Monique Roffey’s article on Waterstone’s blog (see our previous post The new wave of Caribbean writers or go directly to the article at http://www.waterstones.com/blog/2014/07/the-new-wave-of-caribbean-writers/) has stirred a wave of controversy throughout the region. One of the most detailed responses has come from St Lucian poet Vladimir Lucien, who writes in “Monique Roffey’s Dsicovery of Caribbean Literature” that:
Roffey’s idea of an increase in complex writing in the Caribbean is one that rejects or ignores history. It views the generation of the 60s and 70s as scapegoats who have accepted the sin of history and paid for it on the behalf of Caribbean writing. I am speaking of those who, according to Roffey-Raleigh, “ the Golden Era of Caribbean Literature, which is an odd way of seeing them, given that so many of these writers, (some of whom I’ve now met), don’t glow and aren’t made of gold.” But even the idea that “writing back” is a time that has gone is inaccurate. The whole writing back idea Roffey has is reductive and simplified, it ignores not only several writers who were not really writing back but doing the ‘new’ thing that she praises her generation for: “we are writing for ourselves and sometimes towards each other.” Which still begs the questions ‘About what?’ and ‘Who was the previous generation writing to/ward?’ Even works that might owe some debt to the European Great Tradition, like Omeros are studiously engaged in a conversation with Caribbean writers like Wilson Harris and Kamau Brathwaite. Roffey ignores a work like Brathwaite’s trilogy ‘The Arrivants’,— the first part of which would have been published around her birth year— which was not engaged in writing back as much as it was tracing the epic trajectory of the African from enslavement to the emergence of the diaspora using African and Caribbean musical forms as the rhythmical backbone of the poetry. And that was in the 60s! Or what about Naipaul’s commission to write ‘The Middle Passage’ at the invitation of Trinidadian Premier Eric Williams circa 1962? What Roffey does not realize is that writers then and now are writing HUMAN stories, writing about what it means to live in a particular society which structurally has not changed much.
For Lucien’s complete response go to http://caribbeanlitlime.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/monique-roffeys-discovery-of-caribbean-literature/