Uncle Obadiah and the Alien

Written by Dennis Scott for Unpublished on

Geoffrey Philp is grappling with a number of important themes: alternate allegiances; the survival strategies of the poor and dispossessed in a post-colonial situation; the moral confusions generated by divided loyalties; the loss of fathers, Sons and friendships, and the ways we create surrogates.

Philp creates intensely living characters who frequently learn to relinquish some of their passion in exchange for clearer perceptions of self. And the writer uses the language continuum of the densely pluralist West Indies, to create vivid relationships between the levels of truth experienced by his characters and his narrative 'voice'.

The stories he tells are rooted in a very specific Caribbean environment: a culturally complex site, in which the meanings of events recounted lie as much in the conflicting layers of perception with which characters experience the world, as in the fictions themselves.

Inevitably, these elements will have offered some difficulties for readers inexperienced in the methodologies of certain narrative traditions: the cultural specifics require attentive reception; precisely to the extent to which Philp’s narratives reward the reader with meanings, and character, they eschew the placatory bestseller technique of exoticism; and the questions his stories raise and sometimes attempt to answer are stimulated by Philp’s engagement with a culture alien to most North American readers. For the most part the general public and those who create its taste, have yet to develop a real respect for such work as Philp’s: it is not magic realism, it does not play structuralist games, it avoids self-referentiality, its dialogue - and the narrative rhythms he employs - are faithful to the creole music of the region. Its surface is deceptively simple: its concerns are serious and humane.