Hosting History:
Wilson Harris's Sacramental Narratives


Samuel Durrant

University of Leeds

Copyright © 2000 by Samuel Durrant, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.

    And this--as I see it--is also the role of the author within his ancestral background: he is the complex ghost of his own landscape of history or work. To put it another way, his poem or novel is subsistence of memory.

    Wilson Harris, "Interior of the Novel"

    ‘There is always a coming storm,’ said Len. ‘Some unexpected bloody uprising or act of terror . . . When I consume a portion of the morsel cooking in the sun, I lift the storm into sacramental alignment with humanity. I invite humanity to summon all its resources of creative foresight and to punch a hole in the coming storm. Thereby it may find a way through the storm. It may diminish the well-nigh overwhelming proportions of the coming storm. But also, in consuming a perpetual morsel, a savaged morsel, a universal morsel, I am able to take you back, Leonardo--within the parameters of eternity--to the year 1519.

    Wilson Harris, Resurrection at Sorrow Hill

  1. Wilson Harris’ prolific fictional output is best understood, I would argue, as a repeated rite of memorialisation. Inviting us to consume the past as sacrament or "universal morsel," his work leads us to acknowledge our implication in the violence and oppression that constitute the history of modernity. His work strives to bring into being what he refers to as a new "corpus of sensibility" ("History, Fable and Myth" 27), a sense of community in which individuals are bound together not by a common cultural inheritance but by a collective experience of loss and by a shared sense of responsibility for this loss. Instead of reclaiming a cultural heritage in order to (re)construct a particular version of Caribbean identity, Harris’ hosting of history unhinges the subject in an attempt to bear witness to the spectral presence of the cultures and civilisations that colonialism has rendered "immaterial." In place of the subject-centred politics of reclamation that characterise so many theories of multiculturalism, Harris offers us an other-orientated politics of relation.

  2. My epigraphs suggest two of the ways in which this hosting of history takes place, two of the ways in which Harris’ work negotiates its relation to the immaterial. Harris’s description of himself as "the complex ghost of his own landscape of history or work" indicates his desire to distance himself from the canonical conception of the author as sovereign subject, as the sole origin and guarantor of the work’s meaning. For Harris, writing is the process of allowing one’s individual personality or "bias" to be absorbed into the imaginative "landscape" of the work, a landscape that is itself drawn directly from the cultural history that forms the writer’s "ancestral background." As the host organism, the author is ‘consumed’ by that which he creates. This idiosyncratic version of the death of the author includes the possibility of an authorial ‘afterlife’ as the spirit or spectre of his own work. Harris’ relation to his work thus comes to parallel that of his ancestors to the present. In aligning himself with that which haunts "his own landscape of history," he too becomes "immaterial." His own spectrality or lack of substance becomes a way of remembering--bearing witness to--the absent presence of his ancestors.

  3. But Harris also hosts history by rendering the immaterial material, by transforming history into the sacramental Host. In my second epigraph, the "morsel cooking in the sun" is the corpse of a child-revolutionary in whose death Len--the schizophrenic double of Leonardo da Vinci and thus the representative of technological modernity--feels implicated. Len’s consumption of this morsel parallels a number of religious rites of remembrance: the Carib practice of consuming a ritual morsel of a slain enemy and then fashioning a flute out of the bones, the Homeric nekuia, in which Odysseus slaughters a lamb and a ewe and invites the dead to come and drink of the blood, and, of course, the Christian Eucharist. In all three rituals, spirit becomes matter, and in consuming this sacred matter, the living become invested with the spirit of the dead. In the Carib ritual, the participants digest the enemy’s secrets along with his flesh and then give voice to his spirit by playing the bone-flute ("A Note on the Genesis of The Guyana Quartet" 9). In the nekuia, the sacrificial blood lends dead spirits substance and definition and enables Tiresias to voice the will of the gods. And in the Eucharist, the communicants become one with Christ’s spirit by consuming His body. All three rites of remembrance are acts of homage and piety, recognitions of responsibility for the past that are also directed towards the future: Caribs hope to appease the spirit of the slain; Odysseus, condemned to wander the seas after blinding Poseidon’s son, Polyphemos, is rewarded for his act of piety with the prophecy that he will eventually be allowed to return home to Ithaca; and Christians acknowledge their complicity in the death of Christ in the hope of salvation. Harris’ own invocation or conjuration of the dead is also, I would argue, directed towards both the past and the future, and needs to be seen as a similar attempt to secure a promise or prophecy of redemption. Like these religious offerings, Harris’ literary offerings are acts of humility. Like Odysseus, he pays homage to the spirits of the past in order, as he writes in Resurrection at Sorrow Hill, "to find a way through the coming storm" (137).

  4. On the one hand, then, to host history is to pacify the authorial subject, to literalise the model of the generous, self-effacing host who, like Christ at the Last Supper, invites his guests to participate in his own consumption. On the other, to host history is to activate the object, to give life or voice to the dead. Both modes of hosting move towards what linguists refer to as the "middle voice," a voice that precisely delineates the passionate activity of bearing witness. The activity of narration thus becomes, for Harris, a mode of suffering, not just the recounting of an event but an event in itself, the site of a transformation of history. For Harris, to bear witness to history is to redeem it. Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s use of Tiresias in The Waste Land, Harris repeatedly adopts (and parodically adapts) the persona of the Greek seer. By taking up the empathic position of someone who has "foresuffered all" (The Waste Land 243), Harris is able to invest the events he witnesses with a sacred significance. However, while Eliot recognises pagan rituals merely as precursors to Christianity, Harris’ less Eurocentric sense of history produces a more truly eclectic, cross-cultural sense of the sacred, one that refuses to confine itself to specific dogma or creed. Elsewhere, I have looked at the significance of mourning in the novels of the South African writer, J. M Coetzee. [1] While we are perhaps familiar with the secular--deconstructive and psychoanalytic--accounts of memory that underwrite the work of a writer such as Coetzee, it seems to me to be instructive to examine the work of a writer who explicitly and unashamedly embraces the sacred dimensions of memory without ignoring its political dimensions.

