Country 23 of 196
- U. S. A.
- The Republic of Korea
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Trinidad and Tobago
- South Africa
Project 196 is my attempt to read and post on a story from each of the 196 sovereign countries existing in the world today. So far I have posted on stories from twenty-two countries, including five stories by Nobel Laureates. I have been posting pretty much at random but I think I am going to stay in South American until I complete the continent. To an outsider the first and often the only thing that comes to mind regarding Guyana is the Jim Jones mass suicide and massacre of November 18, 1978 in which 918 people died in the settlement of a religious cult in Jonestown, Guyawa. It was the largest single mass suicide in modern history though some see it as more mass murder than suicide. (You can get the basic facts on the event here.) As I searched the net for a short story by an author from Guyana I found a story by a well known writer, Rosaliene Busschus, born in Guyana, that tells, through the medium of the short story, how the people of the country reacted to this event and were impacted by it.
The story centers on the perceptions of a woman, the wife of a government official, to the tragedy. She could see the cult's headquarters from the veranda of her house. She senses on November 18 that something has happened at the People's Temple. Her first thought was where were her kids, the universal reaction of most mothers. She finds out one of her nephews, I think, is dead, killed at the temple. She has other relatives at the temple. Her son Bobby tells her "Mommy, the soldiers say they are all dead.". She cannot cope with what happened. At first she thinks it has to be wrong, then she thinks why would anybody want to kill her aunt and her innocent children.
There is a lot in this wonderful story. It helps is understand the ethnic background of the people of Guyana , a former British colony. The people are descended from a mix of Africans and Indians imported to work the sugar plantations. The government is totally corrupt and we can see the Jonestown Massacre as a kind of metaphor for what is happening to the people of the country.
There is a very interesting subplot about the marital problems of the woman and her resentment that her husband, a powerful man, prefers white women as bed partners to her. The characters in the story are well developed. It conveys a strong political message without being overly polemical.
This was my first literary work by an author from Guyana. You can read it in just a few minutes and I think you will be glad you did. Those into post colonial short stories need to add this story to their canon.
You can read the story here.
Rosaliene Bacchus was born in Guyana. She and her sons lived in Fortaleza, Brazil for a number of years. They left in October 2003, and now live in Los Angeles. California. She is a regular commenter in Guyanese Online. She also has her own Blog : Three Worlds One Vision ~ Guyana – Brazil – USA.
The population of Guyana is about 750,000. It became independent from the UK in 1966. It has one of the largest unspoiled rain forests in the world. The official language is Guyanese Creole, which we can see in some of the very well done conversations in this story.
I think Project 196 will next stop in Guyana's neighbor, they have an active border dispute, Suriname.