Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 18th 2013 Contents B2
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From Page B1
If Smyth seems harsh on T&T she
does not spare her English policeman
protagonist Martin Rawlinson, whose
trajectory reveals as much about out-
sider perceptions of the contemporary
Caribbean as it does about naivety and
the human condition.
Those metropolitan reviewers with
a restricted knowledge of the breadth
of Caribbean writing compared Smyth s
first novel Black Rock with Jean Rhys
("a powerful cocktail of heat and beau-
tiful coolness, written in a heady, mes-
merising yet translucent prose.") Quite
apart from the fact that A Kind of
Eden s point of view is masculine,
although we might compare the Trini
Safiya and English Miriam and Georgia
characters with some of Rhys oppressed
female characters, Smyth s new work
is more reminiscent of Milan Kundera s
provocative reflections on the human
condition, although it lacks his sardonic
A Kind of Eden is probably one of
the first (if not the first) novels which
frame the postcolonial relationship
between the UK and its former colony
of T&T. Supremely ignorant as to where
he s headed, retired 49-year old English
cop Martin Rawlinson escapes the grief
of his eldest daughter s death by taking
up a contract with the T&T police serv-
ice; "Leaving England offered him a
kind of relief. Since losing Beth they d
existed in a permanent state of grief...
Here he was a free man."
Martin s grief is subsumed in his
affair with the much younger Safiya, a
Woodbrook journalist who may well
be a surrogate for his dead daughter.
This again is new territory for a
Caribbean novel---highlighting not just
the problematics of interracial and gen-
eration-different relationships but also
the inequality they pose. For Safiya s
mother, Martin is a threat: "I don t
want you in my house again. My
daughter is all I have...An old man like
you should know better."
For Martin, who is a potential mid-
life crisis/male menopause candidate,
Safiya is an anodyne he anaesthetises
himself with in the name of love: "...
there is no remedy for love but to love
more; let it take him where it will."
While there is psychological justification
for Martin s infatuation, Smyth directs
us back to the motif of the European
male who since colonial days and right
into the postcolonial era comes to con-
quer hearts and make his fortune. This
is another theme which, however
uncomfortable, highlights existing ten-
sions between former colonisers and
The old tropical trope is
viciously dismantled in the sec-
ond section along with delusions
about T&T s developed status.
As Sherry, Martin s Trini house-
keeper remarks: "Port-of-Spain
is like Miami without the police.
All those high-rise buildings.
Everybody keeps talking about
first world but there s nothing
first world about our country."
Similarly when Martin s wife
Miriam first arrives in Tobago
she produces the usual touristic
clichés: "What an abundance
of colour; what a wealth of
beauty. This place is a kind of
Eden." But before the conclusion
of the traumatic second section
she revises her initial opinion:
"She tells him she will never
come back here. This is not a
paradise; this is hell."
Without disclosing too much
detail of the second section (hell
to the first section s paradise?)
suffice it to say that the paranoia
and violence it evokes are all
too credible. The deceptive
restraint of the first part dis-
solves into a nightmarish pace,
punctuated by events we ve
come to dread reading about in
the press, but which have been
as much a feature of Caribbean
life and reality since Columbus.
A Kind of Eden is another side
of the paradise constructed in
the European imaginary. As
Smyth shows us---now is the
time for some serious decon-
A Kind of Eden frames postcolonial
relationship between UK and T&T
A Kind of Eden by Amanda Smyth.
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