Span: Journal of the South Pacific Assoc for Cwlth Lit and Language Studies
Number 36, 1992
Postcolonial Fictions:
Proceedings of the SPACLALS Triennial Conference 1992
Edited by Michèle Drouart

The Fictions of Cyril Dabydeen

A. L. McLeod

It is unfortunate - but apparently inevitable - that when relatives have similar merits in their chosen profession, one receives most of the critical attention, the other (s) being relegated to the periphery - at least for a time. Examples abound, but we can mention Derek and Roderick Walcott, H. M. and Dorothy Green; Vance and Nettie Palmer; and David and Cyril Dabydeen, who are cousins. They share Indian Hindu family origins, Guyanese birth and backgrounds, and the experience of migration: David, the younger, went to England; Cyril, 12 years his senior, went to Canada. Both have worked in poetry, and David is the subject of a recent article in Kunapipi: Cyril, the more prolific, has drawn little academic critical attention, though he has been the subject of numerous articles in the popular press in Canada because of his notable output in both prose and poetry. (He has, it should be noted, received praise from the distinguished Canadian critic Rosemary Sullivan, though in an article not devoted to his work.) Benita Parry has commented approvingly on David's "deviations from an ethnocentrically prescribed form" (i) in his poetry, and it would seem that Cyril having made the same deviations, should receive similar approval.

But Cyril Dabydeen has worked in prose fiction as well as in poetry, having produced two novellas and several short stories, and this combined output over the past twenty-five years is testimony that in him we have a postcolonial writer of considerable continuing productivity and achievement who deserves wider acknowledgment and critical attention. Nonetheless, he is unmentioned in so recent and comprehensive a study as W. H. New's History of Canadian Literature (1989), which does mention Neil Bissoondath and other Caribbean immigrant authors - and even several Inuits who are unknown outside the national borders. His exclusion, I believe, represents an undervaluation of his work in both genres, for he has made a genuine contribution to postcolonial literature, which Stephen Slemon and Helen Tiffin have defined as "writing that is grounded in the cultural realities of those societies whose subjectivity has been constituted at least in part by the subordinating power of European colonialism" (ix).

Dabydeen was born in the Canje (Corentyne) district of Guyana in 1945, where his parents worked on the Rose Hall sugar estate; he attended and later taught at St Patrick's Anglican School in Georgetown (1961-70). He is, therefore, one of the harbingers of the postcolonial sensibility and intellectuality that soon developed in his native country.

In 1970 he migrated to Canada, where he attended Queen's University, graduating with a B.A. in English; he subsequently obtained an M.A. and a diploma in public administration. He has taught at both Algonquin College and at the University of Ottawa; from 1984 to 1987 he was Poet Laureate of the City of Ottawa.

During his almost thirty years of writing poetry, Dabydeen has won a number of awards, including the Sandback Parker gold Medal (1964) and the A.J. Seymour Prize (1967) in Guyana. His poems have appeared in over thirty journals in Europe, the Caribbean, and North America; they have been included in fifteen anthologies. His prose fictions, however, have not received the same critical acclaim, although over twenty stories have been included in some fifteen publications. In all, he is the author of seven volumes of poetry, two novels, two collections of short stories; and he has edited an anthology of Caribbean-Canadian literature, A Shapely Fire: Changing the Literary Landscape (1987). Clearly, he has great fecundity and is prolific to the point of being indefatigable. In all his prose he displays the poet's skill in language. In fact, in a foreword to Dabydeen's first book, Poems in Recession (1972), the distinguished Guyanese patron of the national literature, A. J. Seymour, noted that the young writer was already "developing a personal idiom . . . full of delicate and firm imagery [with] few if any stereotypes and clichŽs."

