Saturday, March 23, 2013

"Indigo. Or Mapping the Waters" by Marina Warner

Indigo is one of the many works of literature inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest. In this novel Marina Warner spills the beans about her ancestors, who were the first colonizers of the Caribbean island of St. Kitts (Enfant-Béate in the novel), back in the seventeenth century. In the novel, Kit Everard sails for the New World, where he establishes a new colony and has some skirmishes with the indigenous people. The author also explores the character of Sycorax, Caliban's witch mother who in the book is a Carib woman, who dies indigo and heals with the herbs she can find on the island. She has adopted two children: Ariel, an Arawak girl from the mainland, and Doulé (Caliban), an African baby boy littered by the ocean. While Caliban will leave and search for his African roots, however, Ariel will become a sort of Caribbean Malinche, and will bear Kit Everard's children.

Back in the twentieth century, we encounter Miranda and Xanthe, descendants of the first Kit Everard, who both live in London and have issues with their family of former planters. The attention is on Miranda, who is artistic, and worried about her heritage. With a Creole grandmother and dark features, she is constantly looking for her identity and her place in the world. Her young aunt (and almost half-sister) Xanthe, instead, is carefree and eager to earn some money by exploiting the possibilities tourism has brought to Enfant-Béate. She decides to go back to the islands, together with Miranda, for the anniversary of the first landing. The two girls will find answers on Enfant-Béate, but in different ways.

At first I loved this book and I couldn't put it down. Marina Warner is certainly an excellent writer; too bad that the last part was a little flat. I wish that the last section, set in the present time, had reached its full potential: you get only glimpses of the conflicting thoughts that the past of Miranda and Xanthe's family brings to their minds. All in all, it was a fascinating reading: it's good to read about the colonies from the perspective of the colonizers with an awareness of the guilt that such an identity can bring.


  1. It's been a long time. Hope you're doing well. All the best.

  2. Just published a new post on virtually the only book I have read since March, aside all the stuff I am reading for my doctoral thesis. I should be finished with it by October, cross your fingers.