When South African–born Peter Abrahams moved to Jamaica in 1956, he thought he had found a racial paradise. Over the next six decades as a Jamaican, his understanding of race in Jamaica was complicated after independence. His last two novels—This Island Now (1966) and The View from Coyaba (1985)—fictionalize the transition to independence in the anglophone Caribbean and how that transition related to the set of concerns unfolding across the rest of the black world. This essay traces Abrahams’s thought on questions of race and decolonization through a close reading of his Caribbean fiction and how he came to theorize the literal and conceptual space of the Caribbean—the island—as a strategy for freedom. In so doing, the author asks, What are the limits of the Caribbean novel of the era of decolonization (1960s–80s) in the anglophone Caribbean? What constitutes it? And how does it articulate liberation?
Peter Abrahams’s Island Fictions for Freedom
Victoria J. Collis-Buthelezi is a senior lecturer in English at the University of Johannesburg. She is also a senior research fellow at the Johannesburg Institute of Advanced Studies and a research associate at the Institute for Research in African American Studies, Columbia University. Some of her work on black intellectual and literary histories has appeared in Callaloo, Small Axe, boundary2, and the Journal of Arts and the Humanities.
Victoria J. Collis-Buthelezi; Peter Abrahams’s Island Fictions for Freedom. Small Axe 1 March 2021; 25 (1 (64)): 84–101. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-8912789
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