  5. For Harris, then, to host history is to offer humanity "the ghost of a chance" of redemption.[2] This phrase recurs at critical disjunctures--moments when the past seems to return to interrupt the present--in all four of the novellas that make up his earliest and most well-known collection, The Guyana Quartet. In all but the first of these novellas, the spirit of the dispossessed returns in order to offer the community of the living the chance to acknowledge their indebtedness. It returns as Oudin in The Far Journey of Oudin, the double of the murdered heir to a coastal plantation; as Cristo in The Whole Armour, who reemerges from the jungle bearing the coat of the mythical jaguar and the memory of "every black ancestor and bloodless ghost" in South America (343); and as Poseidon in The Secret Ladder, the ancient leader of a group of maroons (runaway slaves) who returns after his own death to avert further bloodshed, and to remind both his maroons and the surveying crew who plan to flood their land both of "the ghost of responsibility" (463) and of their responsibility towards ghosts. These three figures function as the sacrificial Host, indeed as Christ himself: Oudin’s status as the murdered heir to a plantation recalls Christ’s parable of the tenants, in which the tenants of a vineyard murder the owner’s son rather than pay their dues (Luke 20: 9-16); Cristo’s name presages his own trial and death for crimes of which he is innocent; and Poseidon is "hooked and nailed" to a "secret ladder of conscience" (371). Their deaths restage historical acts of murder and dispossession and thereby (re)politicise the (pre-)Christian ritual by turning it into a mode of historical consciousness/ conscience.

  6. However, in Palace of the Peacock it is the narrator or Dreamer who offers "the ghost of a chance" of redemption, returning to the world of the dead in order to replay a colonising voyage up-river and present the crew with a chance of "changing [their] ways" (51). If the plot structure of the other novellas emphasises the hosting or presencing of the immaterial, Palace of the Peacock emphasises the spectral role of the author as the host imagination. By figuring the narrator, rather than a character internal to the narrative, as the redemptive spectral presence, Harris foregrounds both the role of the artist as "the complex ghost of his own landscape or work" and the act of narration as a creative repetition of history. His presence as witness is, I shall argue, the difference within the repetition, that which enables history to redeem itself.[3]

  7. In the sections that follow I explore the critical debate over the nature of Harris’ dialectic of remembrance, examine two of Harris’ essays on art as a mode of historical witness, and offer a (re)reading of Palace of the Peacock. If, as many critics have noted, Harris’ later works returns obsessively to this first break-through novel, it is because its emphasis on the act of narration anticipates the metafictional orientation of his later work. While the basic mythic plot structure of sacrifice and redemption remains the same throughout Harris’ oeuvre, it is the act of narration itself that increasingly becomes the focus of his novelistic energies, lending each repetition its (re)creative difference. The proliferation of narratorial personae that characterises Harris’ later work thus testifies to Harris’ generosity as host, to the endlessness of his desire to bear witness to history.

  8. Harris’ novels often seem -- at least from a European, post-Holocaust perspective -- peculiarly anachronistic. Harris and his most sympathetic critic/champion, Hena Maes-Jelinek, have been keen to point out the difference between Harris’ explicitly sacred conception of his art and what they (perhaps too hastily) dismiss as the "spiritual dead-end" of existentialism and/or postmodernism.[4] However, it is important to recognise that Harris’ work is a response to the same apocalyptic vision of history that underlies the work of, say, Samuel Beckett or Thomas Pynchon. Harris conceives of his art as an act of faith fully aware that history itself provides no such ground for the maintenance of faith. To put it another way, it is precisely his awareness of contemporary crisis, his sense of history as catastrophe, that leads him to argue the importance of an art of redemption.

  9. At the beginning of one of his latest novels, Resurrection at Sorrow Hill, Harris has his narrator dramatise and defend his narration as an act of faith. Although--or rather precisely because--he recognises that the community under Sorrow Hill exists "virtually . . . without a future," he sees it as the artist’s role to "visualize the Shadow of resurrection . . . as a numinous embodiment of potential creativity in the community" (9): "I did not deceive myself. I knew how disadvantaged the people were. And yet in my dreams it was as if Daemon had sculpted the poor world under Sorrow Hill into a staff upon which the creative genius of space leaned for support. Impossible, some would say" (9-10). Harris thus presents his fiction not as escapist fantasy but as a mode of confronting the sorry state of the world that nevertheless affirms the potential for recreation (in both senses of the word). Daemon, who is thrown into a state of melancholic despair by the drowning of his pregnant wife, must be taught how to ‘play’ with history. Later on in the novel, Len’s "telescopic memory" is able to retrieve an image of Daemon’s wife and child from "the rapids of history" (135). The explicit aim of Len’s "Sorrow Hill cinema" (135), and of the restaging of history that takes place throughout the novel, is not so much to deny that which has taken place as to bring about an alteration of perspective, to cure Daemon of his despair by making him see history differently, that is, transfigured by faith or Hope (the name of one of the narrators).

  10. Almost all of Harris’ critics have sensed a dialectical element in this re-visioning of history. However, critical confusion reigns over the exact nature of this dialectic. Many critics present Harris’ work in terms of the union of contraries, a structure Michael Gilkes has traced back to Harris’ interest in medieval alchemy and Jungian archetypes. However, both these models suggest a marriage of pre-constituted, and thus undialectical, terms. Because neither theory accounts for the subject’s relation to the world or to history, the unfortunate effect of Gilkes’ analysis is to reduce Harris’ narratives to a static, ahistorical formula.

  11. In one of the only other book length study of Harris’ work, Sandra Drake relates Harris’ project to deconstruction. Derrida’s recent emphasis, in, for instance, Spectres of Marx (written well after Drake’s study) on the ethical importance of recognising one’s debt to the "not-present" is certainly close to Harris’ emphasis on the importance of bearing witness to the "immaterial" and during the course of this essay I shall attempt to highlight some of the places where their projects--in particular their thoughts concerning spectrality and mourning--appear to converge. However, while there are many similarities between the two writers, I would have to agree with Maes-Jelinek that their projects are ultimately divergent.[5] This is not, as Maes-Jelinek claims (in my view, mistakenly), because Derrida tends to "fall back on the text or on language as the only reality" ("Ambivalent Clio" 96), but because there is a crucial difference between Derrida’s desire to develop a mode of bearing witness to history that is free from "metaphysico-religious determination" (Spectres of Marx 89) and Harris’ explicitly sacred understanding of bearing witness. Drake’s failure to register this difference leads to an uneasy avoidance of the spiritual aspect of Harris’ work, to the highly unconvincing argument that Palace of the Peacock, for instance, "is not really a tale of either salvation or redemption" (68).

