has also realized that there is something of Sylvia in the Guianese character in general. Seen as a symbol of Guianese acquiescence to adversity Sylvia's life and death take on a fresh meaning.

Mittelholzer is implicated in the history of his country. He has written a trilogy in which he traces the history of the Colony from the earliest days in fictional form. His aim above all in these novels-Shadows Move Among Them, Children of Kaywana and The Harrowing of Hubertus—seems to have been to give the Guianese a sense of the complex mystery and diversity of their blood, their physical inheritance from the Dutch, English, French, Amerindians, Africans and the East Indians.

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Inevitably modern Guianese poetry has been strongly influenced by the modern movement in European poetry; Mr. Seymour's wish that the old Ashanti myths should be rediscovered does not seem to have been achieved, but Guianese poets and there are many-write with a great awareness of their own country, particularly from a physical point of view. This immersion in a subject gives much of the poetry urgency and readability. A typical poet who is ‘aware' in this way is Jan Carew, who symbolizes his country's problems in a poem called "The Charcoal Burner':

Staircase of smoke that ladders the sky
is rooted in a tomb
where black sentinel

must burst asunder

pale ramparts of heaven
with bare hands and feet

to pluck wild orchids
of ultimate release.

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