Interview in the Sunday Arts Selection, Trinidad Guardian, December 28, 2013
The Audacity of Art
by Shivanee Ramlochan
The way Robert Antoni sees it, history is ripe for bold acts of reimagination. During a Skype interview with the Sunday Arts Section, the author of five books, including the newly-published As Flies to Whatless Boys, was enthusiastic about the strides one gains from trailblazing powerful new ground in historical fiction. “I’m always interested in pushing boundaries,” says Antoni, following up this confession by remarking that we live in continually unfolding histories, without giving them enough credence. “All of us inhabit this fairly comfortable place that history has brought us towards.” With this book, a title that’s been gestating for 15 years from conception to delivery, Antoni purposes to bring both real and imagined histories closer to the surface.
The Bahamian-raised writer, who teaches postgraduate writing at the New School University in New York City, launched As Flies to Whatless Boys at Paper Based Bookshop on December 14. That capacity audience included visual artist Jackie Hinkson, designer Meiling, and T&T Guardian Editor-in-Chief Judy Raymond. Reminiscing on the local reception surrounding his newest title, Antoni is warmly appreciative. He’s equally enthusiastic about the recent praise delivered by Haitian author Edwidge Danticat, in the December 10 issue of the New Yorker.…
ROBERT ANTONI by Lawrence Scott
ROBERT ANTONI AND I ARE TALKING TO EACH OTHER BECAUSE Trinidad is our home; its literature is our literature. His new novel, Carnival, is about “home.” Where is our home? His characters are pulled between the metropolis of New York, London, Nice and “the island,” a fictionalized Trinidad, where they return to perform the liturgy of Carnival, the rituals of homing. They return with the hope of finding home in the “Car … nee… val” and in the interior of the island, the tropical rainforest. This pilgrimage is not simple. Their desire for the pure and the idealized eludes them as they find and lose each other over and over in the flux and complications of race and sexuality. There are love stories here, brutally undermined by the complications of the past, ionized through humor and pathos. Robert and I met once in London and talked tentatively and briefly. But we have met more importantly in the books that we have written. Divina Trace, his first novel, mesmerized the literary world when it was published in 1992, winning the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book; it is a veritable laboratory for the alchemy he works in his experimentation with Caribbean Creole.…
By: Peter Josyph
“Watching my father suck an orange was the definition of the Caribbean for me.”
– Robert Antoni
(My conversation with Robert Antoni took place in Miami on two successive afternoons in the spring of 1994)
PART 1: BIG AND OBZOCKEE
JOSYPH: Divina Trace took you seven years. Is that because you finished it and then rewrote it, or did it proceed that slowly until it reached the end?
ANTONI: It proceeded slowly because I rewrote it the whole time. Divina Trace worked itself out differently from Blessed Is the Fruit, the book I’m writing now, in that I started with page one and ended with page 426 and could never move ahead until I felt very sure of what I’d done. I knew the day before I wrote the last page of Divina Trace that it would be the last page. I went back and made very few revisions. I had written the last three or four lines about three-quarters of the way through the book. Each time I began a new chapter I had to find a voice, even though many of them were voices that I knew. Granny Myna is my Grandmother Myna. Dr. Domingo is very much my father, idealized.…