Although the title Poems in Recession suggests a social realist and perhaps political, propagandist bent, Dabydeen is essentially apolitical though partial to social issues; he is, however, clearly opposed to metropolitan hegemony and in favour of an egalitarian national multiculturalism. As he indicated in a paper on West Indian writers in Canada (1982), he is most attracted to "the idea of marginality and the shift to a more positive identification with Canada in the framework of West Indian ethnic roots contributing to an evolving Canadian society." That is, his focus is on the lives and concerns of former colonial peoples, almost all of whom are identifiably different from the mainstream peoples of the countries to which they migrate; but his more particular focus is, of course, Canada itself, which he sees as metonymic.

Dabydeen's first collection of short stories was Still Close to the Island (1980), ambitiously issued in an edition of 1500 copies and aided by a subvention from the Government of Canada. Some of the contents had appeared earlier. All sixteen stories are rather brief (about 4000 words); ten are narrated in the first person and four in the third; their subjects are wide-ranging and include adolescent love and rebellion; Caribbean folklife; island eccentricities; New York barrio animosities; immigrant acculturation, unemployment, and sexual problems; and reforestation workers' social problems. The author's very real identification with the characters is apparent, and his focus is undiffused. In "Mamita's Garden Grove" the protagonist, Max (probably a persona for Dabydeen), reads George Lamming's The Emigrants repeatedly, though he is "not sure why; unconsciously perhaps, the Barbadian's style, hid dialogue, gave him a sense of continuity with his past" (87). Lamming is, I believe, a conscious model for Dabydeen, in social orientation and in style.

The subjects of these first stories, and their settings, have a clear connection with the theme of alienation, isolation, severance from family and community. Even the occasional sexual encounter is fitful, emotionless, and motivated by nothing more, it seems, than a need for the immediate satisfaction of a compelling libido; there is no depiction of longstanding attachment, of passionate embrace, of mutual enjoyment - or even of temporary and passing tenderness and concern. This reluctance (or inability) to write about amorous or sexual matters adequately may well derive from Dabydeen's Hindu upbringing; on the other hand, it could be a realistic depiction of the emotional sterility of the displaced characters about whom he writes: their lives are generally devoid of significant satisfactions and their interpersonal contacts are few and shallow rather than intense and frequent. To them ecstasy seems unknown.

But if these stories are deficient in personal emotional attachments and in wrenching displacements or deprivations, they offer by way of compensation a pervasive empathy for the excluded, the disempowered, the undercompensated, the impoverished, the itinerant, the immigrant, the undocumented labourer. In this respect they mirror the people with whom Dabydeen worked in the cities and forests of Ontario. And they are a heterogeneous, polyglot crowd: Turks, Jamaicans, Ojibways, Hungarians, Guyanans, Puerto Ricans, and so on. In sum, eighteen nationalities are mentioned in addition to five groups, such as East Indians, West Indians, Africans, Islanders, and Caribbeans.1 But national identification in such short stories is little more than a decorative device: there could be interchanges without consequence in most situations. Yet the goal seems to be to propose that diverse peoples of good will can live and work amicably - that the tree-planting camps and restaurants are merely microcosms of the larger society and that the diversity among races is no greater than that within them. In "Memphis" there is a climatic confrontation between a small-town redneck entrepreneur intent upon defending the honour of his prostitute daughter and the town's sole black man. Here the narrator offers the casual observation that the police "always seem to hassle black people and Indians" (78), and elsewhere we read, "When you're black, it's always difficult" (97). But such observations are infrequent and lack vehemence, lack even the passion that traditionally accompanies protest writing; they are rather matter-of-fact, perhaps because incontrovertible and universally valid.

The brevity and simple linear development of these stories, together with their extensive use of demotic dialogue and first-person point of view, suggests that they are basically extended anecdotes realized from the author's personal experience in Guyana, New York, Ottawa, and northern Ontario, where he passed his initial immigrant years "in the archetypal, mythological Canadian activities of tree-planting and living in bush camps with 'Native Indians, trappers, miners, alcoholics, and hoboes' " (Islands iii). But he has avoided confining himself to a prose style that is limited to a Hemingwayesque brusqueness or social-realist reportage: his essentially poetic diction, though never permitted to run loose in purple passages, is always apparent in those tropes and figures that create the "delicate and firm imagery" that A. J. Seymour discerned in Poems in Recession. For example, we find a plethora of novel similes: "she sniffed suddenly like a bitch" (52); "teeth like an anachronism" (52); "she sucked in like a strange fish" (53); and "bent like a weathered tree" (53). Unfortunately, however, there are compositional lapses also: we have "fulsome rain" (16); "fulsome shadows" (29); and "fulsome air" (51), which attest to lexical sloppiness and limited inventiveness.

