This expansive essay shows us -- in a delighfully Swiftian mode -- what we have not yet seen of Antigua, the small island in the British West Indies where Kincaid grew up.
Kincaid discusses British colonialism, the corruption of the Antiguan government, racism, and greed. It seems to me a key question raised by the book is whether post-colonial Antigua is worse than colonial Antigua. The book is very much haunted by the spectre of New World slavery.
This book is a dark, angry jeremiad. I think it works better when seen as an extended prose poem rather than as an essay. As the latter, it could be criticized as full of invalid generalizations and undocumented claims. But as a poetic/prophetic text, it is chillingly effective.
Ultimately, Kincaid's vision of the human condition is extremely negative But her haunting, almost hypnotic prose really held me. I recommend the book to anyone planning a trip to a poor country for their own pleasure.
But the first thing that struck me about this book was the tense and voice. Second person (?you do this, you do that.....?) isn?t very common in literature, so when I see it, it has an immediate effect on me. Now, in one sense, I admire the choice of this tense. It allows the narrator to talk directly to the reader, informing him or her. It also gives the narrator some freedom to literally paint a scene in the reader?s mind. Instead of going to all the trouble to create the hundreds of details necessary to allow the reader to place himself or herself in Antigua, Kincaid can accomplish this in one sentence. Granted, she goes on to provide the details (she points out the cars, the roads, the hospital, the beach, the sun, etc.) but as she does this she has some additional room with this tense to comment on these details and actually point out their significance.
Using this tense also lets Kincaid convey her opinion of the typical tourist who comes to Antigua. Using the second person present tense makes the book flow more like a conversation, and as such, allows me to imagine one particular narrator, a very specific person who is telling me this story and painting these pictures in my mind, filling in the details and their significance as we go along. And if I am not a middle class or upper middle class white American who travels to other countries, this works very well. If I am not a middle or upper class Briton, this also works. But if I am, as are many of the people who buy and read contemporary literature, this would put me out a bit. In fact, it would pretty well alienate me to this narrator. Kincaid?Read more ›