“Nothing in that Other Kingdom”: Fashioning a Return to Africa in Omeros
What are we to make of Achille’s imaginary return to Africa in Derek Walcott’s Omeros? Is it a rejection of his earlier theme of postcolonial nostalgia for lost origins? Does it lead to a different conception of postcolonial identity, away from notions of new world hybridity and heterogeneity that Walcott had espoused earlier? Is it a complex figuring of racial identity for the Afro-Caribbean subject? Or, is it in its depiction of Achille’s eventual choice of residence in Saint Lucia ultimately a critique of the discourse of return to origins? My essay tries to answer these questions through a reading of the specific intertextual moments in the poem’s return to Africa passage. The presence of allusions and textual fragments from Virgil’s Aeneid, Homer’s Odyssey and James Joyce’s Ulysses in this particular passage of Omeros (Book 3) hasn’t received much critical attention so far. Through the use of these modular texts, I argue, Omeros not only transforms the genre of a curative return to origins and fashions a distinctive literary landscape, but also imagines a postcolonial subjectivity that negotiates the polarity between origins and a fragmented new world identity.