Reviewing Still Close to the Island, the Ottawa Journal declared that Dabydeen was "in the tradition of Pablo Neruda and Nicholas Guillen" because he expressed "strong sympathies for the poor, and a feeling for the hard ironies of existence." This, clearly, is a too-generous appraisal that reflects a parochial partiality. A more supportable estimate is that contained in a Fiddlehead review: "the scope and quality of the collection are sufficient to declare the author's talent" (quoted on back cover).

In 1988 Dabydeen published a second collection of short fiction, thirteen stories entitled To Monkey Jungle, described in the publisher's blurb as "the new fiction of diaspora, of the New World - vital and vigorous; humorous and exciting; tragic and comic by turns . . . about people on the razor's edge of transition, people coming or leaving or going somewhere."

The stories are much longer, deal with more complex individuals, are far more wide-ranging in locales, and show a more sophisticated understanding of the techniques of short fiction than those in the first collection. Some are "surrealistic and phantasmagoric," others are forays into "romanticism and stark realism," as the advertisement announces. Again, most are informed by Dabydeen's interest in the social peripherals, the opportunists, the fringe-dwellers. There is the one-eyed boy in "salvation" trying to promote the See-Through Religion while fleecing dominoes players and street-meeting congregations in his quest for wealth, power, and esteem; there is the octogenarian retired sailor "on the island" recollecting his experiences in stream-of-consciousness fashion; there is the Hare Krishna convert planting pines with "Natives . . . and foreign students, winos, and drop-outs, many of whom couldn't keep a job for more than a couple of weeks . . . draft-dodgers" (52). Perhaps the best story is "Calabogie," about a separated mother with her lover, the narrator. They are soon joined by a nude male bather, two teenage girls, two divers, and a water serpent. High cliffs, moss, and the snake allow elementary Freudian symbolic analysis of the increasingly sensuous relationship of the couple, but the story is not at all heavy-handed, and the progression from companionship to consummation is related with delicacy and a sense of inevitability. The conjunctive passions are strong, functional and described without diffidence.

Another successful story is "Homecoming," which, with considerable poignancy, explores the social and psychological ramifications of the recent immigrant's constant ambivalence, his backward glance and felt obligations, and his forward vision and newfound independence: it is the Richard Mahony syndrome in miniature. But in "Homecoming" there is an added complication: Frank's love for his Irish-Canadian girlfriend is countered by his strong attachment to his archetypal mother. Ultimately, after several return visits, he realizes that he belongs wholly to neither the old nor the new place, the old (black) nor the new (white) woman.

On the surface a rather straightforward story, "The Wedding" also explores the immigrant experience, through narrative, dream, reminiscence, and comparison. Mahal, a former rat-catcher in Canje, Guyana, and now a college graduate and legal United States resident, visits Toronto for a wedding and asks the fatal question, "And when are you goin" back there, eh?" The narrator's response - the final paragraph of this last story in the collection - speaks for a great many immigrants, whether colonial or postcolonial:

Of course, Mahal was asking this for the rest of us, we who couldn't ask it because of a strange embarrassment, this knot of emotion that we felt in our throats from time to time, stemming from a sense of betrayal, almost, because of our leaving there, the village, the district, the country, the place where we were born, where we really belonged. (162)

Notwithstanding the merits of many of these stories, one feels that they could have been improved if subjected to greater authorial scrutiny, revision, refinement, which could have caught even minor errors; for example, in "Drive Me Until I Sweat," a cab turns north onto Fifth Avenue from 42nd Street, though Fifth Avenue is a southbound street. Yet they do represent a distinct advance on those stories in Still Close to the Island; they indicate structural, narrative, thematic, and stylistic capabilities that are mature but which could be carried yet further; consequently, we can only hope that Dabydeen will continue to apply his talents to the writing of short stories.

