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This review is taken from PN Review 24, Volume 8 Number 4, March - April 1982.

EXTENDING THE DEMOTIC Derek Walcott, Remembrance and Pantomine (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) £8.50

Derek Walcott has for some time now had recognition. More, probably, in America than here, but we are still aware that the claims for 'international stature' have already been made, both of the poetry and the plays. And stature is what the plays (far more than the poems) very clearly and impressively have. Only, 'international' is a crassly empty assessment of work that presents principally through its vigorous sense of locality, thematic and verbal. It is as Trinidadian as Synge's Playboy is Irish and Walcott draws strength from a similar awareness that the happy ages in literature' have been those when common speech was most colourful and impulsive.

Both plays in this volume ride on the issue of a divided culture. In Remembrance it's the two sides to the one man; the retired schoolmaster's literary English dreamworld unresolveable with the life and nation to which he cannot help belonging, that has killed his son, made him too mixed-up to marry the English-woman he was in love with and which his wife brings home with the shark sandwich: 'I have to stand up in my alpagartas listening to Harry tell me about his boxing career, cooking with his hat on, asking me in front of all them rum drinkers and street-cleaners "How's the Professor, Mrs J.?" ' The second play, Pantomime, divides the dialectic between its cast of two, an English ex-actor hotel proprietor and his Jamaican waiter/ factotum. They improvise a reverse version of Robinson Crusoe as ...


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