Diasporic Lives and Natural Archival Homes
The chapters in this book combine a wide variety of subject matter with consistency of theme, bound together by the notion of literary archives as characteristically “diasporic.” Most of the authors of the chapters participated and discussed together during the workshops of the Diasporic Literary Archives Network, so, although they did not have the opportunity to read each other's contributions as the book took shape, it is perhaps not surprising that there is a notable consistency and a natural inter-relationship between the points of view expressed in the different essays.
The essays by André Derval, Alison Donnell, Maureen Roberts, and Jennifer Toews all lay stress on the diasporic lives lived by many literary authors, especially but not exclusively in a postcolonial and post-imperialist context. Authors from poorer countries, with fewer job opportunities and a less developed publishing industry at home, often gravitated towards richer countries, when they could. Authors whose origins lie in the former colonies of the Caribbean region or North and West Africa, for example, or in the “protectorates” of the Arab countries and southern Africa, would tend to move between the countries of their birth and the countries of the colonial rulers— for economic, financial, political, and sometimes literary reasons. Many of these diasporic lives were, of necessity, quiet and cautious in the new locations in richer countries, although Maureen Roberts gives us the quite exceptional story of Eric and Jessica Huntley, who, forced out of the then British Guiana because of their political and community activism, became unrelenting political and community activists in London. In many and varied situations, the archival collections have come to reside in the new diasporic destination, in the country of wealth and power and, sometimes, safety. The attitudes of Adonis towards France, C. L. R. James and Una Marson towards Britain, and Octavio Paz towards the USA combine a keen awareness of imperialist imposition with a sense of financial, literary, and even archival necessity. The archives of Octavio Paz are in the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas perhaps primarily for financial reasons whereas the archives of Adonis are in the Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine for reasons of a more geopolitical nature, but both archival placements form part of the same wider diasporic pattern.