This novel won the 1997 Commonwealth Writer's Prize.
A statesman of Caribbean letters, Earl Lovelace is the author of five novels and many plays and essays. He lives in his native Trinidad and is presently on the faculty of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington.
In his first novel since The Wine of Astonishment (1982), Lovelace, a Trinidadian, tells the stories of two men in his native land in order to explore the plight of a legally free but not quite emancipated people. Schoolteacher Alford George and craftsman Bango Durity are very different types who share a vision of equality and unity for their compatriots. Alford, who has dedicated his professional life to preparing students to seek better opportunities off the island, realizes that he has unwittingly supported a tradition that has undermined his country and the interests of its children. A protest to the Ministry of Education leads to his involvement in politics. Meanwhile, Bango, an untutored man with the principles of a philosopher, seeks through his privately maintained children's drill team to unify the residents of his tiny community of Cascadu by offering an example of national pride. Alford and Bango's stories are told by their marvelously individuated friends, relatives and neighbors, who, by evoking the past and ancient tales of their country, try to fathom whether the two men are selfless visionaries or crazy daydreamers. Using language that's as lush as the foliage of Trinidad and dialogue as vivid as the Caribbean, Lovelace creates a parable that applies to any nation struggling with unresolved racial issues and to any people struggling to free themselves from their past. (Mar.)