Another Life by Derek Walcott Summary

Summary (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Another Life describes, celebrates, and reevaluates Derek Walcott’s life, art, love, landscape, language, history, Caribbean, and spiritual resilience. Walcott examines the standard view of Caribbean history and sees that colonization has left a distorted history, one filled with numerous gaps. In Caribbean history as Walcott finds it, the absence of facts renders the history as hollow as a coconut shell. Walcott’s intention is to provide autobiography, which he decorates with art, as an alternative to history, to the accumulation of dead facts or to the writing of a grocery list. Through autobiography, Walcott aims at the whole truth, which is multifaceted. In the work, he changes his personal experience into art, providing an artistic vision and form through a synthesis of writing and painting.

Another Life focuses on three recurring names, Harry (Harold Simmons, who is Walcott’s painting mentor), Gregorias or Dunstan (Dustin St. Omer, who is his superior painting friend), and Anna (his teenage romance, the embodiment of art and the representative of the transcendence of art over history). The circumstances surrounding the struggles and triumphs of Harry, Dunstan, and Anna depict growth in Walcott, St. Lucia, and the Caribbean.

Another Life uses contrast to advance the journey of the young poet and postcolonial Caribbean (Walcott) from adolescence to adulthood. The painter, whose talents wane, grows into the writer whose talents wax as a result of the prophetic insight of his dying mentor, Harry. The poet’s valuable friendship with Gregorias, who is a better painter, is also instrumental in Walcott’s growth. Death is juxtaposed to life and resurrection, the sea to fire, the poor to the rich. Other contrasts, and resolutions, include the fatherless poet in book 1 and Gregorias and his parents at home in book 2; art and life; old and new; light and dark; and fulfillment and disillusionment. At its end, the book reaches toward a linguistic, cultural, artistic, religious, and historical resolution.

Walcott nostalgically re-creates the Caribbean landscape, particularly St. Lucia, with a rich congruence of painting imageries, figures, and theories. Another Life opens with the young artist striving to sketch the landscape at sunset and ends with the maturing writer. The journey motif becomes a vehicle for the poet’s exploration of the beauty and fire of St. Lucia. Merging these with his references to heroic classical and contemporary figures, the poet produces a rich montage of intertextuality and multiculturalism.

Another Life Bibliography (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Baugh, Edward. Derek Walcott—Memory as Vision: Another Life. New York: Longman, 1978.

Baugh, Edward. “Painters and Painting in Another Life.” Caribbean Quarterly 26 (March-June, 1980): 83-93.

Brown, Stewart, ed. The Art of Derek Walcott. Mid-Glamorgan, Wales, England: Dufour, 1991.

Hamner, Robert D., ed. Critical Perspectives on Derek Walcott. Washington, D.C.: Three Continents, 1993.

Ismond, Patricia. “Another Life: Autobiography as Alternative History.” Journal of West Indian Literature 4, no. 1 (January, 1990): 41-49.

Olaogun, Modupe. “Sensuous Imagery in Derek Walcott’s Another Life.” World Literature Written in English 27, no. 1 (Spring, 1987): 106-118.

Terada, Rei. Derek Walcott’s Poetry. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1992.