Dear Death

Written by Howard Fergus for Caribbean Writer on

The title of Persaud’s first novel Dear Death which explores the sense of death from a Hindu perspective echoes a line in one of his poems. If ‘Man can die and remain / Dead / Dear death / You are our best.’ But the novelist is not so sure, and herein lies much of the tension and interest of the story which is set in contemporary Guyana.

Dalip, the hero, exhibits a mix of responses to the death of close relatives including his mother for whom he had an almost oedipal attraction. (It is not insignificant that D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers formed part of his reading.) He did not flinch or show any emotion on the immediate death of his mother and after a time ‘it seemed to Dalip as though nothing unusual had happened.’ It was similar to Aunt Coreen’s death which ‘had no meaning nor made any impression’ on him. But later he experienced nightmares, ghoulish and horrible images - ’some black fowl being burned somewhere.’ And he missed his mother who would have funded his ambitions and rejoiced in his triumphs. But these tender feelings will turn to bitterness and stifled condemnation, when he reflects that his mother committed suicide. Love and death seem to be so delicately blended in this novel.
There is more death, his brother’s. This he took in stride although it pained him that he had to spend his small savings designated to treat a lover, for his brother’s funeral expenses. Again the juxtaposition of love and death is intriguing. At Roy’s funeral he laughed; he has learned to cope with death and presumably with life and love. But he only did so through his belief in reincarnation and the immortality of the soul - a belief rooted in Hindu Scriptures and especially the Bhagavad Gita to whose tenets he was an avid adherent and which has assured him that ‘the rebirth of him who is dead is inevitable.’

The sights, sounds and liveliness of natural Guyana pervade the novel not just as backdrop but as a symbolic conduit of subliminal messages and feelings: ‘Instinctively he turned to the West. The clouds were red in the sky. The sun was down. The day was dying. He thought of Roy’ who was himself dying in the red sun of his manhood.

There is uncertainty as to whether some mature reflective comments on life’s ironies and vicissitudes are young Dalip’s or the author’s. But then this ambivalence reflects a deliberate device in the novel to have Dalip who is 24 years of age recount the event’s of his earlier life after a reincarnatory fashion. Even so, Dalip seems slightly overburdened with a bit much of the philosophical freight of his creator. On the whole, the novel is a respectable addition to contemporary Caribbean literature and can with justification be selected as a text for formal study.