Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Salkey, a writer and a journalist, focused on West Indian themes in his novels and poetry, both in his adult fiction and in his children’s books. Anancy’s Score, his fifth published work targeted at an adult audience, represents an ambitious melding of political satire, poetry, and folklore. Some of the Anancy stories were previously published in such diverse venues as literary journals, West German daily newspapers, anthologies of West Indian short stories, and anthologies of African and African American prose. When first published as a collection in 1973, the work was critically acclaimed. Often highly praised by reviewers was Salkey’s skillful recapturing of the lilting rhythms of the Jamaican English dialect, evidencing his keen poetic ear. Although the dialect is at times difficult to comprehend for the uninitiated reader, it is lively and rich, emulating the speech of the Jamaican people.

Like most of Salkey’s other work, Anancy’s Score puts forth his wish that the Caribbean people reclaim their cultural and literary identities, both of which he views as being usurped by Western imperialistic powers. In interviews, Salkey asserted that he was committed to understanding and conveying the struggles of the postcolonial world, a world that suffered the aftershocks of oppression and neglect.

In the same year that Anancy’s Score was released in its entirety, Salkey published Jamaica, a long poem characterized by idiosyncratic diction that expanded on the theme of colonial oppression and the loss of cultural identity of the Jamaican people. Jamaica was written twenty years before its appearance in print. The gap between creation and publication underscored Salkey’s long commitment to Caribbean identity. The new man Anancy of Anancy’s Score thus serves as another Caribbean cultural advocate, emulating the poetic voice in Jamaica. Anancy’s cry to the people of C. World mirrors Jamaica’s poetic-voice exhortation to reassert the Caribbean in history and in art.