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Inkle and Yarico

Written by Chris Searle for Morning Star on no date provided

Inkle and Yarico is another [the review also deals with The Nature Of Blood
by Caryl Phillips] finely written historical excursion by a Caribbean-born writer living in England.
Beryl Gilroy has taken a narrative which originated in Ligon’s history of Barbados and was retold in a number of 17th and 18th-century publications, including The Spectator.

A young man, Thomas Inkle, the son of a white absentee planter, is shipwrecked in the Caribbean en route for Barbados. He encounters a young Carib woman who becomes his lover and protector as he is gradually absorbed into his hosts’ way of life and culture. Still English, bourgeois and venal in his thinking, Inkle never forgets his wealthy merchant father’s advice - 'Think only of your advantage' - despite his new community’s willingness to enfold him. He cannot escape the conviction of his own superiority. When he and Yarico escape together to Barbados, Inkle sells her as a slave.

Gilroy writes with a grace in vitality that is of a style not of this century, and much closer to the prose of the world it describes. Like Phillips, she claims history as her own, now free to creatively write and reapply it for those who were seen as its objects. The mercenariness of Inkle and the world into which he was born, and to which he returns, contrasts starkly with that of his Carib capturers, who 'live as though one heart beats for all'.

Yet his appreciation of the 'clear meaning of civilisation' remains that of a society where a planter friend’s wife asks him to search for and buy a young black-slave for her, who would improve the decor of her great house and 'enhance my porcelain vases.'

This is a narrative of deep historical insight into the commodifying and abuse of humanity and an excellent book for close study in schools. Gilroy lays the past bare as a text for the present.

This is a review of Inkle and Yarico

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