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This article is taken from PN Review 269, Volume 49 Number 3, January - February 2023.

Islands on the Road Anthony Vahni Capildeo
This talk was written at the invitation of Singapore Unbound and sponsored by PN Review. It was conceived as the Opening Address for the 5th biennial Singapore Literature Festival in NYC. Unexpected circumstances prevented Capildeo from delivering the talk in person, but here it is in print.


Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival famously is a time that the dead enjoy. They can dance among the living. But what transformations do the living manifest, on the common roads they are keeping open through fusion and conflict, commercialism and protest? Some islanders flee Carnival, even as those in the diaspora ‘return’ to the island. How to read the spaces in the dance? Capildeo draws on their experience of traditional masquerade (Fancy Sailor), to draw wisdom from the road, considering the archipelagic radiations from the figure of the masquerader, and inferring models for literary creativity.



Islands on the Road


Imagine that a sentence is a road. No, not a sentence. A sentence is not enough. Imagine that the words spoken to you during a week, the words overheard by you during a week, are a road. No, not a week. Imagine that the words of a lifetime are a road; that the words which you cannot pronounce but that come to you in dreams, ringing out as clearly as bamboo cracking, are a road. Where are these words from? From the ancestors, from the lawmakers, from the murderers, from the masqueraders, from the people who came in ships, from the people who sprung from the land, for the people beneath the ...


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