Page Arts & Books
Rowan Pelling is seduced by spicy island tales, but bored by an angel
Exotic is all too easily confused with erotic, and publishers can play on the natural tendency to endow foreign shores and subjects with a sexual timbre which might be absent in a novel set in Royston, say, or Stoke Poges. In Robert Antoni’s My Grandmother’s Erotic-Folktales, a series of interlinked stories set on the Caribbean island of Corpus Christi, sex is certainly an essential part of the grandmother’s vigorous storytelling. But the couplings are described in an honest, earthy and humorous way that owes more to the tradition of bawdy than to the furtive, half-glimpsed world of the erotic imagination. If, however, we allow that Eros’s terrain includes the soft, ripe flesh of a mango, a pearl-handled pistol nestling in a bosom or the crisp white chemise of a beautiful washerwoman, then this book delivers threefold.
The narrative; given voice by a 96-year-old Scheherazade in a ` strong Caribbean vernacular, .is by turns scatological, fantastical, sensual and historical (interlopers range from Sir Walter Raleigh to Eisenhower). Antoni’s rhythmic sentences, dazzling imagination and descriptive powers seduced me utterly. And despite a heavy sprinkling of unfamiliar words (there is no glossary), the onomatopoeic logic- sweeps you along.…