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Two days in Guyana

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Guyana sits silently beneath the heel of the archipelago—massive, un-mapped in regional consciousness, a true hinterland. The Guyanese interior has been described by Wilson Harris in his novels Heartland and Palace of the Peacock as a gateway to the interior of whatever collective unconscious “we” possess or share.


It’s not a touristy place in Harris’ mind, but tourists do go there. I visited the interior a couple of years ago, and caught a faint sense of what he was talking about inside the thrill of skimming the giant rivers, seeing the snakes, and the indigenous people gliding along the black water in canoes much the same as when they greeted Ralegh, centuries ago.


It’s not romantic, as some people have portrayed it, but neither is it pitiable. Metropolitan conditioning prepares you to either patronisingly celebrate or pity the noble natives. But once you’re there, you realise how inadequate these preconceptions are. (This is not a reason to think they don’t need technology, roads, or improved institutions.)