Monday, January 17, 2011

Growing Up Stupid Under the Union Jack

by Austin Clarke,  published in 2003


This book struck me as an amateurish collection of remembrances by the author of growing up in Barbados during the pre-war Colonial period. In fact quite similar to George Lamming's In The Castle of My Skin, which phrase the writer manages to slip in on page 163 which I fancifully took to be a passing nod to Lamming.
Charming though some parts of his childhood stories are, the grammar left a lot to be desired and even allowing for a colloquial flavour some sentences just didn't make sense and I can just see one of the nuns at my Catholic primary school hovering around, ruler in hand saying a sentence should be able to stand by itself and make sense.
I felt the ramblings were a bit disjointed and it took me a while to figure out which time period the writer was talking about as he kept switching between his first primary school- St Matthais' and the second one- Combermere. Having said that there were quite a few similar experiences having attending early schooling in Georgetown, Guyana.

I note the disparaging reference to Guyana about the exports having poor standards!
One thing struck me, after reading February's books ( by African writers) - the reference that too much learning would affect a man's brain adversely, which Mr Clarke also echoed and I wondered if it was a cultural thing as from an Indian background that sentiment is not generally expressed and higher learning is lauded.
[Post-script, apparently this last sentence implied offence to someone, where none was intended- but it did get me thinking that maybe the sentiment expressed in the African books- certainly the Unity Dow one- Juggling Truths - was the unease the older Africans viewed the 'book knowledge' poised to wipe out or trivialize their culture?; I think Austin Clarke was just poking fun at the English Master. Maybe the older traditional way of learning when the Master decides when the student is ready has it's roots in you have to be ready and open for knowledge?]

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