978-0-374-52683-2 / 9780374526832

What the Twilight Says: Essays


Publisher:Farrar, Straus and Giroux



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About the book:

Derek Walcott's identity as a poet is evident even in his literary criticism. Who else would produce a sentence such as "Let the shaggy, long horde of spiky letters and the dark rumbling of hexametrical phalanxes rise over the outback towards the capital of the English language" to describe the work of a fellow poet--in this case, Australian Les Murray? Indeed, each of the essays in What the Twilight Says is at least as rich in language as it is in ideas; so much so, in fact, that at times the view is obscured by the verbiage. Nevertheless, beneath the loco rococo turns of phrase Walcott has some serious points to make. In his discussion of V.S. Naipaul, for example, he offers some telling insights into the effects of colonialism on his subject's psyche: "What is the cost to his Indianness of loving England?" Walcott asks; "To whom does he owe any fealty? Ancestors? The surroundings that history placed them in, the cane fields of Trinidad, were contemptible, as they themselves would have to be, having lost both shame and pride. Therefore, the only dignity is to be neither master nor servant, to choose a nobler servitude: writing. The punishment for the choice is the astonishment of gratitude; to be grateful to the vegetation of an English shire. Not to India or the West Indies, but to the sweet itch of an old wound." Walcott praises Naipaul's genius while calling him on his racism, selfishness, and disdain for his roots--in effect loving the sinner while hating the sin. His essay on Joseph Brodsky is an intelligent meditation on the art of translation while "The Muse of History" looks at the influence of history in New World literature. From a discussion of the poetry of Ted Hughes to an open love letter to Martiniquan writer Patrick Chamoiseau, Derek Walcott provides plenty of provocative food for thought wrapped in poetical prose. --Alix Wilber

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