These stories present, in writing that is both meticulous and poetic, a Caribbean world of unparalleled natural beauty, and societies that seethe on the edge of chaos, where crime encompasses both the rulers and the ruled, and where representatives of the state are as out of control as the youth Cynthia witnesses hacking off the hand of an old woman in a casual robbery. We enter this world through the perceptions of both those struggling for survival at the base of society and members of the old elite facing the consequences of past privilege in the reality of present insecurity. The stories stare hard into the abyss, at times taking us to hallucinatory places where nothing is certain. What is certain is the energy and precision in the stories’ subtle edge of moral rigour in exploring the inner lives of those who fail to see that their “minor” deceits and evasions contribute to the “fire in the city”. In such sympathetically drawn characters as Nello, the former car-thief now trying to do the right thing, or the memorably eccentric Dr Edric Traboulay with his intimate relationship to the natural world, we are offered glimpses of possibility. This is fiction that calls a society to see itself clearly, though about the revelatory power of writing the author is modestly ambivalent, as the powerful title story so shockingly reveals.
‘The sense of place is fabulous, interweaving vistas of landscape and seascape, local fauna and flora, architecture, politics, inhabitants, history… all of which creates an atmosphere of longing and despair – despair at the impossibility of ever achieving what is longed for … The stories play nicely with the disjunction between place as redemptive and place as punitive/purgatorial. The sense of foreboding that pervades all of the stories is impelled by this tension… the work is “postcolonial” in the very best sense of that critical label.’
Lois Parkinson Zamora
The book cover features a detail from ‘Lambeau Descent’ by Jackie Hinkson (artist’s private collection)
Keith Jardim is from Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana. His stories have appeared in many publications. Near Open Water is his first collection of stories.