On Wilson Harris

Ammiel Alcalay asked in a recent email if I had ever met Wilson Harris (1921 - ) during my trips to the Temenos Academy. The answer is that I had never heard of him. It's actually Sir Theodore Wilson Harris, and now I am hooked & will have to read what I can find the time for. He has published several pieces in the Temenos Review over the years and was admired by Kathleen Raine, as we are told in an extremely interesting appreciation by Maya Jaggi published in The Guardian in 2006 on the occasion of the release of The Ghost of Memory, which he said would be his last novel. Jaggi writes,

"...despite a steady output of novels, essays and international honours, he remains little known to a wider public. His fiction, dense with symbolism and sensuous imagery, has little in the way of conventional plot or character. Drawing on dream, myth and archetype, it can be dazzling yet enigmatic.

The Guyanese-born novelist and poet David Dabydeen sees him as heir to a "tradition of mystical and visionary writing, from the Gnostics to William Blake". Wordsworth, says Dabydeen, "thought Blake 'mad, obscure and incoherent'. Harris is trying to explore the language of the unconscious - dream states and parallel universes that are only partially glimpsed." Others regard him as a South American novelist more akin to Gabriel García Márquez or Alejo Carpentier than to writers of the anglophone West Indies." - From Redemption Song by Maya Jaggi (Read the essay).

A complete bibliography of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, interviews and more can be had here: The Wilson Harris Bibliography.

Alcalay suggests this piece for a starter: 'Quetzalcoatl and the Smoking Mirror', Wasafiri 20 (Autumn 1994), pp. 38-43. Also in Review: Latin American Literature and Arts 50 (Spring 1995), pp. 76-83; see also 'Quetzalcoatl and the Smoking Mirror (Reflections on Originality and Tradition)', The Review of Contemporary Fiction, 17, 1 (Summer 1997), pp. 12-23; also in Sisyphus and Eldorado: Magical and Other Realisms in Caribbean Literature, ed. Timothy J.Reiss (Africa World Press, 2002) , pp. 1-13.


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