Comments by Bob Corbett
Roger Jumal, a friend of Francois Duvalier since their youth, supports him in his presidency. Eventually Duvalier rewards him with the post of consul to the Bahamas.
Jumal slowly and reluctantly comes to realize Duvalier to be the monster he was and Jumal is driven to be part, if not the lead, in plans to overthrow and replace Duvalier.
Author Paul Drake creates an amazing character in the poet-revolutionary Roger Jumal. He is subtle, fascinating and delusional. He has tremendous dreams of greatness, yet is ineffectual in act.
I think Jumal is not merely a character in this novel, but more of a universal character. The author seems to think so too and has the narrator tell us:
“… I have known them in many places: Cubans in Miami, Lithuanians in New York, Algerians in Paris, Hungarians in Vienna – driven men ransomed to rumour, sensitive to the insignificant, plagued by internal rivalries and mutual suspicion, buoyed by one day’s headlines and cast into despondency by the next. Reality is distorted by distance, prisoners of their own fictions, they live for rebellions that never come.”
While the focus of the novel is on Jumal, the other two main characters, the narrator, a journalist living in the Bahamas, and Jumel’s wife, an American woman, Kitty Freedman, are also well-drawn, deep, interesting and believable characters.
The novel is short, the plot rather thin, more like a long short-story, but provocative throughout. I liked the narrator’s judgment at the end. He has recognized that Jumal and his fellow plotters are ineffective, and is quite pessimistic about most “revolutionaries.” He concludes:
“Only the anarchists understood the truth about the world, but they were defeated by the very extravagance of their knowledge.”
The novel also carried a very personal reward for me. At one point the journalist is sent off to cover an election on Grand Bahama Island in 1962. There was an insurgence of black Bahamian leaders threatening the white Bahamian stranglehold on government. The election in the new village just being built, Freeport, was the focus of his reporting. The election was eventually stolen from the black political party.
I was married in June 1962 and in that July, just at the time of that election, moved to Freeport to teach at a local school. I had no idea until I read this novel of what an important place that election played on the larger role of politics in the Bahamas. I was a new-comer, fairly politically naïve, young. I soon heard of the rising fortunes of the Pindling family (leaders of the black political forces and much loved by the local black Bahamians), but I had no idea of the import of that election in my very first days in Freeport. It brought back many wonderful memories of my two years in Freeport and reminded me of the historic times which I also witnessed in 1964, the coming of the independence of the Bahamas from England in controlling their internal affairs. It wasn’t until 1968, four years after I left the islands, that the Bahamas became fully independent.
About the author: I like this novel and set out to find more of his book and more about him. His books are very scarce and I will have to be satisfied with trying to find them on interlibrary loan. The author is dead now, but was a Jewish America man, described as speaking with a heavy Israeli accent. He was deeply involved with the black liberation movement in the Bahamas of the 1960s and 70s.Bob Corbett firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Corbett email@example.com