“This must surely rank as one of the most ambitious books ever attempted by a Caribbean writer. The philosophical, moral and religious themes and ideas put forward about community in all its many manifestations are lightly, deftly handled... Readers are rewarded by moments of sheer grace; and numinous revelations at every turn,” Lorna Goodison, chief judge of the 2018 OCM Bocas Prize For Caribbean Literature.
In 2011, the Trinidad government declared a state of emergency and an overnight curfew. The SoE, brought in to combat the crime and killings associated with the drugs trade, was meant to last 15 days but lasted four months. This is the background to these chronicles, but not their substance. They are an imaginative response to the undertones of those days. Taking place over 24 hours, Curfew Chronicles brings together, like a Joyce’s Ulysses in miniature, the lives of two dozen characters (including a father and son searching for each other) whose lives intersect in mostly fortuitous but sometimes quite deliberate ways.
From the Minister and his wife, to those targeted by the state; from those in regular jobs, to those who scuffle for a living on or over the edge of the law; from those who speak out, to the hidden hands prepared to silence them: no one is unaffected by the SoE. What makes these stories individually rich (as well as collectively ingenious) is the depth of characterisation. There is Scholar the street-corner prophet, Ragga with his vision of better days, Keeper tempted into crime to the distress of his redoubtable partner Maureen, Sumintra, the Pentecostal convert struck dumb in prayer, Marcus the assassin whose life is a movie, Amber the security guard and poet and her policeman lover Calvin, eager to retire from clearing up little matters like the “weed” found in the PM’s residence, and many more. Each has a resonant backstory; each is caught at a moment of decision or revelation. As these characters criss-cross Trinidad, Rahim builds an unforgettable world of people in a vividly realised landscape.