The Elect

Written by Chris Searle for Liberation on

The Leeds-based publishing house, Peepal Tree Books, has made a genuinely pioneering contribution to Caribbean literature in the books it has published, both in their outstanding quality and the sheer quantity of their output. These books are beautiful artifacts in themselves, with evocative and imaginatively designed covers, always finished in a way which dignifies the creative works even more and gives them a ‘feel’ and look of real distinction which matches their content. And all this at a price which is below the mass-published price of contemporary novels - emphasising Peepal Tree’s all-round publishing achievement. From Guyana on the South American mainland to Jamaica, Peepal Tree’s writers come and there is a seminal sense of Caribbean unity about the publisher’s list.
One of the recent novels published, for example, is Sharlow Mohammed’s sharp and revealing satire upon the incursions of US-funded Christian fundamentalist sects across the region - a new and menacing form of cultural imperialism, directed, as one of The Elect’s characters pronounces, from the ‘head office in New York’, right into the heart of multi-faith Trinidad village. The corrupting influence of the new religious invaders, bringing extortion, rape, and a new obscurantism with them, is ably expressed in Sharlow’s novel, which is comic and tragic by turns.

Set at the period of Trinidad’s oil boom, it exposes the ‘get-rich quick’ manoeuvres of a new class of entrepreneurs exploiting their own people. So much so, that, as one of the villagers cogently points out: ‘I telling all o’all yuh is money dat bring evil in de place’. Sharlow’s simple but authentic tale, expressed through the poetic power of Trinidad popular speech, is a fine commentary on now-times Caribbean life.