True or false

You require intellectual stimulation from a holiday. You discover to your horror that your partner has booked you both on a fortnight's package to the Caribbean.

You must, therefore, resign yourself to two weeks of cultural starvation.

That is, of course, false. As an intellectual, you will already have read the epic poem "Omeros" by the Nobel prizewinner Derek Walcott from St Lucia, and you will remember that his island boasts a second Nobel laureate in the economist Arthur Lewis, though you haven't read him yet. You also make a vow to read Martin Amis on St Lucia.

But in case your flight is diverted to the Dominican Republic, breaks down in Puerto Rico or is hijacked to Havana, you buy The Caribbean, a Traveller's Literary Companion, which sees readers out of tight corners everywhere from Tobago to the Bahamas. Every geographic section has a cultural introduction, letting you know, for instance, that Barbados is a little too English, almost suburban, for some tastes, and that Brimstone Hill in St Kitts has a wonderful fortress, the Gibraltar of the West Indies. Then there follow extracts from the best books written about each place.

So if you are eventually carted off to the Dominican Republic, the Companion is on your side. It starts you off with an extract of the mendacious sales patter that Columbus - the 15th-century equivalent of a parliamentary lobbiest - gave to Ferdinand and Isabella, claiming that the rivers ran with gold. Then comes Quentin Crewe's tale of the restaurant in the town of Samana which serves filete Gordon Blur.

Sometimes the Companion tries to put you off places. Noel Coward's elegant puncturing of Frenchmen's pride in Martinique is reprinted. It ends:

In praising this celestial

Freak

They, one and all omit to

speak

About its flat cathedral

bells

Its indescribable hotels

The noisome and

disgusting smells

That make the island

reek."

On your return to Islington, you don't tell anyone about Dr James Ferguson's invaluable book, because it would give away the source of your new-found encyclopaedic and cosmopolitan knowledge.

But when you are preening yourself over cocktails in Chelsea, squelch any reference to literary figures from Guyana, because the otherwise exemplary guide sadly fails to include that magical country.

Oh, and it contains a foreword by Margaret Drabble, a recommendation for the older litterateur.

That can't be bad.

`The Caribbean, a Traveller's

Literary Companion', by James Ferguson (In Print Publishing, pounds 13.95).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015