A new Trinidadian novel tries a new approach to the traditionally vexed Carribean relationship to history
History, Frederic Jameson wrote, is what hurts. For Caribbean writers of the 20th century, it seemed to hurt with an acute and doubled intensity. In 1977, the Jamaican poet and scholar Edward Baugh identified a longstanding Caribbean “quarrel with history,” and 20th-century writing from the region bears out his claim. For C.L.R. James, Caribbean history “consists of a series of unco-ordinated periods of drift, punctured by spurts, leaps, and catastrophes.” In his infamous screed The Middle Passage, V.S. Naipaul asserts, “History is built around achievement and creation; and nothing was created in the West Indies.” Caribbean history hurts not simply because this history is one of excessive wounding—the painful history of colonization, genocide, slavery, indentured servitude, and so on—but because the trauma of this history is so much that history itself appears as something Caribbean people cannot make or have. History hurts doubly, in other words, when history is just another way of naming historylessness.