or “POSTSCRIPT TO THE CIVILIZATION OF THE SIMIANS”
a novel in the form of a screenplay
Cut Guavas is a mash-up of three fictional stories: that of the actual Trinidadian-born actor, Austin Stoker, who is, in old age, shooting the sequel to the Hollywood film in which he made his name, Assault on the Civilization of the Simians; the story of Austin’s origins in 1940s Trinidad; and scenes in which Austin and his wife, Robin, scrutinize the film he is making.
Evading the wrath of company lawyers zealously protecting their franchise, Robert Antoni’s novel, written wholly in film-script form, pays fan-fiction homage to that famous simian brand, whilst at the same time deconstructing the saga for what it has to say about race in the film and in American society. The script works on multiple levels, which overlap to comic effect. With scenes of the elderly Austin, as actor, battling his prostate and his failing memory, and joshing with his equally elderly cast-mates; scenes where Austin is the one human among simian characters from the franchise commenting on their roles in past films; scenes from the imagined film itself in a post-apocalyptic world where there’s a gung-ho raid to rescue incriminating evidence (another film) from the archives of the human mutants who are sworn enemies of simian civilization.
Intercut with this is the film-within-a-film, the moving story of Austin’s mother, Madeleine, servant in a rich French Creole house in Trinidad in the 1940s, and her affair with Austin’s white father, Barto, a narrative that tells us as much about his own motivations as the Colonial era in which he lived. There’s still another layer, which readers of Antoni’s Bocas prize-winning As Flies to Whatless Boys will anticipate with pleasure: the presence of wickedly comic metatextual authorial notes and commentary.
Cut Guavas is written in a spirit of fun that nevertheless makes serious points about race in the New World imagination. Antoni combines its multiple strands in a way that feels both effortless and seamless.