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Harris, Wilson

realist characters crew journey

(Guyanese/British, 1921– )

Wilson Harris and George Lamming vie for the title of most significant West Indian novelist; and Harris is the more innovative. He counsels against the ‘narrative realist fallacy’, and without himself being a magic realist, ignores the boundaries between genres. His first novel, Palace of the Peacock (1960), presents us with a crew making the journey up-river in the Guyanese heartland. The hallucinatory quality of the writing causes us to question what we're witnessing: has the journey already taken place? (For the crew are known to have died.) Or is this a fable to be enacted? Some characters have names, but the figures are mythic. The two women present (who have suffered/suffer violence) metamorphose into something either reassuring or prophetic. Harris's short novels (over twenty to date) demand the reader's concentration. Where to start? The first four, brought together by Faber as The Guyana Quartet (1985), flesh out, with recognizable characters and settings, Wilson Harris's unique poetic vision.

Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Pauline Melville. See CARIBBEAN  EM

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