  12. Jeremy Poynting and Gregory Shaw, by contrast, are all too aware of what they describe as Harris’ "metaphysics." Poynting argues that "far from showing the spiritual and material in necessary interpenetration, the radical import of [The Far Journey of Oudin] is frequently undermined by its metaphysical idealism" (126). Alerted to the fact that Harris was "never without several volumes of Hegel" during his time in the Guyanese interior (Shaw 147), Shaw argues that Harris’ fiction operates according to a Hegelian dialectic in which the material is progressively overcome, even conquered, by the progress of World Spirit. Shaw’s description of Harris’ use of language is a fine one:
    The Harrisian word, the Harrisian image, tend to possess a peculiarly dialectical quality of negating themselves. . . . The impression is of a reduction or subtilising of matter to its most extreme or visionary form, matter stretched or attenuated to breaking point, dissolved or atomised, as it were. . . . Images crumble, shift, dissolve and coalesce in strange combinations . . . reflecting a universe in the process of becoming. (147)
    Although this is an accurate micro-description of what happens at one level of Harris’ work, Shaw’s analysis is less convincing in its argument concerning the overall purpose of this attenuation of matter. For Shaw, the ultimate consequence of Harris’ dialectic is a "drive towards abstraction" (142), a narcissistic absorption of the world into the consciousness of the artist: "Just as in Hegel the quest of spirit culminates in the absolute consciousness of the philosopher, so in the typical Harris novel the hero’s quest culminates in the apotheosis of the artist who is the embodiment of that self-same spirit" (148). But this reading of Hegel as idealist ignores the logic of mediation that a more "materialist" reading of Hegel might have brought out and which is at the heart of Harris’ process of hosting history. What Shaw sees as the apotheosis of the artist might equally well be described as the sublation of the artist within his material. When Harris describes himself as the ghost of his own work he may have in mind Hegel’s own conception of spirit: "This spirit is consciousness but it is also the object of consciousness . . . this then is how the spirit acquires a content; it does not find a content outside itself, but makes itself its own object and content" (47).

  13. However, Harris’ awareness of the "immaterial," of that which is erased or forgotten in the name of historical progress, is emphatically ‘unHegelian.’ Andrew Benjamin’s argument that Harris’ texts enact a Nietzschean process of becoming is altogether more convincing, not least because Nietzsche developed his thought of eternal return in explicit opposition to Hegel’s idea of dialectical progression which, Nietzsche argued, "transforms every moment into a naked admiration for success" ("On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life" 105). For Benjamin, the Harrisian narrative enacts the perpetual becoming of history by "crumbling" the static, continuous time in which history is usually conceived. What Shaw sees as Harris’ "subtilising of matter" may in fact be closer to Nietzsche’s destruction of appearance. Benjamin’s argument exists in a critical vacuum in so far as he makes no reference to other critics and their interpretations of Harris’ ‘dialectic,’ and in so far as no other critics have made reference to his argument. My discussion seeks to extend Benjamin’s insights by relating Nietzsche’s thought of eternal return to his earlier idea of critical history and by relating both to the process of hosting history that I would argue characterises Harris’ entire oeuvre.

  14. Harris’ hosting of history is not so much a dialectical resolution of the subject-object split as a refusal of the validity of the distinction between the two. Whereas Hegel’s concept of dialectical progression is, at least in the first instance, a rational positing of the world as the object of contemplation, Nietzsche’s thought of eternal return is not so much a concept--grounded in rational logic--as an intuition or experience. Eternal return is not a thought about existence but a thought that itself transforms existence. For Nietzsche, the artist’s relation to the world is exemplary of this non-rational thought because art is an experiencing, rather than a contemplation, of life. The "complex mutuality"("Adversarial Contexts" 127) that I have attempted to evoke in my description of Harris’ work as a hosting of history is also suggested by Nietzsche’s description of "the world as a work of art that attempts to give birth to itself" (The Will to Power 796 qtd. in Stambaugh 82). Art, for Nietzsche, is an experience that the artist and the world mutually undergo: "man becomes the transfigurer of existence when he learns to transfigure himself" (The Will to Power 820, qtd. in Stambaugh 82). Although Nietzsche is often thought of as the harbinger of "postmodern scepticism" and even--erroneously--of nihilism, his view of art as the "transfiguration and affirmation of human existence" (Stambaugh 82) is in fact closely related to Harris’ conception of his art. Both writers understand art as having a sacred function, but one that is opposed to, rather than grounded in, the dogma of institutionalised religion. As Harris puts it, his art is "a fiction in dialogue with the sacred . . . that breaches, however . . . fanatical creed, fanatical absolute" ("Imagination, Dead, Imagine" 185).

  15. Benjamin argues that Harris’ artistic practice of infinite rehearsal, like Nietzsche’s thought of eternal return, constitutes a transvaluation of history that attempts to move beyond both redemptive nostalgia and the nihilism of historical determinism. Bearing in mind my emphasis on the sacred dimensions of Harris’ understanding of bearing witness, one might be tempted to argue that Harris’ work falls back into a mode of redemptive nostalgia. However, Nietzsche’s polemic is directed against the Christian nostalgia for a "back-world." For Nietzsche, Christianity is itself a form of nihilism in that its valorisation of heaven inevitably betrays a contempt for the world, a desire to escape the burden of existence. Harris’ polemic against what he sees as postmodern nihilism, like Nietzsche’s polemic against the Christian doctrine of contemptus mundi, is motivated by the same desire to affirm the possibility of transformation in this world rather than the next.

  16. To see Harris’ work as an affirmation of existence that moves beyond both fixed religious creeds and nihilism is to gain an insight into its anachronistic--or to use Nietzsche’s word, untimely--impact. It is precisely this sense of Harris’ untimeliness that is missing from Paul Sharrad’s "The Art of Memory and the Liberation of History: Wilson Harris’s Witnessing of Time." Sharrad argues that Harris’ conception of his art as a mode of witnessing history is indebted to his interest in the medieval ars memoria, and specifically to the memory plays of Giulio Camillo, which endlessly recombined units of memory in order to arrive at a picture of "the whole of history remembered from above, as it were" (Yates 212, qtd. in Sharrad 117). To gain such a view of history would be to know the mind of God. However, by exclusively emphasising Harris’ debt to the ars memoria, Sharrad neglects to approach the problem of Harris’ contemporaneity: what does it mean to witness history "from above" in a secular age?[6] How might a medieval world view offer what Sharrad describes as "a genuinely radical liberation for a post-colonial world" (124)? The radical import of Harris’ witnessing of history only becomes clear if one registers its untimeliness, its status as a post- rather than pre-secular mode of remembrance.[7]

  17. In his essay "On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life," Nietzsche distinguishes between three modes of history that might be practised in the interests of life: the monumental, the antiquarian and the critical.[8] It is the last mode, which anticipates in some respects his later thought of eternal return, that seems to me to provide the clearest description of Harris’ own project. "If he is to live," Nietzsche writes, "man must possess and from time to time employ the strength to break up and dissolve a part of the past" (75). Critical history wants to be "clear as to how unjust the existence of anything--a privilege, a cast, a dynasty--is, and how greatly this thing deserves to perish" (76). Like Harris’ narratives, in which "one relives and reverses the given conditions of the past" ("Tradition" 36), critical history directs itself against historical determinism by constructing a fantasy past: "it is the attempt to give oneself, as it were a posteriori, a past in which one would like to originate in opposition to that in which one did originate" (76). Critical history is nothing less than the attempt to change human nature, the attempt "to confront our inherited nature with our knowledge and through a stern new discipline combat our inborn heritage and implant in ourselves a new habit, a new instinct, a second nature so that our first nature withers away" (76). Critical history is related to eternal return in that both modes of repetition are an attempt to recover what Nietzsche terms the innocence of becoming. Harris’ recourse to myth is "untimely" precisely in order to free us from what he terms "the fixed conceptions" of our time.

