Lovelace and Antoni offer a “subversive” take on island culture to complement the 21st-century look at Trinidad offered by Lisa Allen-Agostini and Jeanne Mason’s Trinidad Noir (2008).
The editors take what at first blush looks like a historical perspective, starting with stories out of Trinidad’s colonial past, like C.L.R. James’ “La Divina Pastora,” Michael Anthony’s “The Valley of Cocoa,” and Harold Sonny Ladoo’s “The Quiet Peasant,” which emphasize the rural landscape. But Trinidadians are eager to stray from their pastoral roots. In editor Lovelace’s “Joebell and America,” a gambler yearns to seek his fortune in the States. In Ismith Khan’s “Uncle Zoltan,” an expat returns to Port of Spain only to be confronted by his father’s formidable brother. In “The Cricket Match,” Samuel Selvon shows what happens when Trinidadians bring the island’s favorite game to London. As their nation moves from colonial rule, Trinidadians discover that what’s new is old again. They work hard for scant gain, as Jennifer Rahim shows in “Songster.” Too often, their efforts come up empty, as in Willi Chen’s “Assam’s Iron Chest.” And in the end, the madness of Barbara Jenkins’ contemporary “Ghost Story” harks back to V.S. Naipaul’s chilling colonial-era “Man-man.”
Whether history repeats itself or progress is stalled by people’s infinite capacity to get in their own ways, these 19 reprinted tales offer a bittersweet perspective on the cussedness of human nature.