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Biography of Ralph de Boissiere (1907-2008)


Narrator and political activist, Trinidad and Tobago, born in the island of Trinidad (then belonging to the British Crown) on October 6, 1907 and died 16 2008 febrearo.

Came to the world in a family that was a magnificent example of this melting pot of races and cultures that are the West Indies (archipelago in which does not include the island of Trinidad with purely geographical criteria, but yes from the historical and cultural point of view). Son of a French father and English mother, belonged to a well-known family clan of the French Creole bourgeoisie, in whose genealogical branches also had African blood (thus, v. gr., a great-grandmother of the future writer).

Orphaned of mother practically from that came into the world (because his mother lost her life until he had fulfilled a month old), he was educated next to a severe and distant father against which soon collided crossly. His first acts of rebellion, practiced when it was only a child, consisted of leaving to attend religious services and leave long Manes. Likewise, rejected traditional education provided by his father and, above all, wanted to be a musician, efforts that led him to become a discreet pianist.

At the time that, by laying on his father, attending to the Queen completo Royal College of Trinity and the Traquility Boys Intermediate School, the young Ralph de Boissière read with relish the main teachers of Russian literature (and, with a special predilection, Turgenev, Chekhov and Tolstoy) with which we sought a splendid self-learning literary training which enabled him to definitively abandon studying typing and accounting to devote himself to literature.

When admitted that he was not qualified to become a piano virtuoso, abandoned their dreams of earning a living as a performer and began working in a bakery, combining its obligation to take care of yeast with its inexhaustible reading voracity. It was in this hard job when took consciousness truly appalling conditions in which the employment took place in Trinidad, where the working mass was exploited in endless days in Exchange for a pay less than a dollar per day, while the unemployed, totally unprotected by the local administration, were dying of hunger. The denunciation of this shameful and miserable employment situation should serve as a basic material for his first novel, who was born in Australia, after many years, under the title of Crown Jewel (Melbourne, 1952).

But before you post, already almost dispelling, this first extensive narration, Ralph de Boissière had given to known as a writer on his native island, thanks to the short stories that had been published in the magazine The Beacon (the Lantern), founded by the writer own Trinidad and Tobago and other young authors of his generation. United by the desire to promote culture and art in Trinidad, as well as certain socio-political concerns, making them react strongly with race and class prejudice established from time immemorial in the society of the island, these young writers were able to launch and sustain, during the two years the adventure of The Beaco (1931-1933)a valuable reference intellectual for the rest of the artists and thinkers not only of Trinidad and Tobago, but of all the West Indian geo-cultural area. Both Ralph de Boissière and his publishing adventure companions - including C. L. R. James, Alfred H. Mendes, Ernest a. Carr, C. A. Thomasos, Felix-Ramon Fortune and Percival C. Maynard - belonged to the educated middle class; However, far from settle into the status of that bourgeois society which came, they resigned to continue enjoying their privileges and prerogatives and angrily denounced social injustice and racial discrimination, while opposed to become mere links in transmission of British traditional culture and, in general, European ("important break as much as possible with the English tradition"prayed, in 1933, an editorial of The Beacon).

His progressive approach to radical Marxism was a pivotal moment in 1937, when, at thirty years of age, Ralph de Boissière took an active part in the acts and the Union riots that spread across the island as a result of a strike by workers for the oil-field. Since then, the writer was integrating further in politics of Trinidad and Tobago, always in the wing of the Marxist left, so far as joining one of their more radical political groups: the Negro Welfare Cultural and Social Association.

In 1947, these political activities caused De Boissière to lose their jobs. Seeing that time passed without that nobody gave him an occupation worthy, was forced to emigrate to Australia, because hunger and poverty threatened already seriously to his family. So, after a brief period of adjustment in the United States of America (where he worked as a mechanic for the General Motors Holden), he settled finally in the remote country of Oceania, accompanied by his wife and their two children. He found employment as a worker in a company of combustible gases, and, for four years, lived with his people in the home of a co-worker that had offered to host the entire family.

From then until 1980 - year in which he retired, already well overwhelmed the seventies of age-, Ralph de Boissière combined this work with vocational dedication to writing, which devoted the dawn hours before the start of their workday. And not resigning, in their host country, to their political ideas, because shortly after having landed in Australia joined the collective literary Realist Writers Group, characterized by his interest in the Marxist criticism and study of literature in the light of these ideological approaches. In addition, in 1951 the Trinidadian writer joined the Communist Party of Australia.

His first novel, posted - as already indicated above - at the beginning of the second half of the 20th century - is entitled Crown Jewel (Melbourne, 1952). In it, the author recreates the violent episodes that took place in Trinidad in 1937, that culminated with the murder, shot by police, several workers. When, at the beginning of the eighties, this novel was distributed in Europe, many critics and writers (among them, Salman Rushdie) agreed that one was the great narrations in English language from the second half of the 20th century.

After the release of Crown Jewel, the writer of Trinity gave to press other novels that kept the tone of his cousin, as Rum and Coca Cola (Melbourne, 1956), operates not Saddles for Kangaroos (Sydney, 1964) and Homeless in Paradise. In the words of Ken Ramchand, Professor specialized in the literature of the West Indies, Ralph de Boissière - who has also written and published his autobiography - is a uniquely gifted novelist to combine "social realism and political commitment", without ever losing sight of the interest of the writer by the sentimental richness of the individual.

J. R. Fernández Cano


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