Twenty-five years ago Lawrence Scott’s groundbreaking Witchbroom appeared. It was his debut novel and has become a classic work of Caribbean literature.
This “rare and magical” novel, as Sam Selvon described Scott’s Witchbroom, is now re-published by Papillote Press for a new generation of readers who might have otherwise been deprived of an extraordinary work of fiction that tackles subject matter in a tone and style unknown in Caribbean writing quarter of a century ago.
Witchbroom is the saga of a French/Spanish Creole family’s life and demise, told by its last surviving member, the shape-shifting hermaphrodite, Lavren, whose memories evoke a multilayered Caribbean magical reality down the centuries that is lush, seductive, harsh, full of hysterical parrots, the noise of pan, mas, calypso and robbertalk, and of passions and nightmares, deep in the cocoa and sugar.
Rich in its examination of colonial legacies butting up against the contemporary island world, Witchbroom’s compelling prose has stood the test of time and paved the way for many subsequent explorations of gender, sexuality and identity in Caribbean fiction.
Since the novel first appeared in 1992 it has attracted international attention, being read as a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime and shortlisted for a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best First Book. It has drawn plaudits from writers such as Salman Rushdie, Fay Weldon, and from Kwame Dawes who believes it helps us to understand the present even better.
Academics praise the novel’s valuing of the relationship between Trinidad’s colonial past and today’s reality and that the author revives the lives of those left out of the mainstream: Amerindians, black slaves, indentured servants as well as all women – the colonisers’ wives, mistresses and daughters.
Scott has authored three other novels: Aelred’s Sin (1998) winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book in Canada & Caribbean, Night Calypso (2004), Light Falling on Bamboo (2012), and two short story collections, his latest being Leaving by Plane Swimming Back Underwater (2015). His first collection Ballad for the New World (1994) includes the 1986 Tom-Gallon Award-winning story The House of Funerals. He also edited the anthology of oral histories from Trinidad’s sugar belt Golconda: Our Voices, Our Lives (2009).
The new edition of Witchbroom, published by Papillote Press with a foreword by the author, is now available at Paper Based Bookshop at the Hotel Normandie where it will be launched as a 2017 NGC Bocas Lit Fest pre-festival event on Saturday 18 March. Reservations are necessary as space is limited.