Mr. Potter: A Novel
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The story of an ordinary man, his century, and his home: "Kincaid's most poetic and affecting novel to date" (Robert Antoni, The Washington Post Book World)
Jamaica Kincaid's first obssession, the island of Antigua, comes vibrantly to life under the gaze of Mr. Potter, an illiterate taxi chauffeur who makes his living along the roads that pass through the only towns he has ever seen and the graveyard where he will be buried. The sun shines squarely overhead, the ocean lies on every side, and suppressed passion fills the air.
Ignoring the legacy of his father, a poor fisherman, and his mother, who committed suicide, Mr. Potter struggles to live at ease amid his surroundings: to purchase a car, to have girlfriends, and to shake off the encumbrance of his daughters―one of whom will return to Antigua after he dies and tell his story with equal measures of distance and sympathy.
In Mr. Potter, Kincaid breathes life into a figure unlike any other in contemporary fiction, an individual consciousness emerging gloriously out of an unexamined life.
shape of the cheeks, not the size of the ears; he saw only the face of that man, that man who was his father and who caused a line to be drawn through him. How well he could remember that face, not the eyes or the nose or the mouth or the ears or the brow or the cheeks, just the face, and he was only two years old then, or only three years old then, or four or five or six or seven years old then, or thirty years then, or fifty years then, or seventy years then—and he was seventy when he
Emerging from Mr. Shepherd’s household, not from the fog, or the mist, or the shadow, only emerging from the household of Mr. Shepherd, and emerging at that time when he was no longer a boy but not yet a man, Mr. Potter walked into Mr. Shoul’s life, and Mr. Shoul’s life, so calmly fragile as is all individual existence, was then vividly engulfed by a sudden fiery collapse of the world as Mr. Shoul knew it. The world as we know it will from time to time do that, collapse, engulfed by a fire
at Mr. Potter and Mr. Potter thought to himself, Now this man who cannot speak properly is angry with me, now he is pleased with me, now he is both at the same time. And so Dr. Weizenger looked at Mr. Potter, Mr. Potter standing in the light of the sun, the sun eternally bright, the sun the very definition of light, the sunlight to which all light bowed, light that was itself and also a metaphor for all other aspiring forms of brightness. But the light in which Mr. Potter stood was not radiant,
and hanging toward the floor and blood falling down to meet the floor and bones exposed and sinew, too, and nerves; and after all that, the person, the mother with her girl child, was recomposed, not made new, only recomposed into an ordinary mother with her girl child, and their tears could make a river and their sighs of sorrow and regret could make mountains, and the pangs of hunger in their stomachs could make a verdant valley, and they cried to Mr. Potter, these children and their mothers
each other and his grave filling up with water and the sky never clearing to reveal the sun and Tan-Tan said that the dead did not bother him, for he knew them so well and he didn’t care about the dead one way or the other, and how the dead were always wrapped up in coffins made of mahogany or pitch pine and how indifferent he was to them, and I did not say to him then that love made you indifferent, I only shook my head up and down, backward and forward, in agreement or disagreement, one way or