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A Small Place (Jamaica Kincaid)

April 13, 2010

I don’t know what I was expecting from this text, but it wasn’t what I got! I think I was assuming it was a novel, or at least a more traditional work of fiction, but what it really was was…uh…creative nonfiction? Perhaps…. I have a friend who says she considers it a work of theory, but I felt it was closer to political memoir or even political rant than that. In any case, it’s an interesting work.

Since the entire “novel” (I hesitate to call it that since there is no consistent plot, and there are not really any characters besides the narrator) is narrated in the second person, Kincaid’s writing takes on a mildly antagonistic tone that keeps the reader in the position of the antagonist. The reader is lumped together with ignorant and rude tourists, prejudiced colonists, and other such unsavory characters. While it’s not an overtly hostile work, Kincaid definitely puts the reader in an uncomfortable position where they’re forced to look at the situation from a specific angle and to realize the damage that some seemingly-harmless viewpoints (seemingly-harmless from the perspective of those doing them) have caused to Antigua already.

Here’s a brief snippet from the book’s opening to give you an idea of the kind of mesmerizing narrative Kincaid creates — while it has no plot, per say, it definitely holds your attention in a strange sort of way:

If you go to Antigua as a tourist, this is what you will see. If you come by aeroplane, you will land at the V.C. Bird International Airport. Vere Cornwall (V.C.) Bird is the Prime Minister of Antigua. You may be the sort of tourist who would wonder why a Prime Minister would want an airport named after him–why not a school, why not a hospital, why not some great public monument? You are a tourist and you have not yet seen a school in Antigua, you have not yet seen the hospital in Antigua, you have not yet seen a public monument in Antigua. (3)

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