A Small Place
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A brilliant look at colonialism and its effects in Antigua--by the author of Annie John
"If you go to Antigua as a tourist, this is what you will see. If you come by aeroplane, you will land at the V. C. Bird International Airport. Vere Cornwall (V. C.) Bird is the Prime Minister of Antigua. You may be the sort of tourist who would wonder why a Prime Minister would want an airport named after him--why not a school, why not a hospital, why not some great public monument. You are a tourist and you have not yet seen . . ."
So begins Jamaica Kincaid's expansive essay, which shows us what we have not yet seen of the ten-by-twelve-mile island in the British West Indies where she grew up.
Lyrical, sardonic, and forthright by turns, in a Swiftian mode, A Small Place cannot help but amplify our vision of one small place and all that it signifies.
that somewhere there is a stamp syndicate and that from time to time its people decide what would be best for the syndicate’s financial interest, and they issue these stamps to these poor sap countries like Antigua. * * * In a small place, people cultivate small events. The small event is isolated, blown up, turned over and over, and then absorbed into the everyday, so that at any moment it can and will roll off the inhabitants of the small place’s tongues. For the people in a small place,
to electrocute someone who opened the door. In the months that lead up to carnival, the Governor General, a very stuck-up man, with an even more stuck-up wife, or a very ordinary sort of man whose wife does her own shopping at the supermarket, goes to England. The house in which he lives, Government House, is right across from the grounds where carnival events are held, and he goes to England because he can’t stand the noise. When he is away, the Prime Minister names a person, another man, to be
break-ins and robberies, and they had their house wired with live wires, so that if someone broke in, the intruder would be electrocuted; they had forgotten to turn off the wire leading to or around the swimming pool, and the Acting Governor General was electrocuted. Lying in his coffin, he looked black, as if he had been scorched from the inside. His funeral was practically a pageant, and Antigua had never seen anything like it. The man who succeeded him, the second Acting Governor General in
But nothing can erase my rage—not an apology, not a large sum of money, not the death of the criminal—for this wrong can never be made right, and only the impossible can make me still: can a way be found to make what happened not have happened? And so look at this prolonged visit to the bile duct that I am making, look at how bitter, how dyspeptic just to sit and think about these things makes me. I attended a school named after a Princess of England. Years and years later, I read somewhere that
this. You are looking out the window (because you want to get your money’s worth); you notice that all the cars you see are brand-new, or almost brand-new, and that they are all Japanese-made. There are no American cars in Antigua—no new ones, at any rate; none that were manufactured in the last ten years. You continue to look at the cars and you say to yourself, Why, they look brand-new, but they have an awful sound, like an old car—a very old, dilapidated car. How to account for that? Well,