The Wizard Swami, the first of Dabydeen's two short novels (more properly, perhaps, novellas because of their limited scope, length, and number of characters) was written in Canada several years before its initial publication by the Calcutta Writers' Workshop in 1985; it was rewritten and expanded by some 30 pages (to 146 pages) before its republication by Peepal Tree Press, Leeds, in 1988; this revised version therefore has sole authorial validity.

The Wizard Swami is a fascinating fiction, somewhat after the manner of the stories of Ring Lardner or Sherwood Anderson yet similar to R. K. Narayan's The Guide in that its protagonist, Devan Chattergoon, is (like Raju) a reluctant swami. The opening chapter reveals Devan's family's disintegration because of his indolence, vague interest in Hinduism, and a desire to learn more about his Indian cultural heritage. His wife, Tara, and his children, Shanti and Evi, quit the appropriately named village, Providence, in the Corentyne District of Guyana. The exposition offers a flashback to Devan's childhood, showing his rambunctious nature, his inability to focus on any task or occupation, and then his reluctant, arranged marriage to dark-skinned Tara, who is long-suffering, competent, and sufficiently advanced in her outlook to see that her salvation rests in leaving the impractical and irresolute Devan. He, on the other hand, finds consolation in a verse from the Mahabharata, "Woman is an all-devouring curse," which he repeats frequently, even when consumed by lechery and carnality during his swamihood, which he assumes without training or obvious commitment.

Unschooled in the classic texts of Hinduism, barely literate in Hindi, lacking organizational skills, devoid of compassion or authority, a stranger to Sanskrit and theology, Devan is another - more fully drawn - version of the one-eyed evangelist in the short story "salvation." But, whereas the earlier fiction showed no satiric edge, The Wizard Swami is a sustained Horatian satire of religion, politics, and social pretensions in the Hindu communities of Guyana. Of Devan we are told, "At first he was embarrassed, but then it struck him how easy it was to fool everyone" (24). And his ability to "fool everyone" depends, to a large extent, on the willingness of an exilic community to be connected to its roots - to be reassured that it has not really left home for good, and that it can perpetuate a distant (even anachronistic and alien) culture that may be irrelevant to its needs. Educated and sophisticated Hindus are taken in; only an illiterate stableboy says, "Dat swami is a fake."

Swami Devan longs to found a new religion, New World Hinduism, and he gets support from pandit Gocolram, who recognizes Devan's oratorical abilities as a useful aid to his own organizational skills and political aspirations. Soon Devan is appointed headmaster of a school intended to develop Hinduism in the community, but his incompetence is apparent, and he is asked to train Destiny, a racehorse owned by the philanthropist Bhairam Bhuraji, a political aspirant.

His regimen consists of meditating and repeating mantras - which the local newspaper describes as wizardry (hence the swami's sobriquet). Despite Devan's speeches (mainly disjointed, rambling amalgams of English, Creole, Hindi, and Sanskrit phrases, tags, and commonplaces), Bhuraji and Gocolram fail in their political pursuits, and Destiny becomes lame and loses the match race to the horse fielded by an entrepreneurial syndicate headed by Sarwan Singh, the successful candidate for the presidency of the All-India League of Guyana. Devan sees his son in a racetrack crowd and is reunited with his family.

Devan blighted everything that he touched: family, school, political party, religion, horseracing. In the words of the novel's epigraph, taken from V. S. Naipaul's The Loss of Eldorado, "liberated from his inadequacy in the role the age imposed on him, he . . . reached that stillness where the fact of life and action was reconciled with the fact of death. This was what he had plundered, this latecoming to the quest that destroyed so many."