  18. It is possible to see Nietzsche’s thought of eternal return as a prototype of Freud’s principle of working through. In both cases, some form of release from, or overcoming of, time is achieved by becoming conscious of a cycle of repetition. Both theories offer a way out of helplessness, passivity and determinism not by asserting the possibility of free will and autonomy but simply by recognising the pattern of events in which one is caught. Nietzsche’s insight that "the fact of consciousness itself alters the character of recurrence" (Stambaugh 34) is also Freud’s. One might say that both Nietzsche’s thought of eternal return and Harris’ practice of infinite rehearsal thus constitute ways of working through history, ways of overcoming the fatalistic, life-denying relation to time that is associated with melancholia and despair. In Harris’ work, the Tiresian practice of "foresuffering all" is transformed into carnival: the despairing, tragic figure of Tiresias in The Waste Land becomes the comedic grandmother of Hope in Resurrection at Sorrow Hill, a shaman in a " giant Arawak head-dress," "a creature of sublime (however absurd) masquerade" (6). Harris’ novels might thus be described as a kind of cheerful or "gay" (to use the Nietzschean term) mourning, a mourning performed in the interests of life.

  19. Cheerfulness is both the tenor and the ethic of Harris’ essays on how the radical loss of culture engendered by slavery and colonialism might be transformed into the ground of a new cross-cultural sensibility. I want to pause to consider two of Harris’ early essays, "History, Fable and Myth in the Caribbean and the Guianas" and "Interior of the Novel: Amerindian/African/European Relations," for what they have to say about the relationship between literature and traumatic cultural memory, a topic that has recently received a lot of critical attention.[9]

  20. The former essay starts out by rejecting the teleological perspective of modernity that governs both James Froude’s (in)famous assertion of the historyless, culturally impoverished state of the Caribbean and the attempt by his contemporary, J.J. Thomas, to rebut Froude’s assertion. For Harris, both writers ignore the "primitive manifestations [of culture] which signified for them a ‘relapse into obeahism, devil-worship and children eating’" (24). To Harris, these "primitive manifestations" are "the epic stratagems available to Caribbean man in the dilemmas of history which surround him," resources that enable the Caribbean writer to bring into being a "Caribbean architecture of consciousness"(25).

  21. Harris’ argument here is not the conventional nationalist argument that the postcolonial writer is able to construct a sense of identity by drawing on an indigenous cultural tradition. For Harris, it is precisely the discontinuous nature of the Caribbean cultural inheritance--whether indigenous or imported--that enables the Caribbean writer to confront "the dilemmas of history that surround him" (25). In Specters of Marx, Derrida writes: "To bear witness would be to bear witness to what we are in so far as we inherit, and that--here is the circle, here is the chance or the finitude--we inherit the very thing that allows us to bear witness to it" (54). In other words, one’s cultural inheritance provides the very means of bearing witness to it; one inherits that which allows one to pay one’s debt to the past. But what happens if a community is deprived of its cultural inheritance, its ability to remember its own ancestors? This is the implicit question behind Harris’ exploration of limbo dancing and the "possession trances" of Haitian vodun, rites of disinheritance that bear witness not to the richness of Caribbean culture but to a loss of culture, to the historyless void of the Middle Passage. The movements of the limbo dancer physically recall the way in which "the slaves contorted themselves into human spiders" in the cramped conditions on board the slave ships. Similarly, Haitian and other forms of Caribbean vodun also bear witness to the dislocation of the Middle Passage precisely because, unlike African forms of vodun, they cannot make a direct appeal to the tribal ancestors (33). Both limbo and vodun are "gateways" not to an African cultural plenitude but to a collective experience of loss; they do not so much recover an African tradition as remember a severance from that tradition.

  22. However, for Harris, such rituals are nevertheless cathartic; they constitute "a profound art of compensation which seeks to replay a dis-memberment of the tribe . . . and to invoke at the same time a curious psychic reassembly of the parts of the dead muse and god" (28; emphasis added). Harris makes a virtue out of the way in which the slave-trade deliberately dispersed members of the same tribe. While African vodun is "a school of ancestors," Haitian vodun "breaks the tribal monolith of the past and reassembles an inter-tribal or cross-cultural community of families" (33). Harris’ interest in myths of dismembering and re-membering a tribal god parallels Nietzsche’s interest in Dionysus in The Birth of Tragedy. For both writers, such myths imply the possibility of a (re)creative destruction. This belief in the recreative power of art allows Harris to rewrite rituals of disjuncture and dispossession as cross-cultural bricolage, as the "renascence of a new corpus of sensibility [the pun draws attention to the physical process of re-membering the tribal god] that could translate and accommodate African and other legacies within a new architecture of cultures"(27).

  23. In "Interior of the Novel," the emphasis shifts from the ‘pagan’ logic of re-membering the "corpus" to a Christian poetics of transubstantiation. The essay begins by exploring a "curious footnote" to the history of the colonisation of Guyana. An Amerindian chief approaches an English governor to claim payment for "services his fighting forces had rendered to the occupying powers," hinting largely at the presence of these forces in the bush. The governor subsequently discovers that there are in fact no forces in the bush, that the chief possesses only "a nightmare relic." Harris’ dense interpretation of this "displacement" is worth quoting in full:
    The Amerindian king has been unmasked as a shamanistic trickster (on one hand) while (on the other) the statecraft of the Governor draws him back, as it were, to discover a spectral host--a vanished people--part and parcel of a crucifixion of appetite, his and their appetite for adventure, their and his appetite for security. A new hunger--a new subsistence of memory--comes into play wherein both sovereign statecraft and primitive king are implicated in the dust of history blowing as it were towards a new terrifying yet immaterial conception: an art of fiction where the agents of time begin to subsist upon the real reverses the human spirit has endured, the real chasm of pain it has entered, rather than the apparent consolidation, victories and battles it has won. (13)
    Harris’ essays, like his novels, owe much to the associative logic of his imagery. The revelation of the tribe’s absence is initially referred to as "one of those peculiar holes in the body of history" (11), holes which he then describes as "stigmata of the void" (12). The reference to Christ’s body is reinforced by the pun on "host" and by the dense expression, "crucifixion of appetite," with the result that it is as if the "spectral host" becomes the sacrament of which both king and governor partake. This metonymic displacement forces them both to acknowledge their guilty "appetite," their shared responsibility for the fate of the tribe, and then transforms this "appetite" into a "new hunger." Both the governor and the chief must learn to live in remembrance of the lost tribe. Crucially, this recognition of a mutual responsibility brings the two parties into a new relation with one another, as they are filled with an awareness of history as a "chasm of pain." The shift from the material to the immaterial is precisely not a movement towards abstraction; it is instead a materialisation of that which has only just begun to matter, to make an impact on the consciousness/conscience of the living: not the tribe itself, but its absence. This materialisation of the immaterial forces both the governor and the chief to become conscious of the tribe’s extinction, forces them to become historically conscious. To relate to the tribe as "subsistence of memory"--a phrase that in itself seems to render the immaterial material--is both to learn how to live off, to draw life-giving sustenance from, the memory of the tribe (and its demise) and also to keep the memory of the tribe itself alive.

