Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Saturday, April 03, 2004  

Mary-Mathilda is a formidable creation: vulnerable, indomitable, proud and compromised. Semi-educated but self-taught, and knowing "Englund by heart", she digresses on Picasso's blue period or the Ride of the Valkyries amid a gentle comedy of malapropisms and mispronunciations that is never patronising. Despite instances of over-explicitness, the prose has a sinuous power and sensuousness, evoking the moral taint that accompanies the "sweet, sickening smell" of cane. The final revelations have a cathartic force, bringing a sense of freedom forcibly taken back. The instrument of vengeance is the polished hoe, heirloom of generations of fieldhands, symbol of bounty and honest labour.

--Maya Jaggi is bowled over by Austin Clarke's much-praised, prizewinning Polished Hoe, in today's UK Guardian Saturday Review. (The "instances of over-explicitness" were, for me, much more than that; they characterised a novel that was also in other ways greatly flawed.)

posted by Jonathan | 10:05 AM 0 comments


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