A Literary Friendship: Selected Notes on the Kamau Brathwaite, Gordon Rohlehr Correspondence
For fifty years, Gordon Rohlehr was the regular correspondent, sometimes confidant and always the critic who best understood what Kamau Brathwaite’s poetry achieved. In revisiting the trajectory of this mutually enriching relationship, what stands out is Rohlehr’s independence of view and his willingness to say when he thought his friend was wrong or unreasonable. Moving in its portrayal of a friendship frequently at odds with the political direction of the Caribbean world, this is also an essential record of the making of Caribbean literature.
Gordon Rohlehr
ISBN number
Country setting
Trinidad and Tobago
Publication date
21 Mar 2024
For fifty years, Gordon Rohlehr was the regular correspondent, sometimes confidant and always the critic who best understood the nature of Kamau Brathwaite’s vision and what his poetry achieved. In revisiting the trajectory of their mutually enriching relationship, this is a book to be read at many levels. It documents, invaluably, the movements in Caribbean thought, literary culture and collective activity over those years; it focuses on the human relationship and sometimes disagreements between two of the region’s most important articulators of the difficult struggle to decolonise its arts and culture; it offers an honest and perceptive account of the nature of friendship and its, perhaps, inevitable inequalities; and it reflects movingly on the personal costs of confronting a world that seems bent on forgetting. It begins in the London years of the Caribbean Artists Movement and ends with Rohlehr’s account of and his eulogy at Brathwaite’s funeral in Barbados. Written in the year before his death, this is Gordon Rohlehr’s last will and testament, his farewell to himself and to the first post-independence generation now disappearing from our sight. It speaks to a neocolonial Caribbean in which in the revolution it needed to become genuinely independent has faltered, a diffusive, divided Caribbean afflicted with a “culture of terminality” and “traditions of discontinuity”. And though he describes himself as a “born pessimist”, this book is Gordon Rohlehr’s revolt against the “immense indifference of things”. With extended endnotes and an appendix providing information on the vast network of people with whom Brathwaite and Rohlehr engaged, it provides both a record and a challenge to the generations that follow.
Gordon rohlehr smiling

Gordon Rohlehr

Gordon Rohlehr (1942-2023) was emeritus Professor at the University of the West Indies at St Augustine. Unquestionably one of the Caribbean’s finest critics and thinkers, his work covers both literature and popular culture, particularly Calypso.
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