(Theodore) Wilson Harris 1921–
Guyanese novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet.
Harris's "novels of expedition" are physical as well as spiritual journeys through the multicultural landscape of Guyana. Harris worked for more than fifteen years as a land surveyor and came to know the complexities of the Guyanese environment and culture. His novels are described as works of discovery and renewal because of Harris's attempts to rediscover the primitive foundation of his culture before it had become polarized by European colonizers.
From his first four novels, known collectively as the "Guiana Quartet" to Tumatumari and Ascent to Omai, Harris uses the landscape of his birthplace as a metaphor for the Guyanese psyche. In these complex and highly imaginative novels, Harris's characters often find a rich, unlimited potential in a life that contrasts sharply with what Harris perceives as a static Western culture. With Black Marsden, Harris began to shift the settings of his novels but he continued to include mystical experiences in order to expand views of existence and personality. In his recent work, Harris points to painting and the role of the artist as a further means of regenerating creative energy. Because of this desire to free the imagination from static values that nullify creativity and his deliberate inversion of literary conventions, Harris is often compared with William Blake.
To achieve a surrealistic and visionary quality in his writings, Harris employs exotic settings of the past and present, dream states, and death and resurrection symbolism. In addition, his writing fuses Christian allegory, Amerindian legend, and mythology from various civilizations. Harris's fiction has been praised for its depth but has also been criticized as difficult and over-ambitious.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 65-68.)