Dr Wakefield’s largesse
10 Mar 2013

There can be no sub-genre more intellectually exciting than the book review that sets the terms for future philosophical debate. One thinks immediately of Heidegger’s ‘Anmerkungen zu Karl Jaspers’ Psychologie der Weltanschauungen’ (1919), Chomsky’s ‘A Review of B.F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior’ (1959), Frege’s ‘Rezension von: Dr. E.G. Husserl, Philosophie der Arithmetik’ (1894), Ryle’s ‘Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit’ (1929), Russell’s ‘Review of A. Meinong, Untersuchungen zur Gegenstandstheorie und Psychologie’ (1905) or indeed Hamann’s 1784 ‘Metakritik über den Purismum der Vernunft’.

But where is the present-day equivalent of a Zur Judenfrage, a Briefe über die Kantische Philosophie, a Differenz des Fichteschen und Schellingschen Systems der Philosophie? Which philosopher has the audacity to reconfigure our very intellectual parameters? Look no further…

Review: Contemporary Caribbean Writing and Deleuze: Literature Between Postcolonialism and Post – Continental Philosophy. Lorna Burns. Continuum. 2012.

Rather than organising conglomerate building exercises to potentially guarantee a private – chartered yacht for a tour of the Mediterranean sea, departing from a harbour near Tenerife, calling at Tangier, Marbella, Ibiza, Majorca, Sardinia, Malta, Crete and Cyprus to pick up and entertain our European – based contributors and readers; perhaps my attention this year should have been focused more on a private – yacht tour of the Caribbean sea, departing from a harbour in the Bahamas, calling at Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Montserrat, Dominica and Barbados to pick up and entertain Avello’s North and South America – based contributors, plus editorial members. In either scenario, there will be plenty of vintage Cristal and Goȗt de Diamants champagne. Art, alcohol and post-colonial literature make an intriguing combination. One is not thinking of the Christian Audigier champagnes however, but the rare Andy Warhol and Karl Lagerfield Dom Perignons, in addition to the Veuve Clicquot Yellowboam bottles which have Alligator leather labels instead of paper labels.1 My attention was brought to Contemporary Caribbean Writing and Deleuze by Burns whilst talking to a lady in Murray Edwards College (formerly New Hall) who informed me that Dame Julia King, a former student of the college, left Cambridge to take a senior position at the Rolls Royce company. Rolls Royce are a world – leading manufacturer of car, helicopter and jet engines. The company is the world’s second largest manufacturer of aircraft engines, thus a significant percentage of flights from Europe to the Caribbean islands are powered by Rolls Royce. The craftsmanship of their cars is also excellent, as one recalls from the thickness of the carpet in the passenger seat foot-well of a Phantom. Dame King is now Vice – Chancellor of Aston University, Birmingham in the Midlands not too distant from Lincoln University where Burns is a currently a lecturer in English and Caribbean writing. The Mask of the Beggar (2003) by Guyanese writer Wilson Harris is at the crux of Contemporary Caribbean Writing and Deleuze:

A painting speaks to a painting. They speak by crossing chasms. Their frames confine them and make them unnaturally silent. Chasms exist outside each frame, in spaces, in seas, in lands, miniaturised and virtually unseen but with immense living potential. They fly backwards to one another across each chasm. (Burns 2012: 104)

Burns splices quotations from Harris and his contemporaries such as Antoni, Hopkinson, Walcott (in addition to the recently deceased Glissant) with Hallward’s, as well as, Williams’ reading of Deleuze. Burns crosses the chasm between post-colonialism and the post – continental writing of Deleuze (with and without Guattari) on becoming, chronos, deterritorialization, immanence, newness and the virtual’s relationship with the actual. Burns illuminates the virtually unseen relationship between strands of Breton’s Manifestos of Surrealism, Deleuze’s Desert Islands and the poetics or ‘philosophies of twentieth and twenty – first century Caribbean writers’ (Burns 104 :10). This material will be familiar already to those who have been reading her previous work published in journals such as Deleuze Studies, Journal of Postcolonial Writing and Textual Practice, or have attended the Society for Caribbean Studies annual conferences, such as the one at Rewley House and Kellog College, Oxford University in July 2012. This was an international and interdisciplinary conference on the Caribbean islands and its diasporas, drawing together people from across the arts, humanities and social sciences. This conference was mainly co-ordinated in the Stopforth Metcalfe and Pickstock rooms, followed by a rum punch reception and discussions of reggae / dancehall2 music at Kellogg College. Daisy Rubiera Castillo’s presentation was entitled Profile of Black Women in Cuba. This was a healthy, feminist counter – discourse to their marginalisation in Cuban historiography. Another notable presentation on Cuba was a delivery by Steve Cushion on Fidel Castro and the Communists, 1952 – 59.

Also of interest to readers of Contemporary Caribbean Writing and Deleuze searching for upcoming events is the 31st Annual Meeting of the West Indian Literature Conference, hosted by the Caribbean Literary and Cultural Studies program at the University of Miami, Florida October 11 – 13th 2012. Miami’s metro – rail system will now take you directly from Miami International Airport to the University of Miami. My recommendation is to read Contemporary Caribbean Writing and Deleuze from cover to cover and simply follow the Orange Line to travel from Miami International Airport to the University of Miami station.

Burns makes a marvellous intervention into the Caribbean machine of writers, artists and intellectuals. Although she mentions our editorial board member Colebrook on page 54, the author of Gilles Deleuze / Deleuze and the Meaning of Life, she strays from the conventions of citing experts on nomadic distribution, such as Daniel W. Smith, for writers such as Ménil. This may not be a negative approach in the interest of originality. Highlights of this single – authored monograph by Burns include an acute reading of Glissant’s collection of poems Dream Country, Real Country (1985) that moves through present – day Martinique and mythical, virtual pasts. Also sourcing some of Deleuze’s roots in anti – Freudian, Bergsonian / Spinozist philosophy, Nietzschean ressentiment and Homeric – esque shadows is a strength of the book. What is perhaps missing and a weakness of this book is the omission of the activities of English MI6 agents with French DGSE agents in paramilitary and counter-intelligence missions in the Caribbean. Several missions have been deployed in and around the Caribbean Islands, the most high profile probably being the Caribbean missile crisis in Cuba according to former KJB agents such as Vladimir Putin, the current President of Russia. The fracture of patois speaking elements of the British Empire and some of its constituent Commonwealth of nations has partially been because of failed counter – espionage, code breaking and encryption. This also has links to the lack of co – operation on scientific projects such as in the building of the Hubble Space Telescope. My inkling is that this will become a very popular book, especially for its analysis of Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

Jason Wakefield, University of Cambridge

1. The Yellowboam‘s cork foil is 22 carat gold.
2. This panel was chaired by Clare Newstead.