[Caribbean Literature]

Divina Trace and Polyrhythm

Part Three: Escape from Binary Postcolonialism?

David P. Lichtenstein '99, Brown University, Contributing Editor, Caribbean Web

Robert Antoni's brand of polyrhythm breaks from the manner in which other Postcolonial writers have made use of this model. Authors such as Earl Lovelace and Derek Walcott, for instance, set the rhythm of colonizer against that of colonized in their work. They seek to present the Caribbean as a place in which these two meet, and by placing the two forces (in Walcott's case) on equal ground within their work, perhaps hope to equalize them, to deconstruct the lines on which the opposition colonizer/colonized is based. Thus much of their work, both thematically and in terms of plot, concerns itself with binary oppositions that Postcolonialism produces.

Antoni takes a different approach. He gathers so many different rhythms together in Divina Trace that a simple one to one opposition cannot exist. Furthermore, the figure of the colonizer appears very little in the novel, primarily in Antoni's offhand comments about publishing or as an absentee power in Papee Vince's history of the Corpus Christi Day celebration. Therefore, the absence of this concern with binaries allows Antoni space to deal with other issues -- the relationship between storyteller and audience or an in-depth cultural history of the Caribbean, as revealed through the stories of Magdalena's background. The very fact that Antoni does deal (though in passing) with First World publishing power, or the blame behind crop failures in West Indian farming, proves that these binaries still do apply in some ways, and still have relevance for Antoni's novel. But, in part because he employs the polyrhythmic structure to a greater degree than any of his predecessors, Antoni has created a new space for himself in which various issues, many of which depart from those of traditional Postcolonial subject matter, may take precedence.

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