Wednesday, 11 October 2017

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
First published in America by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux in 1988.

My 1980s read for my 2017-18 Decade Challenge

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

How I got this book:
Bought from a Torquay charity shop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brilliant look at colonialism and its effects in Antigua--by the author of Annie John

"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 . . ."

So begins Jamaica Kincaid's expansive essay, which shows us what we have not yet seen of the ten-by-twelve-mile island in the British West Indies where she grew up. Lyrical, sardonic, and forthright by turns, in a Swiftian mode, A Small Place cannot help but amplify our vision of one small place and all that it signifies.

I wasn't prepared for the vitriolic anger of Kincaid's short book, A Small Place, or the sense of guilt on behalf of my country that it would engender. Antigua is one of many nations completely altered by a British empire presence and, as we learn from Kincaid, her people are still suffering the effects decades after their supposed independence. As readers of this essay we are taken on a tour of Antigua and are shown both the obvious tourists sites and the ruined unequal society hidden behind beautiful beaches. The perpetually under-repair library is a particularly effective metaphor. Kincaid contrasts Antiguan life for rich white and Middle Eastern immigrants against that of black Antiguans who are still unable to escape their slave and servant heritage regardless of how hard they may work. A Small Place is a powerful indictment of Empire and would be useful reading for present-day Brexiteers who seem to believe that Britain's greedy, selfish past is an era to which we should return.

Etsy Find!
by Venus Island in
London, England

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Jamaica Kincaid / Politics / Books from Antigua


  1. I feel torn when it comes to this kind of thing. I'm Jamaican British. My Jamaican heritage clashes with the way that Britain treated Jamaican and how it still hasn't owned up or really supported the country since its independence and trying to recover from the colonialism. It sounds like Antigua is in a similar position, and although I don't know much about it, I would be very interested in reading this one to find out.

    1. I'm reading a history of Iran at the moment. British military and political decisions helped make a right mess of that country too - and all for money :-(

    2. It's amazing what some people can do for money...