  24. In the second half of "Interior of the Novel," Harris moves on to explain why the novel must go beyond realism in order to bear witness to the absent body of the tribe. The disappearance of the tribe--which presumably took place over a number of decades (the chief wants the governor to recognise an agreement that precedes British rule in Guyana)--is only an event that begins to become historical--begins to "matter"--when the chief inadvertently draws the governor’s attention to the absence of his tribe. The tribe only figures in the historical record as a "fictitious presence" (14). The realist novel is incapable of registering this presence as anything other than a fiction because realism relies on a distinction between the actual and the imaginary. To "recover" the tribe’s history would be to endow it with a presence that it never actually had in history. Thus Harris calls for a new form of fiction which could register the "absent presence" of the tribe.

  25. Such a fiction would have to reject "the sovereign individual as such" (16) precisely because slavery and colonisation constituted the denial of individual agency and humanity. In order to bear witness to this denial, the novel needs to abandon its moorings within the individual consciousness:
    Where [Georg] Lukács speaks of a ‘middle-of-the-road’ hero within his besieged marxist premises I must speak of a middle-of-the-landscape sculpture or waterfall or river or escarpment of jungle or rockface down which a phenomenal erosion happened, quite suddenly, precipitately, of conquered peoples. The Ibo of Nigeria are a terrifying example of the engulfment which can suddenly overtake a people within a trauma of helplessness--external conquest, internal collapse. There is a reason to believe that the earliest forms of tragic art were born out of a necessity to compensate such losses within the human psyche. (16)
    Harris’ description recalls both Walter Benjamin’s description of the crisis of storytelling produced by the First World War and the cataclysmic onset of modernity and Freud’s analysis of trauma as an event so overwhelming that it is not possible to be (mentally) present at the time of its occurrence, as an event that can only be belatedly witnessed. Harris here suggests that colonisation may produce a similar kind of trauma, precisely because it disrupts the colonised culture’s frame of reference. Although the colonisation of the Ibo, like the disappearance of the Amerindian tribe, obviously took place over a period of time, Harris stresses the precipitate nature of the event; for Harris, the "trauma" of colonisation is not so much a historical occurrence as a collapsing of history. The logic of this "phenomenal erosion" of time is indicated by the sequence "trauma of helplessness--external conquest, internal collapse." Colonisation is experienced as a breach of the tribe’s own world-historical view, as a dislocation of their ability to witness what is happening to them.

  26. This understanding of colonisation as a precipitate collapse of time and space recalls his analysis of limbo and vodun, practices that bear "witness to a native suffering community steeped in caveats of conquest" (27; emphasis added), and an earlier essay in which he argues that "the environment of the Caribbean is steeped . . . in such broken conceptions as well as misconceptions of the meaning of conquest. No wonder [that] in the jungles of Guyana and Brazil, for example, material structural witnesses seem to exist in a terrible void of unreality" ("Tradition" 31). Harris’ argument against realist representations of colonisation parallels Jean-François Lyotard’s argument against the historicist representations of the Holocaust: such representations chronologise the fundamentally achronological time of trauma, thus disavowing the fact that a breach has ever taken place in the first place (Lyotard 17). The disjunctive temporality of Harris’ novels is, by contrast, a mode of bearing witness to this breach. However, while Lyotard champions an art that emphasises its own inability to witness trauma, Harris sees his art as a mode of belated witnessing. His position is closer to that of Dori Laub, who understands the Holocaust as "an event without witnesses" but suggests that the presence of an empathic listener--in projects such as the Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies--enables a retroactive process of witnessing to take place (85). Harris concludes his essay by suggesting that the artist also occupies this position of the belated witness: "And this--as I see it--is also the role of the author within his ancestral background: he is the complex ghost of his own landscape of history or work . . . his poem or novel is subsistence of memory" ("Interior" 18).

  27. In Palace of the Peacock, Harris explicitly foregrounds the role of the author as "the complex ghost of his own landscape of history or work" through the use of a narrator who often presents the narrative as his own dream or vision. The narrator or Dreamer travels from the Guyanese coast to the interior, and from the present into the past, in order to visit his brother, Donne, whom he accompanies on a journey up-river in search of the "folk," the erstwhile inhabitants of the Mariella mission over whom Donne ruled and who have now disappeared into the bush. The journey up-river is a repetition of both "Donne’s first innocent voyage and excursion" (27) in which he had first seduced his Amerindian mistress, also named Mariella, and of another voyage by a crew bearing exactly the same names as Donne’s crew, who had been drowned to a man. The voyage also repeats the mythical search for El Dorado and Marlow’s voyage up the Congo in Heart of Darkness. The narration of this colonial voyage is thus an explicit act of critical history, an attempt, as we shall see, both to relive and reverse the given conditions of the past. It is the Dreamer’s presence as witness which allows this reversal to take place.

  28. Instead of telling the story of a voyage that happened at a particular time and place in the past, the narrative stages a voyage that has repeated itself throughout history. Donne’s pursuit of the folk is, for Harris, an "endless pursuit" (83), one that lures him and the crew to self-destruction. Although the crew members are partially aware that they are their own ghosts, they remain unable to break the cycle of repetition. Cameron, for instance, tells his fellow crew members that they are all "big frauds . . . rise[n] bodily from the grave" (38) but himself remains enthralled by the repetitive logic of his insatiable desire: "So it was, unwitting and ignorant, [Cameron] had been drawn to his death with the others, and had acquired the extraordinary defensive blindness, ribald as hell and witchcraft, of dying again and again to the world and still bobbing up once more lusting for an ultimate satisfaction and a cynical truth" (40). The trajectory of the narrative--as opposed to the trajectory of the voyage--is the translation of this "appetite for adventure" into "subsistence of memory," an alteration of perspective in which the crew are removed from their own desires and released from the process of "dying and dying again." In Nietzschean terms, one might say that they become aware of the law of eternal return. In Freudian terms, one might say that they become aware of their repetition compulsion.

