Reading the Shape of the World: Toward An International Cultural Studies

By Henry Schwarz; Richard Dienst | Go to book overview

10
"Invented" Histories:
Cultural Production in
George Lamming's Season of Adventure

SUPRIYA NAIR

This book is based upon facts of experience, and it is intended as an introduction to a dialogue between you and me . . . Magic is permissible. Indeed, any method of presentation may be used. There is one exception. Don't tell lies. From time to time, the truth may go into hiding; but don't tell lies.

-- George Lamming, The Pleasures of Exile

Such a mass of ignorance and falsehood has surrounded these islands for so many centuries that obvious truths sound like revelations.

-- C. L.R. James, The Black Jacobins

IN A LECTURE READ to the University of Miami American Assembly on the United States and the Caribbean in April 1973, Derek Walcott made what at first seems a startling claim: "In the Caribbean history is irrelevant, not because it is not being created, or because it was sordid, but because it has never mattered; what has mattered is the loss of history, the amnesia of the races, what has become necessary is imagination, imagination as necessity, as invention." 1

Walcott's statement seems to echo the disavowal of native history asserted in colonialist historiography. However, his valorization of what stands in place of history -- "imagination as necessity, as invention" -- suggests that it is precisely the claims of colonialist historiography that he is refuting. Walcott's apparent dismissal of Caribbean history addresses the issue not of historicity but of historiography. The writing of colonial history has not been devoid of mythification, of

-167-

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