This chapter explores the contribution of literature to post-independence nation-building in the Caribbean. Lawrence Scott’s Witchbroom (1992) focuses on Trinidad and Mark McWatt’s Suspended Sentences: Fictions of Atonement (2005) on Guyana. Both address challenges presented by ethnic and cultural diversity to the imagining of a national community: Witchbroom’s century-spanning story of Trinidad depicts a society divided into ethnically-defined communities, and Suspended Sentences deals with a post-independence Guyana rife with racial polarisation. While M. G. Smith and V. S. Naipaul regard these countries’ plurality as incompatible with nationalism, Scott and McWatt see it as the foundation for a national culture. Drawing on Derek Walcott’s aesthetic of hybridity and Wilson Harris’s ‘cross-cultural wholeness’, they revive imaginings of their literary predecessors. This chapter argues that despite their critique of Dr Eric Williams’ failed democracy and Forbes Burnham’s dictatorial regime, Scott and McWatt continue to invest in the idea of the nation.
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