Charles R(aymond) Larson Peter Nazareth - Essay

Peter Nazareth

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Surprisingly—because we tend to dismiss critics turned novelist—The Insect Colony is a fine novel. Larson has a novelist's sensibility. He uses various novelistic techniques such as split narration, varying levels of perception, movement through time zones and the ending of every chapter with a startling revelation or question. Hunter Schuld, an entomologist, has returned to West Africa to study spiders. Metaphorically, everybody gets caught in a web of connections—an image Larson may have picked up from West African writers like Wole Soyinka, but one which works both because of the details of web construction and because we are made to see connections between people, sensibilities and histories.

The Insect Colony is not an African novel, nor does the author claim it to be such. On the contrary: explicit references are made to Graham Greene's African novels and Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Like its literary antecedents, Larson's is a novel about Europeans pursuing their own interests in Africa. However, Africa exists on the edge of Hunter's consciousness; and it assumes an increasing reality…. (pp. 292-93)

[Larson, the critic, is] a fine novelist who, from a clearly identified Western perspective, reaches out to the same kind of statement as that made by [Ayi Kwei Armah] in his great novel Two Thousand Seasons. (p. 293)

Peter Nazareth, in a review of "The Insect Colony," in World Literature Today, Vol. 53, No. 2, Spring, 1979, pp. 292-93.