  29. However, this awareness is not simply a rational understanding of the cycle of repetition in which they are trapped, for such an understanding would merely satisfy the desire for "cynical truth" by leading to a nihilistic acceptance of their inability to alter their fate. Rather, it is a revelation of existence in which the world-weariness of being is transformed into the innocence of becoming, a revelation which goes beyond the nihilism of historical determinism in so far as it opens up for the crew "the ghost of a chance" of discarding their inherited nature. As we shall see, it is not simply a question of discarding one nature for another, of becoming a more moral or ethical subject. For this would merely be to repeat the bourgeois novel of education, centred around the progress of the individual subject, that Harris claims to move beyond. To abandon the "lust to rule" is in fact to abandon subjectivity itself. The goal of the Harrisian narrative is the dissolution rather than the education of the individual subject, the revelation of what he dubs our "complex mutuality."

    Early on in the novella, Donne preaches the doctrine of the sovereign subject, advising the Dreamer to "Rule the land . . . while you still have the ghost of a chance" (23). However, in a later conversation, Donne begins to glimpse the alternative possibility that has been opened up by the spectral presence of his brother:

    "I have treated the folk badly," [Donne] admitted. "But you do know what this nightmare burden of responsibility adds up to, don’t you? . . . I do wish," he spoke musingly, "someone would lift it from my shoulders. Maybe, who knows"--he was joking--"you can. . . . If [the folk] do murder me I’ve earned it I suppose, and I don’t see sometimes how I can escape it unless a different person steps into my shoes and accepts my confounded shadow. . . . Still I suppose," he had grown thoughtful, "there’s a ghost of a chance . . ."

    "Ghost of a chance of what?" I demanded, swept away by his curious rhetoric.

    "Changing my ways . . . Perhaps there’s a ghost of a chance that I can find a different relationship with the folk, who knows?" (51; emphasis added)

    Donne’s own history makes it impossible for him to be anything other than a tyrant, and yet this trip up river, as a repetition of his previous voyage, offers him the ghost of a chance of escaping this history. And it is his brother, whom Donne tellingly describes as "this twin dreaming responsibility you remember"(23), who will make this act of critical history possible.

  30. The dream sequence that begins the narrative already hints at the way in which the Dreamer will function as Donne’s creative conscience and double. In the first dream, Donne is shot by a hidden assassin. In the second, Mariella comes to the narrator’s bedroom and lifts her dress to reveal where Donne has beaten her. And in the third the narrator connects the two previous dreams, concluding that Mariella is the hidden assassin of the first dream, that the slave-mistress has exacted her revenge on the master. The dreams thus function as an allegory of the imaginative act of empathy or witnessing that the narrative will itself become. In the first dream, the shot "pulled [the Dreamer] up and stifled [his] own heart in heaven" (19) as if he were taking the consequences of Donne’s tyranny on himself. In the second, the Dreamer comes to inhabit both Donne’s sexual desire for Mariella and Mariella’s suffering. He reaches out to touch her wounds. She lifts her dress higher and "her convulsive sobbing stop[s] when [he] touche[s] her again" (21). Like Doubting Thomas, he verifies her suffering by touching her wounds, investing Donne’s desire for Mariella with compassion but also implicating himself in Donne’s "appetite": he is forced to see things through Donne’s "dead seeing material eye rather than through [his own] living closed spiritual eye" (20).

  31. In a more ‘straightforward’ narrative the dream sequence would act as a mode of prophecy or warning. However, we later find out that Donne has already been shot by Mariella, just as the crew has already drowned. The Dreamer is thus the belated witness to events that have already happened. However, Harris’ belief in the redemptive power of witnessing means that the narrator is able to intercede in time, to intercede in the dialectic of master and slave and ‘preempt’ the cycle of revenge. Derrida’s spectral "hauntology" is again relevant. In the opening chapter of Specters of Marx, Derrida meditates on the relation between justice and vengeance via a reading of Hamlet. Hamlet’s problem is that the ghost of his father equates justice with vengeance. This is the substance of Hamlet’s famous complaint: "The time is out of joint. O cursed spite/ That ever I was born to set it right!" (II i 189-90). Derrida argues that Hamlet’s irresolution opens up the possibility of a justice that would not consist in taking revenge nor even in setting the time right--an essentially conservative action that would leave the social hierarchy intact--but in exploiting the time’s out-of-jointness in order to conceive of a radically new mode of being: "If right or law stems from vengeance, as Hamlet seems to complain that it does . . . can one not yearn for a justice that one day, a day no longer belonging to history, a quasi-messianic day, would finally be removed from the fatality of vengeance?" (21). Derrida’s desire to steer clear of any "metaphysico-religious determination" means that this dream of redemption remains couched in the form of a rhetorical question. Harris’ text, by contrast, is itself a dream of redemption. The initial shelving dream sequence performs an active dis-joining of time, one that opens up the possibility of Donne (or at least his ghost or spirit) developing a new relation to Mariella and the folk. One might say that the repetition of Donne’s "first innocent voyage and excursion" (27) takes place in a time of infinite hesitation, a time that does not so much defer as dissolve the retributive logic of the dream sequence.

  32. The narrator’s presence as witness also reveals the "immaterial" presence of the folk: his redemptive vision turns the folk into the sacrificial Host. Like the Governor and the Amerindian king, the crew gradually become aware of their implication in the disappearance of the tribe/ folk. Their desire or "appetite for adventure" is gradually transformed into a "new hunger" that moves beyond lust and gradually recognises the sanctity of Mariella’s body, which is progressively transfigured from the profane body of a slave-mistress into the ambiguous "young-old" body of an Arawak woman who is pressed into service as the crew’s guide and finally into the sacred body of the Virgin whom Donne encounters in the Palace of the Peacock above the waterfall at the end of the river. In Resurrection at Sorrow Hill, Harris writes that "virgins in religions and myths are a measure of beleaguered conscience" (182). It is as if Harris’ replaying of history allows the crew not only to atone for but also to undo, aposteriori, the history of colonisation. Harris transforms the traditional metaphor of the colonising voyage up-river as a rape of the continent into a form of immaculate conception, as if his fantasy-narrative were able to intervene in time and forestall what has already taken place.

  33. This alternative outcome of the colonial voyage is not, however, simply escapism or wish-fulfillment, but the insistence on a latent dimension or possibility within received history. Like Nietzsche’s theory of eternal return, Harris’ work reimagines history while simultaneously recognising its infinite recurrence. If the Dreamer enables the crew to reimagine their voyage, he must also undergo their voyage exactly as it occurred. As in the initial dream sequence, this means that the Dreamer must ‘inhabit’ their desire. Immediately prior to the capture of the Arawak woman, the Dreamer has another erotic dream from which he awakes in horror shouting: "the devil himself must fondle and mount this muse of hell and this hag" (43). The dream both recalls his previous dream of "Mariella’s stripes" (43) and anticipates the crew’s ‘rape’ of the old Arawak woman. Hovering between remembrance and prophecy, it simultaneously signals the Dreamer’s implication in and disaffiliation from the voyage of conquest. His physical presence on board the boat is no longer noted from this point on; like Tiresias in The Waste Land, his presence as empathic witness becomes commensurate with the act of narration itself.

