The Modernist Attributes of C.L.R. James’s Minty Alley

4158 Words9 Pages

The Modernist Attributes of C.L.R. James’s Minty Alley

Born in Trinidad and later expatriating himself first to London and then the United States, C.L.R. James was a key figure of the West Indian literary scene during the 1930s. Today he is primarily associated with his nonliterary writings in sociology and politics, and his fiction seems to have dropped from critical attention. Part of this shortsightedness stems from the fact that little of his fiction is readily available to a reading public in this country. Although a selection of his shorter work is now available in The C.L.R. James Reader (1992), the only extant edition of James' novel Minty Alley (1936) is published by the small London press New Beacon Books. Because of its relative inaccessibility, this significant piece of Caribbean literature remains absent from the immediate consciousness of American readers and critics. In part, this article is intended as a platform to stage a recovery of this book, opening up a critical dialogue about the novel in order to develop a more comprehensive perspective about the genealogy of Caribbean fiction. The literary history of this region is too often thought to begin in the 1960s with the(post)modernist work of such celebrated authors as Wilson Harrisand George Lamming, and Minty Alley provides us with a formidable example of narratival experimentation antedating these more critically acclaimed works. But there is more at stake than extending canon lists and the historical boundaries of post-realist Caribbean fiction. James' formal innovations in Minty Alleyalso allow us to begin to rethink that retrospective categorization of literature which is now loosely termed "modernism." In the process of recovery, then, I would lik...

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