note_05.1 Angela Carter on Wilson Harris “the Guyanese William Blake”, 1985

Angela Carter and Grace Paley on the Tube, c.1987 © Kate Webb

Angela Carter and Grace Paley on the Tube, c.1987. Ph ©KateWebb

“KW: Will you start by giving me your impression of Wilson?

 AC: He’s got these curious hooded eyes, he never looks at you straight. And this wonderful sing-song voice, this vatic, musical accent. He’s very impressive. But I don’t want to give you the wrong impression because he’s not like John Berger: it’s obvious that he never set out to be impressive. I can only say about his presence that when he said to me about my son, “You have a wonderful little boy”, I felt it was some kind of blessing.

 KW: Why do you think he’s such an important writer?

 AC: Until very recently there was nobody writing anything remotely like him in Britain, nobody writing fiction with that particular kind of poetic intensity

 KW: I was surprised when he told me how exotic he found London, how glamorous the changing seasons appeared to someone from the Tropics. He seems able to write about Holland Park – the light and textures of the park – with the same intensity that he describes the jungle.

AC: Yes, well, I think that’s the way he sees them. That Conradesque time in the jungle must have done peculiar things to his mind. [Before Harris left Guyana, he worked as a government land surveyor, often in the rainforests.] Having been there, he now sees everything like that.

KW: You see the jungle in everything?

AC: A bit. And I was remembering Claude Lévi-Strauss saying that in Brazil he saw some Indians bathing by a river and he found himself thinking: how like New York in the summer. That was when he became committed to anthropology. It’s the same thing: Wilson now found it impossible not to look at people like an anthropologist: in the Subway, on the Métro, they all seemed to be the same. Perhaps it’s the same with landscape” 

More at the TLS site here.

More from me here.


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