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Caribbean Journal of Education

“What is to is/must is” Time and Memory in Merle Collins's The Colour of Forgetting

Publication Date: 
April 1998

This essay focuses on Merle Collins's second novel, The Colour of Forgetting, and argues that through the use of oral storytelling and oral narrative strategies, the novel represents a countervoicing of colonial history. The stories the characters tell of the island's troubled past and present are used to explore the tension between linear, historical time and a more recursive view of time, where the past is continually repeated in the present. Their narratives criss-cross the written text of the novel, representing a challenge to the dominance of literacy, schooling, and written forms of knowledge which defines colonized peoples' past and determines the course of their future. While not providing a romanticized account of an orally based culture and cultural values, the novel uses the problematical relation between the oral and the written to represent the unresolved, and at times destructive tension between the past and the present, colonialism and post-colonialism. 

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