Although The Wizard Swami seems to be merely a light entertainment, it should not be summarily dismissed; part tall-tale, part causerie, it includes some pungent criticism of Guyanese society (and by extension Trinidadian and other postcolonial societies) striving to replicate an essentially irrelevant and distant social structure, aping admired metropolitan models, and dismissing the possibility of establishing a distinctive, appropriate local culture. Even Devan notes that the Hindu community is "in British Guiana, not India . . . their real homeland" (25), and he explains to Pandit Gocolram a research project that he is contemplating: " 'It about Hindus in dis part of de world. The New World, you know, Panditji. We been cut off from we roots when white people bring we from India' " (27). Again the main theme is displacement, the striving to replicate the old within a new community. And any thought that this might change is dispelled by the growth of the Hindu preparatory school from its initial nine students to 145 under the new, graduate headmaster Sri Aurobindo Ghose and his staff of four assistant masters.

In his earlier fictions, Dabydeen made use only intermittently of dialect. In The Wizard Swami it is extensive. The upper-class Indians speak Standard Received English; the swami and his associates speak a language half-way between Creole and Standard English: they forgo the past tense; drop the verb to be (he tall); switch subject and object pronouns (him say); and express plurals and possessives idiosyncratically (two house; dis is mines). Thus we find:

"Yes - we Hindu. We na belong here. White people only bring we here fo' cut sugar-cane and wuk in rice field. We belong to India," he added, "that is our real home. We na come here to slave like Africa people. Slavery done now. . . . Yes, white people promise we compensation for coming to Guiana an' they not pay up yet," added Devan. (99)

In this novel, as in his previous works, Dabydeen exhibits his poet's sensitivity to language, though it is not always seen in long, developed structures. However, here is a sampling of some of his figurative expressions: "coconut trees like bent old men about to fall" (43); "fingers like the tendrils of a plant" (27); "eyes like a thousand light bulbs" (53); "phlegm thick as glue" (110); "hair coiled like black snakes" (137); "looking like a deformed stork" (109); and "shutting his eyes like doors, to keep out the light" (109).

In An Area of Darkness, V. S. Naipaul proposes that "Indians have no descriptive gift" (87), but certainly this does not apply to Cyril Dabydeen. The opening page of The Wizard Swami is sufficient proof of his descriptive ability; here is a sample:

Devan slowly postured himself, folding his legs Buddha-style. Then, closing his eyes, he concentrated with all his power. Suddenly he imagined the houses in the village moving, houses with legs walking away. Astonished, he opened his eyes at once, got up, and rushed to the window. He saw the houses as they always were, standing on stilts, the green grass scattered about in desultory fashion, hibiscus brush unevenly forming the hedges with red flowers hanging pendulant and some waywardly protruding, vying for sunlight. Sighing with relief, he inhaled the scent of jasmine, which remained in his nostrils for a while. (5)

And there are numerous similar passages; very well-written are the descriptions of the D'Urban Park racecourse and its crowd (which manages to include tension and suspense) and of Mrs Bhairam, "an affable, short, plump woman dressed in a sari of simmering yellow; her skin had an almost lustrous texture; her face was distinctly oval, and when she smiled, it was as if her cheeks would stretch and overtake her ears. She kept up her affability all the while she talked to Devan" (56).

The Wizard Swami is fundamentally a decline-and-fall fiction, though it is not tragic, because Devan lacks self-esteem, is a poseur and mountebank, and is more manipulated than manipulating; yet at the same time it is hardly comic, even though at the conclusion Devan sees through his own pretense, recognizes the correctness of Tata's decision to leave, and sees the need for the restoration of the established social structure. The protagonist may not be the most complex individual in Guyana, but he is not a flat or static character. And his upperclass equivalent, the wealthy philanthropist Mr Bhairam Bhuraji, the sponsor of schools and temples to promote the growth of Hinduism, fails in his pursuit of political status and track glory and retreats to his house tower and the comfort of his harmonium, which is his emblem or leitmotif. But he is never in harmony with his surroundings; he is always identifying with the now-distant and forever-gone India. To his generation Hinduism had some residual meaning; to the new one, it is irrelevant. As George Lamming says in The Pleasures of Exile, "The colonized is slowly and ultimately separated from the original ground where the colonizer found him" (157). Ironically, though Mr Bhairam is well acquainted with Providence and names his horse Destiny, he never uses the word karma: it is as though he would rather not face the ultimate truth. Bhairam and Devan are interdependent yet antithetical, and Dabydeen seems to be suggesting that neither type has a role to play in the postcolonial community.

