The Enigma of Arrival is a meditative narrative of the discoveries and changing perceptions of its author as he lives for ten years at a cottage in rural Wiltshire, in England. Learning to see the countryside and its seasonal alterations, and discovering aspects of himself in the people he meets, the writer finds himself feeling a harmony with place that contrasts sharply with the dislocation and estrangement that have marked most of his previous life, both as a child in Trinidad and as a student and eventually a successful writer in England. For the first time, he is able to accept the realities of change and death.
The first of the novel’s five sections, “Jack’s Garden,” tells parts of the story of these ten years. Jack is a man the writer initially sees through his expectation that someone working in his garden in rural England is a figure deeply rooted in his landscape, an emanation of the countryside evoked by English literary tradition—and therefore someone quite unlike the writer himself, who, though he has been based in England for two decades, still feels a stranger there, still plagued by a rawness of his nerves. On the contrary, he learns, Jack has not always lived there. His garden is something he has created himself, his life there a conscious choice, his activities not “traditional or instinctive after all, but . . . part of Jack’s way.” Jack’s garden teaches the writer about the seasons, and Jack becomes an image of a man who has created fulfillment in the place to which he has come. The place is marked by change: Jack dies, new people move in, new farm managers carry out a scheme of drastic modernization, a worker on the new farm murders his wife, others die. Yet though he must learn the falseness of his early judgment that “in this...
(The entire section is 734 words.)