CARNIVAL | BLACK CAT – FEBRUARY 2005
From a Commonwealth Writers Prize–winner for Best First Book comes a stunning new novel that lays bare themes of race and sexuality in a parodic recasting of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises transported to the West Indies.
With his novels Divina Trace and Blessed Is the Fruit and his collection My Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales, Robert Antoni has established himself as one of the most innovative and vital voices to emerge from the Caribbean and the Americas. His ambitious third novel, Carnival, takes us on an expedition that stretches from contemporary New York City to the glitter of Trinidadian Carnival, and deep into the island’s mountainous interior among the unspoiled inhabitants of the mysterious Hell Valley.
William Fletcher is an aspiring novelist who has come to New York to escape his affluent West Indian roots. A chance meeting in a Greenwich Village bar reunites him with two of his childhood companions: Laurence, who left the poverty of his village to become an Oxford scholar and poet, and the vivacious Rachel, William’s second cousin and first love. Together the three make a liquor-soaked pledge to return “home” to Trinidad for carnival. As the festival’s ecstasy slides into a fog of ganga, alcohol, and the endless calypso beat, Rachel casts her eyes on Eddoes, a member of the isolated, Rastafarian-like Earth People—and the year’s young and scandalous carnival king. Eddoes has escaped his sequestered life in the mysterious Hell Valley for a few days of excitement, and it is to this remote place that the group goes to cool down after the festival. In the rain forest the group hopes for a secret paradise from which to begin anew. But even here the demons of history, prejudice, and hatred violently intrude, as the novel’s startling conclusion forces all the face the power—and impotence—of human resilience and human love.
PRAISE FOR CARNIVAL
”Robert Antoni has taken the plot of Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, about Anglo-American expats in Paris and Spain in the 1920’s, and transplanted it to the present-day Americas … Carnival is vividly written, with a powerful air of thwarted erotic energy”
”There are obvious echoes of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises … but while Antoni tips a knowing wink to Paps’s masterpiece, he also stakes out territory all his own, darkening his sun-soaked tale with an undercurrent of brooding menace”
”Jetsetting, hedonistic, bright young things … their talk is witty and literal. Whether in Manhattan, the Caribbean or the jungle, Carnival is an appropriately heady and wild novel, in which the air is suffused with dope smoke, calypso drumming and menace. But it’s allusive and allegorical, and there’s a disconcerting, underlying sense of unreality to it all.”
“The unfolding drama surrounding Rachel, William and Laurence is compelling … and keeps the ages turning”
”Antoni is a fine stylist, and writes well about both cafe life in New York and dancing in the streets of Trinidad. His characters are neatly drawn” and ”sex, drugs and drinking”
”If you’re on a Caribbean beach anytime soon, this is the perfect brain food”
”Antoni’s latest offering starts off brilliantly and is exciting in its language and style”
”Robert Antoni is an important voice in Caribbean literature”
”A sharp contrast to the idyllic palm-tree-and-rum stereotypes of the Caribbean and a challenging examination of the nature of identity and belonging”
“A master at simultaneously erotic and menacing descriptions, a choreographer of chaos, a storyteller with a cosmic sense of natural forces and human perversity, and a literary trickster who has boldly recast Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises as a harrowing tale of the unhealed wounds of the Caribbean, Antoni considers the crushing cost of survival in a cruelly divisive world and reveals a chilling truth: sometimes love is not enough.”
“Antoni is gifted . . . its kinetic tempo, believably passionate characters and well-defined sense of place are reason enough to merit attention. . . . Its use of dialect is minimal and unobtrusive; the sentences are lean and declarative enough to have won Papa’s stamp of approval. The numerous winks and nods toward Hemingway will amuse those in the know. . . . Antoni’s painterly eye beautifully renders the lush landscape.”
“Easily his most engrossing, direct work to date. . . A rawer—and ultimately more evocative—look at unrequited love.”
“Antoni’s evocative writing and dazzling descriptions of Trinidad and Carnival submerge the reader in an intensely personal world of noise and color, booze and banging pans, thorny race relations and humid sexuality.”
“Carnival is drenched in the atmosphere of the celebration of the same name. . . . With soca . . . as its backbeat, and the singular dialect of the British West Indies serving as its poetry, author Robert Antoni has created a sort of literary travelogue. His characters . . . are wonderfully imagined and nuanced in this compact novel about race, friendship and identity.”
“One of the book’s most noteworthy aspects is its strong character development. . . . A unique contemporary novel with shades of violent history and damaged love.”
“In his brilliant first novel, Divina Trace, Robert Antoni gave us a kind of Caribbean Ulysses. Carnival is Antoni’s The Sun Also Rises, with a splash of Deliverance, which ultimately casts its own unique and irresistible spell.”
“In his new novel, Carnival , Robert Antoni has pulled off a stunning and original literary feat: elevating Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises to archetypal status and then brilliantly dismantling it in light of the 21st century zeitgeist. The result is a fascinating meditation on race, sexuality, belief systems, and fiction itself.”
“Celebrated Caribbean writer Antoni excels at confounding expectations.”