The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes 1897-1991

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

Chapter 6

WRITING — TRINIDAD, 1919-1930

Back in Trinidad I resumed my reading and grew more and more eager to start writing a novel. I could not get the war out of my system, which is only another way of saying that adjusting myself to a way of life of which I knew and understood little before leaving for my school in England, was an uphill undertaking. I could not succeed in putting the war behind me by a mere act of will and could only do so by busying myself with work of a kind that would possess me wholly.

In the meantime my father, looking with alarm upon what he considered to be my idleness, and finding it an opportune moment at which to inveigle me into his provision business 1 (as, I am sure, he had long since planned), made an oblique approach to me by suggesting that I come into the business until I discovered what I wanted to do. My reply was noncommittal.

That very night it was my turn to be alarmed. My stepmother, finding me writing in my room, came in, and to my surprise, sat on a chair.

"Writing letters?" she asked.

"Yes," I said. It was easy to perceive embarrassment: the assignment was distasteful to her and she didn't quite know how best to go about it, particularly as her role was to make it appear that the suggestion she was putting to me came from her and no one else. I felt a little sorry for her and waited. I could see the inward struggle.

At last she was able to bring out what she had been sent to say: "Our church needs young people; the younger Portuguese men seem to have

-66-

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