Dear Death

Written by Arnold Harrichand Itwaru for TSAR on

This work is a fictive meditation on life and death culled within the tensions of Hindu living and the negation of personal dignity - as well as the search for dignity - in the continuing hardship of a confusing and debilitating existence for many of the East Indians of Guyana. It is written through the eyes of Dalip, a boy whose growth from innocence to the youthful bloom of desire is also the movement of consciousness in which death enters in stunning pain and haunting fear, beyond understanding. But this is also that which occasions the questioning of the very nature of existence, of birth and death, of reincarnation, of the realization of the soul within the infinite wisdom and mystery of Divine Ram. These questions which the text, commencing with the Prologue which leads into the details of Dalip’s and his family’s life, and ending with the Epilogue in which questioning and wonder continue.

Sasenarine Persaud has accomplished a difficult task in his narratorial integrity of vision in Dear Death. His prose moves within the ingenious world of Dalip, the child, and effectively depicts the mystifying distance between the child’s world and the adult world where shocking and unexplained and ununderstood things happen and always impinge on the child. The naivety of perception - from the near-incestuous love Dalip feels for his mother to the shock of her suicide and the haunting nightmares the boy suffers - is depicted in a prosaic simplicity of style which could easily, but does not, deteriorate into the banal. Sasenarine Persaud has been able to maintain this tension so the telling and the writing style gradually transform themselves in accordance with Dalip’s burgeoning consciousness: his schooling ecstasies and insecurities, his growing ability to see further, to have more compassion for his father, his beginnings of self-reflection in his increase in reading, and most of all, his contemplation of life against death.

In this work the lives of the uncelebrated, the labouring Indo-Guyanese people, are depicted with an understanding that comes from within, and with respect. In this it is unlike the stereotypic and questionably judgemental fictions of Edgar Mittelholzer, Wilson Harris and Roy Heath in their treatment of the East Indian presence in Guyana. With Dear Death Sasenarine Persaud joins the increasing literary voices of Indo-Guyanese writers who have begun to talk of their experiences as East Indians in a country which has, against them, continued to project itself as an afrocentric domain.

Except for awkward minor instances which could have been editorially avoided, Dear Death announces the entrance of a writer whose work should be given serious consideration.