LITERATURE: THE ARTIST IN THE BALM-YARD: ‘SEASON OF ADVENTURE’

This autobiographical strain, although not operating as explicitly as in the case of Powell, gives intensity to the presentation of yet another character – Chiki the painter with four works behind him but now suffering a block to his creativity as the confusing implications of his double cultural heritage begin to work themselves out in his consciousness. The reader approaching Season of Adventure with set principles about what the art of the novel is or ought to be will find many of the works best effects achieved at times when those principles are most blatantly flouted.

Fola’s process of self-discovery, which begins with her experience at the voodoo ceremony, takes place then in a difficult and ambitiously crowded novel. Her process is at once an example of ‘every man’s backward glance” and a representation of the middle-class West Indian’s relationship to the peasantry. The social cleavage with which Lamming begins is best expressed in the conversation between Crim and Powell, two Drum Boys who notice her in the crowd at the tonelle where the meeting is taking place:

‘Is what my eyes seein’?’ Powell said. ‘Over there, first row.’ They both looked at the girl whose elegance was no Jess conspicuous than the solitary white face beside her.

‘Is the stranger man who bring her,’ Crim said, ‘or else she won’t be here’.

‘Look at her good,’ said Powell, ‘education an’ class just twist that girl mouth right out o’ shape. Like all the rest she learn fast how to talk two ways.’

Crim couldn’t resist admiring the novelty which her presence had created in the conelle. ‘Is great she look,’ he said ‘almost as great as Gort.’

‘She got open-air talk an’ inside talk,’ said Powell. ‘like tonight she go talk great, with the stranger man. Grammar an’ clause, where do turn into docs, plural and singular in correct formation, an’ all that. But inside, like between you an’ me, she tongue make the same rat-trap noise. Then she talk real, an’ sentence come tumblin’ down like one-foot man. Is how them all is.

(Season of Adventure, p .21)

But Fola’s alienation from the Reserve has a broader parallel. The tonelle, where the West African serpent cult has persisted, though undergoing change over three hundred years, is a stark reminder of Africa and the slave migration. In exploring Fola’s attitude to the conelle, Lamming is also writing about the West Indian Negro’s attitude to Africa. This becomes obvious in the novel when Fola, after her “awakening” experiences at the ceremony suddenly realizes why her visit to the conelle is more problematic than the visit of American tourists to European monuments:

It was because, for Liza and herself it was because their relation to the tonelle was far more personal than any monument could ever be to an American in his mad pursuit of origins. Personal and near Her relation to the tonelle was near and more personal since the conditions of her life to-day, the conditions of Liza’s life in this very moment, could recall a departure that was near and tangible: the departure of those slaves who had started the serpent cult which the drums in their dumb eloquence had ought to resurrect ….. Part-product of the world, living still under the shadow of its past disfigurement, all her emotions had sprung from a nervous caution to accept it as her root, her natural gift of legacies. Fear was the honest and ignorant instinct she had felt in the tonelle. Her shame, like that of all San Cristobal was unavoidable.

(Season of Adventure, pp. 93-94)