Dabydeen's second novel - again really a novella, for it is just 90 pages - is Dark Swirl (1988), a quite different work from The Wizard Swami. The author has said of it that it "perhaps is mythopoeic, though I feel that it also deals with the subterranean areas of the mind, the exploration of the 'pool of origins' and human psychology."

On the surface, Dark Swirl is a fiction about the Guyanese myth of the massacouraman, a water monster of malignant capabilities, and its role in the life of "the stranger," an unnamed Western scientist of "an indistinguishable surname" (90) who is collecting monkeys, turtles, and other wildlife in the Canje District for museums and zoos, but who would like to capture the elusive massacouraman and so achieve professional fame. Two other characters are introduced as assistants and foils: Ghulam and Josh (father and son), poor Indian residents of the coastal village locale.

Wilson Harris is quoted on the back cover of the novella as having said:

Massacouraman is a formidable Guyanese folk legend whose roots in memory and tradition are obscure. Dark Swirl is one of the first novels I have read that seeks to plumb its pertinence to all factions, groups, races, insiders, outsiders. The novel seeks to evoke an inner region lying somewhere between the science of the stranger, or outsider, and the fantasies and visions of the insider, the village folk. Before they part company, they appear to see through interchangeable eyes into the mysteries of a nature in a state of long eclipse.

Ghulam, Josh, and the scientist see the massacouraman rise up out of the waters of the creek, and they have such disconcerting dreams that they question their own and collective witness and cause Ghulam's wife, Savitri, to dissuade them from searching for any meaning in the world of myth and legend. The villagers see the white man as having brought a curse upon them and regard him as an obeah man; they blame him for their misfortunes and demand that he restore their former condition.

In a feverish dream, the scientist sees his own life in critical perspective and then feels that he has "become like one of the villagers":

The stranger was no longer a stranger in mood or spirit. His skin, at first mottled, was now healthily dark. His hard-edged pragmatism had given way to a mild openness. He no longer walked along the edge of the creek picking up objects. His odd behaviour was over, though some of the villagers wondered if he was still mad, if he'd really become different as a result of his illness. Others countered, "He just like all ahwe now. He act like we, not so?" Yet a few always recalled the reason for his presence among them. They saw him as an outsider - he'd always be that. (90)

Dreams, mirror-images of the self, symbols (especially of water and the water-creature), fear, suspicion, suspense, legend, myth, and linear development combine to produce an arresting story that ends in a fantastical climax that leaves a multitude of questions unresolved. It is more magic realism than allegory and is subject to multiple interpretations; it invites comparisons with Conrad's Heart of Darkness, some of Melville's work (especially relevant is the conclusion of "Bartleby the Scrivener"), and the fictions of Wilson Harris himself. Even the imagery of Bartleby in the Tombs is replicated when Josh sees the stranger "in a corner, rolled up like a bundle . . . He seemed so much older, but lay in an innocent posture like a child. Josh looked at the rest of the body, insignificant as driftwood" (87).

As in his earlier fiction, Dabydeen makes effective use of both dialect and Standard English to differentiate characters, but in Dark Swirl Standard English is used primarily for narration, while Creole and dialect are used in dialogue. He tends to overuse the swirl motif (influenced, perhaps, by D. H. Lawrence's "Kisses in the Train") as he did the harmonium in The Wizard Swami; and there are many keenly perceived poetic metaphors and similes.2

The story ends, like the earlier ones, without a neat and improbable closure:

The next night, alone, under a full April moon, Ghulam walked to the end of the village, looking everywhere for signs of the stranger's presence. He wanted proof one way or the other; he wasn't gullible anymore.

