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DIVINA TRACE

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Divina Trace

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DIVINA TRACE | THE OVERLOOK PRESS 1992

A mysterious child, half human, half-frog, is born on the island of Corpus Christi in the West Indies. Its mother becomes Magdalena Divina, patron saint of the island, worshipped by Hindu and Muslim Cast Indians, Africans, Catholics and indigenous Indians alike. The frogchild, allegedly drowned in a pot of callaloo by the wife of the man who sired it, becomes the focus of an evolving legend as Johnny Domingo hears this story, about his family from different people and tries, impossibly, to piece it together into one coherent and true account.

Many strange events must be reconciled: Magdalena’s suicide while giving birth; the live burial of the frog-child in a glass bottle in the Domingo family cemetery; the wanderings of a statue of Magdalena through the Maraval swamp. As Johnny seeks the truth, seven distinct visions emerge, remarkably different not only in the recounting of the events but in the telling as well – each teller relaying the story in dialect, with the richness and cadences of his or her native speech.
In the center of the novel, the statue of the miraculous black madonna reveals her own version – as a variation of Vaalmiki’s epic, the Ramayana, also including the monkey-god Hanuman’s tale, told in its own remarkable monkey language.
In this extraordinary first novel, Robert Antoni adds a Caribbean spin to magical realism, taking on such themes as the irreconcilability of science and religion; the inexactitude and mutability of language; and the power of family, myth and mysticism ¬with spectacular results.

PRAISE FOR DIVINA TRACE

“This is Magical Realism with an avant-garde twist, as if García Márquez and Joyce had themselves engaged in unholy cohabitation.”
—Gustavo Pérez Firmat, THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD

“An astonishing tour de force! Trinidad, indeed the whole of the Caribbean, has it James Joyce.”
—George Plimpton

“‘Divina Trace’ is a post-modern place built over an ancient foundation, a sprawling neo-baroque wonder constructed out of clapboard and gingerbread, ventilated by tropic breezes and peopled with voices so original we might well believe we’ve happened upon an entirely undiscovered tribe of humanity—half-monkey and half-god. It is not possible to overstate the accomplishment of Bob Antoni, the architect of this extraordinary world. On our 500th anniversary, the Americas couldn’t ask for a greater literary tribute than this, a syncretic self-portrait of the hemisphere’s first and truest melting pot, the Caribbean. Between Derrick Walcott’s OMEROS and García Márquez’s ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE is where this book goes on my shelf.”
—Bob Shacochis

“Caribbean voices sing in this fine first novel like sea echoes in a shell.”
—John Barth

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“An astonishing tour de force!”
George Plimpton

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