The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes 1897-1991

By Michèle Levy; Alfred H. Mendes | Go to book overview

Editor's Note

The Trinidadian writer Alfred H. Mendes is best known for two novels, Pitch Lake (1934) and Black Fauns (1935), and for short stories that he wrote in the 1920s and 1930s, several of which were published in the Trinidadian journal, the Beacon, edited by Albert Gomes from March 1931 until November 1933. He began work on his autobiography in 1975, when he was already seventy-seven years old, and persevered with it for two years until physical exhaustion combined with failing memory and the suspicion that he would not find a publisher for his work, caused him to give up the project. By this stage, his account had carried him as far as the year 1940. A later draft written in 1978 covers the thirty-five years that followed. I have edited this draft into a concluding chapter that returns the reader to "Coolgardie", Mendes's home in Barbados and the departure point for his journey back through time. Apart from the opening chapters, "Madeira Prologue" and "Early Memories, 1897‐ 1912", which were typed and circulated among Mendes family members, the manuscript is handwritten, with a number of hiatuses to which Mendes evidently intended to return, together with passages needing restoration and emendation, and the usual mechanical errors.

I have edited Mendes's writing with a light touch, to preserve the feeling of a writer recovering his memories and recounting them in his own resonant voice as he becomes aware of the patterning of his life. Where the chronological sequence is slightly out, provided that the sense is unimpaired, I have contented myself with explanatory notes. Reference to the chronology should also assist the reader to place events in sequence.

Mendes was a prolific writer, with some ninety-nine short story titles to his credit. However, typescripts for a handful of these have not yet turned up, and a number of his stories have never been published. Those

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