Wilson Harris

Discoveries in reading potentially changing the course of our lives. Often revealed through intuition and pleasure while reading, "wasting" time reclined, or home from work (what is work?), or at work, or sleeping. I read the first novel from Wilson Harris's Guyana Quartet in the fall of 1998, as an assignment for a class. But I still haven't finished reading the Quartet, stopped mid-way through for years now to re-arrange these ideas (an interest in quantum physics ties Harris to the poetics of Latin American writers such as Ernesto Cardenal. Harris, however, is completely unlike any other writer.). His digressive, quantum prose is "more English than the English," while creating a space in that English for the Black, the Asian, the Indian, the mestizo. Like Walcott, or Cesaire, or Brathwaite, or Mutis, Harris has re-written Homer to fit his own Guyanese dimensions. The first novel of this quartet, Palace of the Peacock was published in 1961, two years after Harris left Guyana to live in England.


"The map of the savannahs was a dream. The names Brazil and Guyana were colonial conventions I had known from childhood. I clung to them now as to a curious necessary stone and footing, even in my dream, the ground I knew I must not relinquish. They were an actual stage, a presence, however mythical they seemed to the universal and the spiritual eye. They were as close to me as my ribs, the rivers and the flatlands, the mountains and heartland I intimately saw. I could not help cherishing my symbolic map, and my bodily prejudice like a well-known room and house of superstition within which I dwelt. I saw this kingdom of man turned into a colony and battleground of spirit, a priceless tempting jewel I dreamed I possessed.

I pored over the map of the sun my brother had given me. The river of the savannahs wound its way far into the distance until it had forgotten the open land. The dense dreaming jungle and forest emerged. Mariella dwelt above the falls in the forest. I saw the rocks bristling in the legend of the river."
{The Guyana Quartet, p. 24}


"The solid wall of trees was filled with ancient blocks of shadow and with gleaming hinges of light. Wind rustled the leafy curtains through which masks of living beard dangled as low as the water and the sun. My living eye was stunned by inversions of the brilliancy and the gloom of the forest in a deception and hollow and socket. We had armed ourselves with prospecting knives and were clearing a line as near to the river as we could."
{p. 28}

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