  34. The dream presages the crew’s own "disaffection" from their lust to rule: as the crew enter a narrow passage referred to as both "the straits of memory" (62) and "the War Office rapids" (63), the "ruffles in the water" become the Arawak woman’s dress "rising and rolling to embrace the crew" (62), like the dress that Mariella lifted higher and higher in the initial dream sequence. As the old woman displaces Mariella in the crew’s ‘affections,’ the crew become filled with a "murderous rape and fury" (63) and Carroll is lost over the side, almost as if, as an Amerindian, he is the first to disaffiliate from the colonial voyage.

  35. Carroll’s relative innocence as "the youngest of the crew" (63) forces the rest of the men to reflect on the nature of their own responsibility/ culpability, before they too, one by one, abandon ship. There is a slightly heavy-handed, unNietzschean moralism involved in this process of remembrance: for many of the crew, it involves a recognition of their responsibility as fathers and a vow to ‘do the right thing’ by their mistresses. However, instead of a series of domestic reunions with individual members of "the folk", their homecoming is achieved only though their (second) deaths and their ultimate absorption into the selflessness of the "nameless and unflinching folk" (110).

  36. The process by which Donne and the crew overcome their own natures is realised through a series of spatial images of ascension. As the crew travel deeper into the jungle, the steep cliff faces seem to offer the crew no way out of their destiny (the river is flowing far too fast for them to return down-river). But within the "parameters" of their journey, Harris discovers what he terms "fossils of creative possibility," a mythical residue that transforms each of their deaths into a form of rebirth. This is graphically illustrated in the death of Wishrop, whose paddle catches a submerged rock and propels him up and out of the boat "like a man riding a wheel" (81). His hands later reemerge from the river like "fingers clinging to the spokes and spiders of a wheel" before he is lost to sight. The image of the wheel implicitly suggests the possibility of Wishrop’s eventual ascension, a suggestion that is echoed by the reference to spider-worship or anancy. In "History, Fable and Myth," Harris reminds us of the folkloric association between anancy, limbo dancing and the cramped conditions in the holds of the Middle Passage. Harris’ spider imagery thus becomes a mode of prophecy, a promise of Wishrop’s eventual rebirth.

  37. The trajectory of Wishrop’s ejection from the boat then suggests an alternative mode of ascension to Vigilance, another member of the crew, who looks up at the cliffs and sees "a spidery skeleton crawling to the sky" (82). Soon afterwards, with "all blind lust and obfuscation . . . banished from his mind" (85), he is literally able to rise above the voyage by climbing up the canyon side together with the Arawak woman. His dreaming ascension, in which he acquires both "immateriality and mysterious substantiality" (82), affords him a revelatory perspective. He is able to see the boat below him as both "the childish repetitive boat and prison of life" (83) and as the "naked spider of spirit" (81). In other words, he is able to see both the fruitless, repetitive nature of their voyage and its redemptive potential. His perspective thus comes to parallel that of the Dreamer, who also looks down on the boat from Vigilance’s "god-like perch" (92).

  38. But this movement of ascension is not to be understood as a movement towards abstraction, what Shaw describes as the "apotheosis of the artist." Harris’ attempt to gain "view from above" needs to be placed within a dialectical tradition of remembrance that attempts to gain a perspective on history while simultaneously grounding itself in history. Hegel’s Geist, Nietzsche’s Ubermensch (for it is the Ubermensch who attains to the vision of eternal return) and Walter Benjamin’s Angel of History are all products of philosophy’s attempt to overcome the condition of its own existence and immerse itself in the material. Like Benjamin’s Angel, positioned halfway between heaven and earth, spirit and matter, Harris’ narrators bear witness to history as catastrophe while simultaneously insisting that "every second of time was the straight gate through which the Messiah might enter" (264).

  39. Although at first sight the final section of the novella seems to resemble the celebration of a heavenly "back world," it is in fact a redemption of rather than from history, a remembrance rather than a forgetting of material suffering. The section is entitled "Paling of Ancestors." While the epigraph from Gerald Manley Hopkins, "This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse/ Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows" (97), emphasises the Christian dimensions of this title, the word "paling" was initially used to describe the boundary fence that separated the part of Ireland under British rule from the rest of Ireland.[10] Christ’s home turns out to be in barbarian territory. Because Harris’ vision of liberation operates on a political level as well as a spiritual one, it becomes possible to read the final section as a mode of communion that brings into being a collective, a mode of mourning that announces--in that liminal space between self and other, chartered and unchartered territory--the possibility of community.

  40. Of the crew, only Donne and one of the Da Silva twins make it to the waterfall at the head of the river. During his ascent of the waterfall (by another ladder), Donne is finally afforded a revelation of "the unselfness of night, the invisible otherness around . . . [and] his own nothingness" (108), before he and Da Silva slip and fall to their deaths. Only after he has come to an understanding of his own immateriality is Donne able to "come home at last to the unflinching compassion of the folk" (110). The spirits of the dead crew are summoned by the sound of Carroll’s whistle, a whistle that differs from the trumpet that awakens the dead on the Day of Judgement in that its music summons without judgement or discrimination. Unlike the Christian prophecy, Harris’ vision is not structured by the dualism of this world and the next, heaven and hell. The narrator likens Carroll’s whistle to the cry of the peacock. As Michael Gilkes notes, the peacock’s multi-coloured wings are an alchemical symbol of unity-in-diversity. Although this sounds like a version of multicultural community, it is important to remember that the community being imagined here is not a community of subjects. It is perhaps closer to the anti-foundationalist type of community imagined by Jean-Luc Nancy in The Inoperative Community: "If community is revealed in the death of others it is because death itself is the true community of ‘I’s that are not egos. It is not a communion that fuses the egos into an Ego or a higher We. It is the community of others" (15).

  41. And what brings into being this communion of others turns out to be the trace of a mourning ritual: latent within the music of Carroll’s whistle is, as Harris himself later remarked in an "Introduction to The Guyana Quartet" (9), the music of the Carib bone-flute. This is not simply a community of others, then, but a communion of others in which the drive to consume that underwrites the history of modernity is transformed into a collective ethic of subsistence. The absorption of the crew into "one muse and undying soul" is not a "drive towards abstraction" or transcendence but rather a moment of transubstantiation, a memorialisation of the other as super-object or "universal morsel": "I felt the faces before me begin to fade and part company from themselves as if our need of one another was now fulfilled, and our distance from one another was the distance of sacrament" (117).


