Stephen Slemon


In each of his eighteen works of fiction published over the past quarter century, Wilson Harris has focused on the question of how to effect 'genuine change' within history's 'phenomenal legacy' of monumental, seemingly totalising tradition and the conceptual biases it carries, and, in consequence, his novels tend to return to the same closely delimited ground of thematic concern and stylistic voice. Motifs, images, characters, and plot patterns recur throughout his oeuvre, giving rise to the perception that Harris's later work continues to draw from the 'overreaching vision'^ of his first novel Palace of the Peacock, re-examining its

implications for social change and for the performance, the grounding, of fiction itself. But as Harris has noted, 'one novel may pick up something in the fabric of a previous work and rehearse its implications anew, revise, revision itself." and in this process of'revisioning' Harris seizes on subtle differences in apparendy similar fictional constructs, reaching always for a mode of writing 'that seeks through complex rehearsal to consume its own biases'.^ As Gregor\^ Shaw notes, the 'cycle' of Harris's novels is more accurately viewed as 'progressive or incremental': 'in dialectical terms, each succeeding stage may be said to cancel the revelations of its predecessors, but it also presei'x-es them and raises them to a higher level.'' In this way, Harris's novels can be seen to be engaging with a tradition of the author's own making, the apparent unity of his fictional output standing as a trope for that seemingly monumental inheritance of histors' through which Harris seeks gateways into imaginative release, and his complex process of fictional 'rehearsal' representing a means by which contemporary post-colonial society can revise and transform received forms of perception into new and liberating 'codes of recognition'



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