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

The detailed and spectacular ceremony described in Season of Adventure, on the other hand ts subservient to a process of dissolution in the observing character. The episode is divided into omniscient authorial description of the ceremony, subjective impressions from Charlot and Fola, snatches of conversation between Crim and Powell and a continuing argument between Fola and Charlot. Expectations are early set up with regard to Fola, and because each return to her consciousness finds her further on towards a crisis of ‘conversion’, each retreat to another perspective becomes charged either with suspense or with an indirect bearing on the girl’s subjective state.

The details of the ceremony are every bit as exotic as those in deLisser’s novel, but by making Fola such an intense focus of interest in a psychological sense, Lamming forces the exciting event into a corrosive background. We become aware of the feverishness of the dance as an aspect of the girl’s growing hysteria:

… The atmosphere of the tonelle had increased in its effect upon her. There was something intimidating about the women. The dance had become more feverish. Fola recognized what they were doing, but there was too much tension in their bodies. She expected something to collapse inside them. Fola had lived in the shadow of two terrors: hypnosis and the sight of rats. She thought of both and the dancing made her shudder. (Season of Adventure, p. 25)

In a similar fashion, the case of spirit possession is not used as a spectacle in itself. Indeed, Lamming seems to throw away spectacular possibilities by allowing the possessed woman to go into her swoon behind Fola’s back, while Fola’s eyes are fixed upon the approaching procession led by the high priest or houngan.:

It seemed there was no order to his giving. Fola could feel the pimples swelling over her arms.She studied the faces of those who had drunk from the bottle of gin so that she might detect some order in the Houngan’ยป benediction. But a sweat broke under her eyes as she heard the swoon of a woman’s voice behind her. She wanted to ask Charlot what he would do if the Houngan ordered them to drink. But the woman’s voice was reaching cold and sticky as a hand into her skull. Her breath blew a staleness of gin odour round Fola’s ears. Fola’s attention was divided between the crippled swoon of the woman’s voice and the progress which the procession was making towards the bamboo pole.

Would Charlot drink of the gin? And what would happen if she refused? Was the woman behind her going to be sick? It was the sound of a voice in some near stage of asphyxia, crying: ‘Spirit, ride! ride! An’ come, come, come sister, come, hold sister, hold and let it come, inside O!Spirit, let it, inside O spirit come! An’ kind let it O O O come, come.

(Season of Adventure, p. 31)

Lamming’s controlling purpose frees him to write in a manner that could be described as sensational if seen out of context. The description of the houngan is a good example, especially when compared with this description of Takoo at the climax of deLisser ‘s attempted spectacular:

Takoo was clothed from head to foot in flaming red, robed as a high priest of Sassabonsum or some other potent God of the African Forests. In this robe of office he loomed taller than Robert or Rider had ever seen him before, and there was dignity in his gait and a gloomy earnestness in his gaze that seemed to inspire that crouching silent audience with awe.

(The White Witch of Rosehall p.203)