Literature in English
Clarke-- born in Barbados in 1934. Left for Toronto in 1955,
a year-long stay in Barbados in 1975.’
was born in Barbados in 1934 and came to Canada to attend university in
1955. He has
had a varied and distinguished career as a broadcaster, civil rights leader,
and professor. He
has published seven novels - including the "Toronto Trilogy", five short-story
including "when he was Free and Young and Used to Wear Silks", "When Women
and, more recently, "There Are No Elders - and two memoirs, "Growing Up
the Union Jack" and "A Passage Back Home". The Origin of Waves is
his eighth novel.
Austin Clarke: A Biography by Stella Algoo-Baksh was published
in 1994 and "The Austin
Clarke Reader", selected writings, in 1996. Austin Clarke lives in
Interview about his cultural and identity and "Griff!"
Isn't it a fact that there are many Canadians who are also in and out
of low-paying jobs, because they may lack motivation or formal education?
Who or what, then, is responsible for the tragic ending?
on immigrants and his cultural identity: (OS interview: Hutcheon)
68 [The protagonist in "Canadian Experience"], as you see from the flashback,
from the discussion between his father and himself. I would say that
the immigrant to some extent must bear some responsibility for his plight
in this country, but I must also say that the extent to which an immigrant
fails or is perceived to be a failure, to my mind, is determined by the
decency of the environment in which he finds himself.
his Barbadian-Canadian identity
It took me considerable time to decide to be a Canadian citizen—from
1955 until 1981—and at that time I was not going through any anxiousness
of duality; I just was not Canadian; I was Barbadian. That is not
to say that, now that I am Barbadian by nature—the best of me is Barbadian;
the best of my memories are Barbadian. …the problems of duality arise
each time there is a threat to my stability, each time there is a slur
on a whole group of persons with whom I could easily identify, each time
there is a slur on a larger group of persons with whom I politically
have to identify.Hutcheon p. 69
"In Barbados, I breathe in the smell of the soil, I taste the scandals
of the landscape. The mud through which I trample and the sand that
pours through my fingers are the roots and ruins I spoke about, ... It
does tend to make my tentative accomplishments in this country empty, and
at the same time, over-important and inflated." Clarkes speaks
about a lack of what he calls ruins and roots in the imigrants’ life, and
how that has left them like Eliot’s hollow men, whose voices are reduced
to meaningless whispering.
Themes and Patterns of his work
In many of his short stories and novels, Clarkes has dealt extensively
with the lack of roots and ruins in the lives of immigrants in Canada,
and the consequent damage to the psychological and emotional health of
these men and women.
the overall pattern of his work the choice of topics shifts from
peasant poverty in Barbados, in the earliest fiction, thence to immigrant
experiences in Canada, and finally, the probing analysis of Canadian and
Caribbean nationhood. ( Brown p. 8; see list
of his work )
the wife in "Griff"
the wife was aware of the destructiveness in the character of the husband;
but she was painted with a veneer of English gentility, part of which meant
that you do not wash your linen in public. She understood that she
had a certain, strange loyalty to this man, and that he had to be presented,
so far as her reaction to his idiosyncrasies was concerned, in a positive
manner. (Hutcheon p. 95)
Griff's sense of identity:
his conditions: contradictoroy identities -- his blackness and his
Britishness (226; 228), his not 'getting through',
his defense mechanism: his reaction to Clynn and the others.226-27;
horse race 228, his response to losing money there 229 "Money is naught
... I mastered the Form..."
Griff's complaint about Canada: uncivilizedpp. 228; 229
Griff and his wife:his treatment of his wife 227 his wife's
smile; 228; her pleasure in good dressing, good furniture 230
What is the function of dancing for Griff? For the lonely West Indians
Why is Griff upset about the Jamaican but not his friend Clynn?
for My Life"
Towards the end of the story, May goes tearfully to her friend Gertrude
to confess her "sin," about which she feels both scared and good.
Gertrude, on the other hand, claims that it is a sexual assault that May
experiences. What do you think? What do you think Clarke wants
to convey here?
May's contradictory feelings toward her master:
May's explanation: pp. 88-89 --adultery; newness and love in her. the thought
of murder the night before (p. 92); Indian blanket 92; 82-83
Gertrude's responses -- concern for her own work; 94; master and slave
The master's feelings
Why does she feel guilty in the bedroom: Covetousness? Theft?
Christian way of thinking
trying on the mistress' dresses and pantyhose p. 77
Answering a phone call
Curious about the book, The Joy of Sex
Fear of the house: its emptiness and coldness, like a tomb; a presence
Loyalty, pity and sympathy for the man
Desire for him & feeling desired pp. 79; 80
appreciative of her, but neglectful p. 80-81;
sexual desire for a colored woman 86
sense of deficiency p. 87
Gertrude vs. May:
The ironies in the scenes of sex and confession:
May -- weak, in need of help; relies on external supports such as
frying pan and house slipper;
Gertrude -- jumps into conclusion. But is she totally wrong?
too weak, too invigorated; peace, wanting to die
the words on the boxes: Confidential, pictures, Photos, Term Papers
--> signs of memory and power
May: tears p. 96
Hutcheon, Linda &
Marion Richmond, eds. Other Solitudes: Canadian Multicultural
Fictions. Toronto: Oxford UP,
Brown, Lloyd W. El
Dorado and Paradise: Canada and the Caribbean in Austin Clarke's Fiction.
Parkersburg, Iowa: Caribbean Books, 1989.
Harney, Stefano. Nationalism
and Identity: Culture and the Imagination in a Caribbean Diaspora.
London: Zed Books, 1996.
Work by Austin Clarke
Peasant poverty in Barbados: The
Surviviors of the Crossing
Amongst Thistles and Thorns
Autobiography: Growing Up Stupid Under the Union Jack
Toronto Trilogy: The Meeting Point,
of Fortune, The Bigger Light
Short Stories about Toronto:
When He Was Free and Young and He Used to Wear Silks
When Women Rule Nine Men Who Laughed
In This City There Are No Elders
Novel about going back to Barbados:
The Prime Minister A Passage Back Home
The Austin Clarke Reader
The Origin of Waves, 1997, McClelland & Stewart Inc. ISBN