  1. See Durrant. In contrast to Harris' "art of compensation" Coetzee's work seeks to remain inconsolable. This difference is, I would suggest, one of the principal differences between a secular and a sacred conception of mourning. Back

  2. The present essay has its origins in a paper entitled "'The Ghost of a Chance': Absent Bodies, Spectral Presences, and the Possibility of History in Wilson Harris' The Guyana Quartet," given in May 1996 at the Canadian Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies Conference, Brock University, Canada. I am very grateful for all the support and criticism that I received there and to Rosemary Jolly and Asha Varadharajan for reading earlier versions of this paper. Back

  3. In an epitaph to the last book of The Secret Ladder, Harris quotes T.S. Eliot's famous lines from The Four Quartets: "A people without history/ Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern/ Of timeless moments" (The Guyana Quartet 445). Back

  4. See, for instance, Harris' "Literacy and the Imagination." Back

  5. Maes-Jelinek herself repeatedly stresses the original nature of Harris' thinking, and is thus not overly concerned with the philosophical roots of Harris' dialectic. Back

  6. Sharrad is aware of the contradiction without being able to account for it: "Harris revives the spirit of this forgotten technology [the ars memoria], applying it to those for whom Western technologies from the Renaissance on have meant oppression and oblivion" (119). Back

  7. In "Literacy and the Imagination" Harris argues that "one may have to go further than the notion (the Nietzschean notion) that God is dead. It is not that God is dead, but that God may have ceased to be the kind of absolute author of events which one assumed him to be" (23). Harris seems unaware that Nietzsche's affirmation of eternal return is precisely his own way of moving beyond the death of God. Harris' position here parallels his position on the death of the author. He wants to discard the notion of divine or authorial control, but retain the idea of a presiding spirit or witnessing presence. Back

  8. Monumental history is the heroisation of the nation's past, while antiquarian history is the museumification of the national heritage. Both these modes of history are forms of cultural memory, ways of memorialising the past in order to secure a collective identity in the present. Back

  9. An overwhelming majority of this work has been in relation to the Holocaust. See, for instance, Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and Literature, Geoffrey Hartman ed. Holocaust Remembrance: The Shapes of Memory, Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience, Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster, Jean-François Lyotard, Heidegger and "the jews." Back

  10. In a strange case of etymological miscegenation, the Pale also refers to the area of Russia to which Jews were confined. Back

Works Cited

Benjamin, Andrew. "The Crumbling Narrative: Time, Memory and Nihilism in The Eye of the Scarecrow." In Gilkes, The Literate Imagination 82-92.

Benjamin, Walter. "The Storyteller." Illuminations. Trans. Harry Zohn. London: Cape, 1970. 83-108.

Blanchot, Maurice. The Writing of the Disaster. Trans. Ann Smock. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1995.

Caruth, Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Derrida, Jacques. Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International. Trans. Peggy Kamuf. New York and London: Routledge, 1994.

Drake, Sandra. Wilson Harris and the Modern Tradition: A New Architecture of the World. Greenwood: Westport, Conneticut, 1986.

Durrant, Samuel. "Bearing Witness to Apartheid: J. M. Coetzee’s Inconsolable Works of Mourning." Contemporary Literature 40.3 (Fall 1999): 430-64.

Eliot, T.S. "The Waste Land." The Complete Poems and Plays. London: Faber, 1969. 59-80.

Felman, Shoshana and Dori Laub. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Gilkes, Michael, ed. The Literate Imagination: Essays on Wilson Harris. London: Macmillan, 1989.

---. Wilson Harris and the Caribbean Novel. Trinidad and Jamaica: Longman Caribbean, 1975.

Harris, Wilson. "Adversarial Contexts and Creativity." New Left Review. 154.6 (1985): 124-28.

---. Explorations: A Selection of Talks and Articles. Ed Hena Maes-Jelinek. Mundelstrup, Denmark: Dangaroo Press, 1981.

---. The Guyana Quartet. London: Faber and Faber, 1985.

---. "History, Fable and Myth in the Caribbean and the Guianas." In Explorations 20-42.

---. "Imagination, Dead, Imagine: Bridging a Chasm." The Yale Journal of Criticism 7.1 (1994): 185-195.

---. "Interior of the Novel: Amerindian/ African/ European Relations." In Explorations 10-19.

---. "Literacy and the Imagination." In Gilkes, The Literate Imagination 13-31.

---. "A Note on the Genesis of The Guyana Quartet." The Guyana Quartet. London: Faber, 1985.

---. Resurrection at Sorrow Hill. London: Faber and Faber, 1993.

---. "Tradition and the West Indian Novel." Tradition, the Writer and Society. London, New Beacon, 1987. 28-47.

Hartman, Geoffrey, ed. Holocaust Remembrance: The Shapes of Memory. Cambridge MA: Blackwell, 1994.

Hegel, G. W. F. Lectures on the Philosophy of World History. 1822-27. Trans. H.B. Nisbet, Ed. and Introd. Duncan Forbes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975.

Laub, Dori. "An Event Without a Witness: Truth, Testimony and Survival." In Felman and Laub. 75-93.

Lyotard, Jean-François. Heidegger and "the jews." Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990.

Maes-Jelinek, Hena. "Ambivalent Clio: J.M. Coetzee’s In The Heart of the Country and Wilson Harris’s Carnival." Journal of Commonwealth Literature 22.1 (1987): 87-98.

Nancy, Jean-Luc. The Inoperative Community. Ed Peter Connor. Trans. Peter Connor and Lisa Garbus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy. 1872 . The Birth of Tragedy and the Genealogy of Morals. Trans. Francis Golffing. New York: Doubleday, 1990. 1-146.

---. "On the Uses and Disadvantages of History For Life." 1873. Untimely Meditations. Trans. R.J. Hollingdale. Ed. Daniel Breazeale. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 57-124.

---. The Will to Power. Trans. Walter Kaufman and R. J. Hollingdale. Ed. Walter Kaufman. New York: Random House, 1968.

Poynting, Jeremy. "Half Dialectical, Half Metaphysical: ‘The Far Journey of Oudin.’" In Gilkes, The Literate Imagination 103-28.

Sharrad, Paul. "The Art of Memory and the Liberation of History: Wilson Harris’s Witnessing of Time." Journal of Commonwealth Literature 27.1 (1992): 110-27.

Shaw, Gregory. "The Novelist as Shaman." In Gilkes, The Literate Imagination. 141-51.

Stambaugh, Joan. Nietzsche’s Thought of Eternal Return. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972.

Yates, Frances. The Art of Memory. London: Routledge, Kegan Paul, 1966.

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