Erna Brodber: A Poetics of Redemption: Antonia MacDonald
The long, keening cry of the enslaved reverberates constantly in Caribbean poetics. Caribbean writers and critics alike have offered the wounding histories of slavery and diaspora as the reasons for this continuing lamentation, and through their recounting of this trauma, have sought to repair the damage wrought. This concern for redressing historical wrongs has created a sub-category within Caribbean poetics: a literature of reparation that returns the pre-colonized person to a former condition of wholeness and provides metaphorical and spiritual compensation for damages suffered because of slavery. While she would eschew both her categorization as writer and critic, Erna Brodber establishes herself as an activist committed to repairing the trauma of Caribbean history. Brodber sets herself the task of piecing together a conflicted and fragmented Caribbean past, so that in the process of her creative reassemblage, diasporic Caribbean people can claim their painful past, acquiring in the process a healing that produces self-knowledge and, more particularly, knowledge of self in relation to community. To this end, Brodber also draws on her formal education as historian and her training as a sociologist. For her, the pain incurred by history is not minimized. Instead, suffering assumes creative potential, becoming what Wilson Harris in ‘Tradition and the West Indian Novel’ explains as the creative suffering instinct that leaves one open to vision (1999: 145). For Brodber, that vision is at once personal and communal, participatory and celebratory. To engage with the history of her diasporic society is also to write a personal account of herself as participant and one-time victim of that history. Redemption is communal.