As Flies to Whatless Boys
by : Robert Antoni
Robert Antoni makes stories out of history and history out of stories. In his nineteenth-century colonial tale of John Adolphus Etzler and his utopian idea to create a paradise in Trinidad, an adventure and family story unfolds...The tale is textured with the rich and differing rhythms of Trinidadian speech registers and illustrated with maps, typographic hieroglyphs, and footnotes. This ornate but clear design is interrupted by a twenty-first-century narrative of a quite different comic-erotic story, told in letters to the 'writer' from his National Archive 'researcher, ' Ms. Ramsol. Antoni is an audacious storyteller, mining his very own language and ways of telling from the linguistic cornucopia of Trinidad. His story is moving and is also hilariously funny. --Lawrence Scott, author of Light Falling on Bamboo Robert Antoni is one of the most original and eloquent writers working today. --Stephen Dixon, author of I. Trinidad, indeed the whole of the Caribbean, has its James Joyce. --George Plimpton In 1845 London, an engineer, philosopher, philanthropist, and bold-faced charlatan, John Adolphus Etzler, has invented machines that he thinks will transform the division of labor and free all men. He forms a collective called the Tropical Emigration Society (TES), and recruits a variety of London citizens to take his machines and his misguided ideas to form a proto-socialist, utopian community in the British colony of Trinidad. Among his recruits is a young boy (and the book's narrator) named Willy, who falls head-over-heels for the enthralling and wise Marguerite Whitechurch. Coming from the gentry, Marguerite is a world away from Willy's laboring class. As the voyage continues, and their love for one another strengthens, Willy and Marguerite prove themselves to be true socialists, their actions and adventures standing in stark contrast to Etzler's disconnected theories. Robert Antoni's tragic historical novel, accented with West Indian cadence and captivating humor, provides an unforgettable glimpse into nineteenth-century Trinidad & Tobago. Robert Antoni is the author of the landmark novel Divina Trace, for which he received a Commonwealth Writers' Prize and an NEA grant. He was a 2010 Guggenheim Fellow, and recently received the NALIS Lifetime Literary Award from the Trinidad & Tobago National Library. He now lives in Manhattan, New York, and teaches in the graduate writing program at the New School University.