I’ve relocated recently from Barcelona to Utila, a little rock in the Caribbean with 6,000 habitants. It’s a writer’s paradise since islands have always occupied a powerful place and have been a source of fascination in the literary imagination.
From the discovery of the Americas to the period of decolonization, European writers and artists translating insularity – Pierre Loti, Victor Segalen, Paul Gauguin and others – contributed to the myth of islands in the Caribbean or the South Seas as new Cytheras, blessed islands, or exotic Edens rich with beautiful flora and fauna.
Time and again we find the island represented as the locus of a transformation, a translation. On islands, things change or, as William Golding shows so dramatically in his Lord of the Flies, things rise to the surface and are made visible, often things that we wish we did not have to see. On Utila, on the contrary, it’s often mentioned that the most beautiful parts of the island are located under the seawater level.
Also in my own series, The Maharajagar, this topic has been exhaustively explored. The series contain abundant references to magical islands. They can be places where heroes go to rest and from which they may one day return, islands that draw people in and never let them leave and islands that appear and disappear.
The topes of the island explore and create bridges between the real and the imaginary as well as crossings between genres and disciplines. Islands place here and elsewhere in dialogue and, in this way, serve as sites of mediation between cultures.
The encounter with island worlds and peoples often upsets the epistemological system and the problem of knowledge itself becomes an anxious theme creating knew parameters for the contact zone of translatability.
The Caribbean is a sea that explodes the scattered islands into an arc, and is a natural illustration of the Poetics of Relation.
There are no islands whose inhabitants can seal themselves off from influences from the rest of the world, no real physical islands and no metaphoric islands either. The peoples of the world have become too closely meshed together and, most importantly, have too great a need of one another to live cut off from outside influences.
It is hoped that through encounters with the ideas about islands that float through the reality, readers will be made more aware of the importance of literature which, even in an age of increasing technological prowess, remains the key to understanding the world we inhabit.