Crown Jewel: Radical West Indian Historical Fiction, by Ralph de Boissiere


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De Boissiere was born in Trinidad in 1907, the son of solicitor Armand de Boissiere and his English wife Maude Harper.  He was educated at Queens Royal College. The injustices of society gradually came to dominate de Boissiere's thinking and writing. As a young man he found sympathetic attitudes in books among English and especially Russian writers. His sympathies were with the poor and he saw the ugliness of developing capitalism.
      - Anthony Milne, journalist, Trinidad Express newspapers
   
   
   
   
   
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                       Crown Jewel

Review by Anthony Milne, Journalist.

De Boissiere's best-known novels are Crown Jewel, set in the 1930s at the time of the Butler riots in the oilfields of south Trinidad--part of the general disturbances in the British Caribbean in the 1930s--and Rum and Coca Cola, which takes place during the Second World War when thousands of American soldiers came to Trinidad to build and man military bases.

it reveals the untold story of the racial, cultural and political history of Trinidad. Crown jewel is book of great merit and gripping characters, revealing the tapestry of Trinidadian society and culture.



University of the West Indies Professor Ken Ramchand says "De Boissiere's work combines social realism and political commitment with a concern for the culture of the feeling within the individual in a way that is unique not only among West Indian writers but among writers with a social conscience
anywhere in the world."

Ramchand stresses that Crown Jewel and Rum and Coca Cola are essential reading for an understanding of the rich possibilities of young Trinidad in the 1930s and 1940s and the subtle makings of what renowned WI writer Sam Selvon called "the Trinidadian person."

The book made its way to Eastern Europe, where it was translated into six or seven languages, and also found its way home to Trinidad. In 1982, it was published in Britain after Salman Rushdie praised it... and... it received a good review in the New York Review of Books."

-- Anthony Milne. has worked as a journalist with Trinidad Express newspapers since July 1981, covering politics, parliament and just about everything else under the sun.
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Tribute and Praise For Crown Jewel

Quote: “The Tribune (September 1957) declared, "De Boissiere has created an art work.” 
The arts reviewer of Radio Australia's Overseas Service considered Crown Jewel to be "one of the most talented first novels I have ever read" (broadcast on November 1 and 8, 1952). 
The Voices described Crown Jewel as Trinidad's "most important political novel... the fundamental work of fiction in our society" (Voices, 1973, p.  3). See p. 157 of “Fifty Caribbean Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook.”
Picador press advertised it as "a Caribbean classic and a major work of realist fiction which in the urgency of its narrative drive and the depth of its moral concerns can prompt parallels with Turgenev and Tolstoy."
The Observer (June 14, 1881) said: "Once in a blue moon a lost gem is unearthed from the general rubble of period fiction. Crown Jewel... is one such find."
When the book was republished in 1981 Allison and Busby announced Crown Jewel as "one of the lost masterpieces of not only for the West Indies but for all oppressed humanity," and "one of the lost masterpieces of world literature...."

In the words of University of the West Indies Professor, Ken Ramchand, de Boissiere’s work, "combines social realism and political commitment with a concern for the culture of the feeling within the individual in a way that is unique not only among West Indian writers but among writers with a social conscience anywhere in the world." Ramchand says that Crown Jewel is essential reading for an understanding of the rich possibilities of young Trinidad in the 1930s and 1940s and the subtle makings of what renowned West Indian writer, Sam Selvon, called "the Trinidadian".

   Also reviewed in:

1. Encyclopedia of Latin American and Caribbean Literature, 1900-2003 - Page 173 by Daniel Balderston, Mike Gonzalez - Reference - 2004 - 560 pages

2. Studies in Commonwealth Literature: Papers Presented at the Commonwealth ... - Page 123 by Breitinger, Eckhard, Reinhard W. Sander,

3. Universität Bayreuth - Literary Criticism –
Meanjin Quarterly - Page 416 by University of Melbourne - 1976

4. Caribbean Writers: A Bio-bibliographical-critical Encyclopedia - Page 66
by Lubin, Maurice Alcibiade, 1917-, Donald E. Herdeck, Margaret Herdeck - Literary Criticism - 1979 - 963 pages

5. The Stranger from Melbourne: Frank Hardy - A Literary Biography, 1944-1975 - Page 55 by Adams, Paul - Political Science – 1999

6. Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience - Page 1179 by Henry Louis Gates, Anthony Appiah - Social Science - 1999 - 2095 pages

7. Critical Perspectives on Sam Selvon - Page 45
by Susheila Nasta - Literary Criticism - 1988 - 285 pages

8. The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English - Page 240
by Ian Ousby - Literary Criticism - 1993 - 1067 pages

9. A History of Literature in the Caribbean - Page 91
by Albert James Arnold, Vera M. Kutzinski, Ineke Phaf-Rheinberger - 2001 - 677 pages

10. International Who's Who of Authors and Writers 2004 - Page 135
by Elizabeth Sleeman - Literary Criticism - 2003 - 608 pages

11. Encyclopedia of Literature and Politics: Censorship, Revolution, and Writing - Page 191 by M. Keith Booker - 2005 - 935 pages

12. Cambridge Paperback Guide to Literature in English - Page 105
by Ian Ousby - Literary Criticism - 1996 - 444 pages

13. New Community by Great Britain Community Relations Commission, Great Britain Commission for Racial Equality, European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations (Rijksuniversiteit te Utrecht) – 1971, Page 328

14. Corona: The Journal of His Majesty's Colonial Service - Page 68
by Great Britain Colonial Office - 1970
15. Caliban and the Yankees: Trinidad and the United States Occupation - Page 252 by Harvey R. Neptune - History - 2007 - 274 pages
16. Biographies" http://biography.jrank.org/pages/4258/de-Boissi-re-Ralph-Anthony-Charles.html by Jeremy Poynting.
Manuscript Collection:
The National Library of Australia.
Critical Study:
The Trinidad Awakening: West Indian Literature of the 1930s by Reinhard Sander, Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1988.

 

 

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