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The Ghost of Bellow's Man

Written by S.B. Jones-Hendrickson for The Caribbean Writer on no date provided

The Ghost of Bellow’s Man is Persaud’s second work of fiction and his fourth published literary output. His other three works are Dear Death (fiction), Demerary Telepathy (poetry), also published by Peepal Tree, and Between the dash and the comma (poetry) published in Canada. In The Ghost... Persaud moves his work to another level of understanding, though not another level of distinction. He is still caught in that gulf of where does one go when one is attempting to travel a world of literature caught, as it were, in another place at another time. Persaud, a Guyanese by birth, lives and writes out of Ontario, Canada. While he still articulates some of the nuances of Guyana, some of his reflections are superficial.

The Ghost depicts reflections of Raj a partially dedicated teacher, with a love for his girl students; a Hindu, with a principle that the Temple should not be violated; and an aspiring, frustrated, quick results novelist. In this multi-featured character, Raj seeks to be leader, questioner, and arbiter of moral principles in the community.

The work is poetic in tone, surrealistic in thrust and short in terms of character developments. The poetic nature of the work is in the early chapters where Persaud tries a fusion of poetry and prose. The ‘political’ characters are thinly disguised, namely Fox Burton, Dr. William Ruddy who was assassinated by a bomb in a walkie-talkie in Georgetown, Mr. Spleen and others. The main characters of the novel are one dimensional: Raj, Mala, Edger Boy and especially Balchandra, who Raj hates for his conniving connections with Fox Burton, could have been developed some more in terms of their modes of operation and survival in the context of corruption, greed, graft, and deception that Raj is totally against. But Raj, the diarist, the ever-reflective, budding novelist, is caught in a dilemma. On the one hand he wants to give the old folks hell for putting chairs in the Temple. ‘Chairs in the Temple. This is an unbelievable act.’ Sacrilege. Chairs today, what next tomorrow? Assistant superintendent of police, Roona Adjit, puts it well, when referring to the elders of the Temple:

‘Them is wicked people and they wan put chairs in WE Mandir - and da wrang. Chairs in a Mandir! Man da never yet happen.’ (p. 143)

Of course, this apparent show of support from Adjit is only couched in a manner to get Raj and his young people’s group to stop picketing the Temple. It does not look good for the young people to picket. One Hindu group picketing another. Something in the Temple brought out in the open for all to see, especially for the others to see and ridicule. That is bad.

Raj is ambivalent about his relationship to Afro-Guyanese. He is immensely attracted to an Afro-Guyanese woman but he is uneasy as to how people will react. In this sense, Persaud captures, partially, the problematique in Guyana today. Persaud has more work to do in the whole undertow of the concept that is called the douglarizatian of Trinidad and Guyana. That is, the relationship of Blacks and Indians in the sexually active cauldron of those two countries.

Central to this novel, however, is a paradox of Raj himself. He is a crusader for justice, a stickler for right, yet his weakness for school girls does not seem to cloud his taste for right. It is bad for others to mess around, but he sees no problem in his going after every possible schoolgirl that his fancy desires.

The class distinction among the various groups in the Indian society is not as powerfully developed as it could be. This must be for the future works of Persaud. In only a brief case we get some insights when police Assistant Superintendent Roona Adjit speaks.

In the final analysis, Sasenarine Persaud’s novel reflects a limited sense of timing in a social perspective of the Indo-Guyanese landscape of Guyana and indeed the Caribbean. The Temple is symbolic of the purity that must be maintained. This purity must reflect the need to keep the Temple ‘chairless,’ but it must also reflect an understanding of developments in the society in keeping with progress and mores of Hinduism. To merely say ‘Balls to culture! Balls to Hinduism. I give up!’ (p. 151) is a defeatist attitude.

One senses that as Raj gets his first novel published, his disillusionment, his ‘give up attitude’ will be reversed. The despair that he now finds himself in will, hopefully, be turned to a level of hope and optimism that he can make a change in his country. Raj must know that despite the Burtons, the Spleens and others, he, as a writer and an activist, can be an agent for change in the society. Sasenarine Persaud’s The Ghost of Bellow’s Man is a good addition to Caribbean literature. He is to be applauded for the effort.

This is a review of The Ghost of Bellow's Man

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