Sunday, August 3, 2008
Sometime ago I borrowed a copy of "The View from Coyaba" at the Old Harbour public library. It was one of the few West Indian novels on the shelf. I wonder why? Considering that the voices Michael Anthony, Erna Brodber, Jamaica Kincaid, Earl Lovelace, V.S Naipaul, Jean Rhys, Sam Selvon, Derek Walcott (Nobel Prize winner if you please) continue to reverberate everywhere else.
Anyway, The name Peter Abrahams triggered memories of the voice of an old man calmly making sense of the day's news on RJR. If wisdom had a voice it would sound like Peter Abrahams'. As a teenager I really didn't listen to what he was saying but I found his voice reassuring and was sure that whatever he was saying was the embodiment of sagacity. What heightened this infatuation was the knowledge that Peter Abrahams was born in South Africa and had somehow escaped the inferno that was Apartheid and had graced us with his presence here in Jamaica (His autobiography Tell Freedom tells the rest).
So for all these reasons when I took up "The View from Coyaba" I expected it to be good. I was not disapponted.
Coyaba is a historical novel that looks back from the time of the Arawaks - oops Tainos, you can tell what year I took Caribbean History- to the present time. It took me a couple of weeks to read. It's not a fast moving blockbuster, although it does have some sexual tension and intense romance.
One of the ways in which this novel affected my thinking is that it made me see what happened to the Arawaks as genocide. Before I just had this vague notion that after Columbus came the Arawaks became extinct. But after reading Coyaba I saw the extinction of the arawaks as being no different from what Hitler did to the Jews- a crime against humanity; it now appeared horrible and astonishing. I'm sorry, I forget the number, but Abrahams actually put a number to it, and it was far greater than what I had imagined.
The early part of Coyaba put a face to the Arawaks, this was the most memorable part of the novel for me. The rest of the novel spans "four generations chronicling the Jamaican struggle for autonomy". This is a novel I would read again.
peter Abrahams, Books, Tell Freedom, The View from Coyaba