Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Jamaica Kincaid - A Small Place

I realize that this is a short article rather than a book- but it's still a text that I want to mention.

"the English have become such a pitiful lot these days, with hardly any idea what to do with themselves now that they no longer have one quarter of the earth's human population bowing and scraping before them. They don't seem to know that this empire business was all wrong and they should, at least, be wearing sackcloth and ashes in token penance of the wrongs committed, the irrevocableness of their bad deeds, for no natural disaster imaginable could equal the harm they did [...] I can say to them what went wrong: they should never have left their home, their precious England, a place they loved so much, a place they had to leave but could never forget. And so everywhere they went they turned it into England; and everybody they met they turned English. But no place could ever really be England, and nobody who did not look exactly like them would ever be English, so you can imagine the destruction of people and land that came from that" (Kincaid, A Small Place).
"We were taught the names of the Kings of England. In Antigua, the twenty-fourth of May was a holiday -- Queen Victoria's official birthday. We didnt' say to ourselves, Hasn't this extremely unappealing person been dead for years and years? ... I cannot tell you how angry it makes me to hear people from North America tell me how much they love England, how beautiful England is, with its traditions. All they see is some frumpy, wrinkled-up person passing by in a carriage waving at a crowd. But what I see is the millions of people of whom I am just one, made orphans: no motherland, no fatherland, no gods, no mounds of earth for holy ground, no excess of love which might lead to the things that an excess of love sometimes brings, and worst and most painful of all, no tongue. For isn't it odd that the only language I have in which to speak of this crime is the language of the criminal who committed the crime? [...] As for what we were like before we met you, I no longer care. No periods of time over which my anscestors held sway, no documentation of complex civilisations, is any comfort to me. Even if I really came from peopel who were living like monkeys in trees, it was better to be that than what happened to me, what I became after I met you" (Kincaid, A Small Place).

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