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Sastra

Written by Chris Searle for Morning Star on no date provided

These two novels by Caribbean women come from both ends of the region and have as their protagonists young student teachers who break out from approved ways.

Sastra is a young Indo-Caribbean woman who goes against the arranged marriage being set for her in a Trinidad village, to marry Rabindranath, a young teacher who has contracted leukaemia.
Set in the ‘50s amid a burgeoning independence movement, the novel is back-grounded by a threatening communalism between Afro and Indo-Caribbean communities - and the young teacher’s determination that such influences must be stemmed. Rabindranath argues strongly to his students that ‘with keen eyes and by being ever so watchful’ they must ‘escape the hunters, the trappers, the collectors and persuaders of men.’

Sastra’s rebellion is not a rupture with her family and community, but more a challenge.
There is a subliminal understanding that the times of the novel are times of intense change, where cultures too must adapt and seek unity: ‘A culture is like a forest, it stands in a certain place for a certain time. Those that are bound by their culture are like trees - but why not be a bird and dwell in all forests?’

Lakshmi Persaud is a writer of genuine poetic beauty whose language flies into images, sometimes like her own hibiscus flowers ‘twisting and turning faster and faster.’ As Sastra struggles to organise her life between the poles of objective choice and her passions which make reason itself ‘shrivel until it lay in a far corner,’ Persaud’s own words become a ‘song of love and life and hope’ and a powerful expression of the strength and will of the free Caribbean woman.

This is a review of Sastra

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