True or false
Saturday 05 April 1997
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
They, one and all omit to
About its flat cathedral
Its indescribable hotels
The noisome and
That make the island
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).
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
Hashima: Among the ruins on Japan's Battleship Island, the place that time forgot
The 50 Best spas
A commuter is getting revenge on First Capital Connect by Photoshopping its CEO's face every time his train is delayed
Simon Calder: Heathrow's Terminal 2, barely powered up and it's unfit for the job
The 50 Best European beach breaks
- 1 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 2 Comfortable in their own skin
- 3 Japanese plant experts produce 10,000 lettuce heads a day in LED-lit indoor farm
- 4 War is war: Why I stand with Israel
- 5 L'Oreal cuts ties with Belgium supporter Axelle Despiegelaere after hunting trip photographs
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
£45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...
Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...
£33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...
£30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...