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Ravenala Madagascariensis - Fruit of the Great Escape,
This review is from: The Traveller's Tree: A Journey through the Caribbean Islands (Paperback)
After the war in which he had served with such bravery, distinction and honour, Major Fermor had little more than his pen with which to defend himself against any potential accusations of indolence. His brief lecturing appointment with the British Council in Athens had come to an end and PLF knew that he wanted to be a writer.
An opportunity arose when a photographer friend of his, Costa Achillopoulos, asked him whether he wished to accompany him on a trip to the Caribbean and write up the text to the plates of a book he anticipated getting published. In the end the tail wagged the dog, and it turned out that the photographs accompanied the book that PLF wrote ! Anyway it was the big escape for Paddy from dreary post-war Britain and to gild the lily of this unforeseen adventure he invited his girlfriend Joan Rayner to join them.
No book written by Fermor has ever been mundane and conventional - he is hereditarily incapable of creating any such thing - and this first publication of his sets the tone for his subsequent writing. He is at great pains in the preface to make clear that his work should not be mistaken for a guide to the Caribbean. PLF's interests are historical, anthropological and architectural rather than a mere inquiry into the health of an island's economy and those assets it might have to further the development of tourism.
He is deeply concerned with the legacy of slavery. He is earnestly politically correct but always with a slightly sardonic smile, and so devotes much space to minority black communities and practices like voodooism. One is led to believe this primitive religious devotion took root in the Caribbean as a form of escapism in a difficult world where colour and class still mattered although there was no actual apartheid after abolition. He even traces the origins of the original settlers of the Antilles,the Caribs and the Arawaks, most of whom became victims of Western expansion in the 17th ad 18th centuries. In Jamaica he visits the Rastafarians and the Maroons (the latter descendents of escaped negro slaves)and the poor whites or "red legs" of Barbados.
Notwithstanding his commitment to an intellectual analysis of the social and political situation in the Caribbean at this particular moment of time - just after World War II - his magnificent descriptive powers and lyrical prose are already well in evidence and make this book an essential read for PLF devotees, and hardly a waste of time and effort for everyone else !