Walcott is generally accepted as the best of the West Indian poets now writing in English and by some is ranked with the best English poets anywhere. It's difficult to judge on the basis of this long poem -- a spiritual autobiography running well over a hundred pages -- since it is so contrary in spirit to what others are currently doing. Though the setting is third world and the subject is topical (the indigenous artist evolving in a colonial context), Walcott manages to give his poem the atmosphere of a European museum, complete with chiton motifs and picturesque native exhibits. Much of this is a deliberate evocation of the other life of the title, an internalized fantasy of European grandeur to which the young poet was indoctrinated but which he has apparently not yet outgrown. Art is the overriding issue, and the focal point is the artistic soul, an intaglioed 19th century concept, romantic in temper, epic in scale. Ironically, this would probably have been fascinating as a prose memoir; but the narcissism and Miltonic plangence of the poem get tiring well before the end, and while there are moments of inordinate beauty, most readers will find the air too rare for the effort required.