On the eve of greater democracy for Jamaicans in 1944, John Campbell looks back. As a boy, he relives his brother Davie’s involvement in the Morant Bay rebellion of 1865. As a young man he recalls Davie’s ill-fated attempt to set up a Utopian commune after Governor Eyre’s savage revenge on Paul Bogle’s supporters. As an old man he reflects on his nephew Garth’s attempts to harness the energy of the working-class uprising of 1938 towards Jamaican self-rule.
First published in 1949, New Day has been read as an historical novel about Morant Bay and the early nationalist movement. Now, nearly 70 years later, what stands out is its acute portrayal of one man’s way of seeing, from the intensity of childhood, to the comfortable self-satisfaction of middle age and old age’s vicarious looking-on. At the heart of what is a more complex and conflicted narrative is a richly lyrical treatment of the human body and the network of its relations to the natural world, and a tragic awareness of how those connections fade as John Campbell moves from the peasant world of his childhood to manhood in the counting house, managing and profiting from capitalist agricultural production.
V.S. Reid saw the making of the Jamaican nation in epic terms – a vision that drew him to create his own poetic version of Jamaican patwa, to celebrate his country’s landscapes, fauna and flora, and to make some very interesting intertextual connections to the Aeneid, Paradise Lost and the Bible.
Victor Stafford Reid was born in Kingston Jamaica in 1913.
With an introduction by Jeremy Poynting