But he saw nothing and continued round in a circle until his path took him back to the village. But he kept remembering the stranger's face, how their torches had criss-crossed in the night, how together they had looked into the dark face of the creek, now like an indecipherable battleground old enemies had crossed. Now, indeed, it was only memory that was left; memory like an ancient, primordial imagining that surpassed the places where they had come from - Africa, India, Europe - or where they secretly yearned to return when the soil no longer seemed to accept them; memory of a nether place, like the massacouraman itself, merely reflecting the phases of the moon where all else was vanquished or simply disappeared. (92)

Clive Wyke, reviewing the book for Chimo, observed that "the concluding paragraph illustrates Dabydeen's refusal to be caught in the net of writers who invoke easy closure . . . [it] reminds us of Derrida's view of the text as a complete network of unfinished meaning."

On the evidence of these four books of fiction, it is apparent that Cyril Dabydeen is a writer of considerable versatility and inventiveness, of compassion for the marginal, migrant, or alienated individuals among us, and of a keen appreciation of the psychological and social forces that bring discomfort to the outsider, whether in the metropolitan or the peripheral environment. Whether he will be able to produce full-length novels remains to be seen; and because he is now almost fifty, one wonders whether his undoubted potential will ever be fully realized - particularly if he elects to continue to devote so much time to writing poetry.

Meanwhile, however, on the basis of his published fictions, Cyril Dabydeen deserves to be considered yet another interesting - if not major - and competent postcolonial writer, one whore Indian-Guyanese-Canadian experience is helping to develop a truly multicultural voice in contemporary prose.

Works Cited

Dabydeen, Cyril. Dark Swirl. Leeds: Peela, 1989.

- - - . Islands Lovelier than a Vision. Leeds: Peepal, 1986.

- - - . Letter. 17 November 1989.

- - - . Still Close to the Island. Ottawa: Commoner's, 1980.

- - - . The Wizard Swami. Leeds: Peepal, 1989.

- - - . To Monkey Jungle. London: Third Eye, 1988.

- - - . "West Indian Writers in Canada: Themes and Problems."

Tradition, Change, and Revolution in the Caribbean. Abstracts. Ed. Marion B. McLeod. Coral Gables: Caribbean Studies Assn., 1982. 84.

Lamming, George. The Pleasures of Exile. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1960.

Naipaul, V. S. An Area of Darkness. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

Parry, Benita. "Between Creole and Cambridge English: The Poetry of David Dabydeen." Kunapipi 10.3 (1988): 1-11.

Seymour, A. J. Foreword. Poems in Recession. By Cyril Dabydeen. Georgetown: Sadeek, 1972.

Slemon, Stephen, and Helen Tiffin. Introduction. Special Issue on Postcolonialism, Kunapipi 11.1 (1989): i-xii.

Sullivan, Rosemary. "The Multicultural Divide." This Magazine 22.1 (Mar-Apr, 1988): 24-28.

Wyke, Clive. Review of Dark Swirl. Chimo 22 (Spring 1991): 31-33.

Ryder University


1 The nations from which the characters come are Barbados, China, Jamaica, Lebanon, Poland, Turkey, Czechoslavakia, France, Hungary, Philippines, Chile, Italy, Canada, Brazil, Guyana, Puerto Rico; in addition, there are Ojibways and Eskimos.

2 In Dark Swirl we find "a faint moon like a sick face" (40); "thoughts humming like the drone of invisible nightflies" (53); "eyes as large as calabashes, teeth like spears" (59); "voices rasping like sandpaper rubbed against glass" (61); "eyes like those of an old man, with corrugated skin around them, webby eyelids like flaps" (75); and "voices clapped against his ears like the rustle of leaves from a thousand trees" . . . "like old boards crackling in intense heat" (78). It will be obvious that Dabydeen is especially observant of the eyes.

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