“occult instability”

Hello to Jean Vengua and Lenny Mendoza Strobel. It’s exciting for me to read your comments on Wilson Harris, since his work is important to my own living and writing. I remember when I began reading his beautiful first novel, The Palace of the Peacock, five years ago here in Boston. At that time I had not returned to Venezuela in too many years, and his writing was a gift that allowed me to recover elements of my life there I had thought were lost forever.

I read his novels as epic poems that, like Derek Walcott's work, recontextualize dominant European narratives within African and Asian diasporas, alongside the autochthonic cultures that bind us in the Americas. His focus on “lo indio” in this hemisphere, particularly, was liberating, since it allowed me to write inside English, with the understanding that “Indianness” was never completely erased. And that, in fact, English could not survive without the “Indian.” Despite the genocidal impulses of modernity, postmodernity.

His writing seems to thrive on the history of interrelation among those of us “colonials” who have survived centuries of war. Francisco Bone, in Jonestown, inhabits his “ghost” body as a lament and as an archive that is fully updated and alive. We are blessed to share these spaces with Wilson Harris.


“This meditation by the great Guyanese writer Wilson Harris on the void of misgiving in the textuality of colonial history reveals the cultural and historical dimension of that Third Space of enunciations which I have made the precondition for the articulation of cultural difference. He sees it as accompanying the ‘assimilation of contraries’ and creating that occult instability which presages powerful cultural changes. It is significant that the productive capacities of this Third Space have a colonial or postcolonial provenance. For a willingness to descend into that alien territory—where I have led you—may reveal that the theoretical recognition of the split-space of enunciation may open the way to conceptualizing an international culture, based not on the exoticism of multiculturalism or the diversity of cultures, but on the inscription and articulation of culture’s hybridity. To that end we should remember that it is the ‘inter’—the cutting edge of translation and negotiation, the in-between space—that carries the burden of the meaning of culture.”

{Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture, 1994}

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