Wim Rutgers on Henry Habibe’s “Aruba in literair perspectief”

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Here are excerpts from a book review by Wim Rutgers of Henry Habibe’s 2004 Aruba in literair perspectief; Tussen traditie en vernieuwing: 1905-1975 [Aruba in Literary Perspective: Between Tradition and Renewal: 1905-1975].

With the publication of Aruba in literair perspectief; Tussen traditie en vernieuwing: 1905-1975 [Aruba in Literary Perspective ― Between Tradition and Renewal: 1905-1975], Henry Habibe has written a courageous, chronically ordered book of more than four hundred pages about writers and works representing the literature of the island. This publication is a great asset because although we have a number of valuable literary anthologies and separate contributions and articles, a well-organized work that focuses completely on the literature of the island did not yet exist. That gap has now been filled.

[In defining Aruban literature, Habibe states]: “I have only studied those publications that deal with Aruba and which, in my opinion, have literary value.” (p.405) […] Literary quality and the island as a source of inspiration appear to be the [two] prevailing [selection] criteria in Aruba in Literary Perspective. […] Habibe has limited himself to publications on paper.

[…] It may be said that Habibe has discovered and discussed a great many previously unknown material, but his collection is – understandably – certainly not complete. […] in addition to my great appreciation for Henry Habibe’s significant effort, I do have some critical remarks, but these arise mainly because our views on literature are quite different. Whereas Habibe confines himself to stylistic analysis and to texts that, as he writes, “have literary value,” I prefer a more literary-historical approach to literary communication: between author and reader, text and context.

[…] those who view literature as an interaction between author and reader would certainly conclude that literary life in Aruba lacks a great deal. What is the extent of interaction? How much attention does the reading population have for authors and their literary work? This goes for the island as well as the entire region. Jean Bernabé et al. write in their Éloge de la Créolité (1989), which was translated in 1993 as In Praise or Creoleness: “Caribbean literature does not yet exist. We are still in a state of pre-literature: that of a written production without a home audience, ignorant of the authors/readers interaction which is the primary condition of the development of a literature.” I think that this is also true for Aruba. We have some literary production, but hardly any literary life, let alone a lively literary discussion. […] Aruban literature may well exist, but we cannot yet speak of literary life, of literature as a living societal phenomenon.

[…] Habibe’s study is especially interesting when he discusses authors and their works, and he does so with a lot of attention for what he regards as literary in the texts. That results in fine analyses and interpretations. […] with his extensive study in this publication, he has done important pioneering work that deserves to be bought and read critically by everyone who always talks about ‘nos dushi Papiamento’ [our sweet Papiamento] but never spends money or time on it.

Henry Habibe, Aruba in literair perspectief; Tussen traditie en vernieuwing: 1905-1975. Oranjestad (Aruba): UNOCA, 2014 (421 pages, ISBN: 978-99904-1-913-9)

[Excerpts translated by Peter Jordens.] For the original review, see http://werkgroepcaraibischeletteren.nl/henry-habibe-aruba-in-literair-perspectief

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