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132 the minnesota review REVIEWS Bonnie J. Barthold. Black Time: Fiction ofAfrica, the Caribbean, and the United States. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1981. ? + 209 pp. $17.50. O.R. Dathorne. Dark Ancestor: The Literature ofthe Black Man in the Caribbean. Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1981. ? + 288 pp. $20.00. In a very brief epilogue to Black Time, Bonnie J. Barthold complains that, up to the present time, "the analysis of black fiction has been characterized by fragmentation, both geographic and ideological in nature." I think that she rather misuses the term "ideological" (it turns out to refer to some critics who stress "form," other critics who stress "content," thus fragmenting, on one side or the other, their discussion of the literature), but it is the other, the "geographic," fragmentation that is more to the point here. "For the most part," she maintains, "attention has been confined to Africa or the United States or the Caribbean," and she cites one book of each kind to support her contention : Eustace Palmer's Introduction to the African Novel; Robert Bone's The Negro Novel in America; and Kenneth Ramchand's The West Indian Novel and Its Background. That this is not the whole truth, Barthold is doubtless aware, and that there are some transnational and trans-geographic studies is well known to anyone familiar with Janheinz Jahn's name and his work on "Neo-African" literature and culture; but few people, I imagine , would quarrel with Barthold's generalization or consider it less than fair. It is presumably to fill this felt gap that we now have before us not only Barthold's own Black Time but also O. R. Dathorne's Dark Ancestor which, though its subtitle would seem to restrict it to one of Barthold's three, in fact deals not only with Caribbean writing but also, to an extent, with Afro-American writing as well, and it traces the roots of Caribbean thought and literature and the roots of "New World" man generally back to their sources in Africa. If Barthold is right, however, to argue that the absence of a trans-Atlantic and pan-New World consideration of black writing is a serious omission, neither of the present books, unfortunately, can be said to do very much to repair the lack. The structure of Black Time is reasonable enough; the problem of the book, it seems to me, comes with the thesis itself and the way in which the author goes about developing and demonstrating that thesis. Part 1 argues that different concepts of time prevail in Africa and in the Western world and that the modern black, whether of Africa or of the West, finds himself caught between the cyclical, mythic, communal sense of time held by Africa and the linear, historic, individual sense of time held by the West. One may find the argument of Part 1, Uke the Uttle diagram reproduced several times, rather too simplistic, but in a general way one would not dispute the notion that time in Africa and time in the West are really very different one from the other. Part 2, by crisscrossing freely between African, Afro-American, and Caribbean writing, attempts to demonstrate that the various conflicts of black fiction are at bottom all related to this wrenching from one time scheme into another. It is here, in Part 2, that all sorts of problems arise and to some of them I will return later. Part 3 is a quite separate and undirected — undirected because of the frailty of the thesis presented in the first two parts — discussion of what the author chooses to call "seven representative novels": Achebe's Arrow of God, Lamming's In the Castle ofMy Skin, Toomer's Cane, Attaway's Blood on the Forge, Annan's Why Are We So Blest?, Morrison's Song ofSolomon, and Soyinka's Season ofAnomy. Each of these novels may indeed be representative of something, but what Barthold signally fails to demonstrate — and the failure really goes back to her earlier failure to work out a clear, consistent, and persuasive thesis — is that they all are representations, thematically and structurally, of a sense...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 132-136
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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