18 September 2015
Anthony Winkler: an excerpt from The Lunatic
The cover of Anthony Winkler’s novel The Lunatic (Kingston Publishers)
ANTHONY WINKLER, who died on 18 September 2015, is best known for his outrageously funny novel The Lunatic which was published in 1987 and subsequently made into a very successful film four years later. The Lunatic combines elements of magic realism, a wonderful, felicitous use of language that effortlessly blends standard English with Jamaican patois and an almost surreal, absurdist sense of humour to expose some of the dangerous social ills that afflict Jamaica.
In all, Winkler published nine novels and was also responsible for the screenplay of the hugely popular film Cool Runnings, which was loosely based on the exploits of the Jamaican bobsleigh team at the 1988 winter Olympics in Canada. He was also a contributor to many academic textbooks widely used in secondary education in North America and the Caribbean.
His biographer Kim Robinson-Walcott said of his fiction work: “Winkler is unique, because in his work he is able to combine outrageous farcical humour with insightful social commentary and incisive analysis of his fellow Jamaicans. Winkler’s books transcend the boundaries between popular and serious fiction . . . there is a sobriety underlying the farcical humour and a richness underlying seeming superficialities which are often underestimated; there is an artistry in the seamlessness with which these levels coexist; in short, Winkler’s books warrant serious consideration.”
In the following extract, Aloysius and his German girlfriend Inga – who has come to Jamaica to photograph flora and fauna but has instead become infatuated with Aloysius’s seemingly endless ability to satisfy her considerable libido – are visiting a local bar.
ONE night while Aloysius had stepped outside to relieve himself the proprietor hurried over to the dirty table in the corner where the woman sat alone and whispered urgently to her:
“Missus! Missus! You know dat man you wid is a madman?”
She recoiled with mock alarm.
“Yes, Missus. He mad as mad can be. Him is very dangerous man, Missus.”
The woman laughed.
“That’s all right. I mad too.”
The man stared at her with bewilderment.
Then he chuckled.
“No, Missus. Don’t say dat. White people don’t go mad in Jamaica. Only negar go mad here.”
“I say I mad too.”
“You make joke ‘bout dis, Missus. But is no joke. Him is a real madman.”
“I say I mad too. Listen to this.”
The shopkeeper stared at her with wonder while she screwed up her face and took a deep breath like a small child struggling to inflate a new balloon.
“BUMBO! BUMBO! BUMBO! BUMBO CLAAT! BUMBO HOLE! BUMBO TOWN! BUMBO HEAD! BUMBO ISLAND! BUMBO WORLD! BUMBO BUMBO! EVERYTHING BUMBO!”
The man’s mouth dropped open. Never in his born days had bumbo flown so freely in his presence. He could not believe his ears. Then he blinked as if he could not believe his eyes either.
Bumbo was a violent patois curse. In the Jamaican consciousness, bumbo lives under a damp rock like a poisonous lizard. Bumbo did not draw clean breath, show itself in the sunlight, or walk on lighted streets. Bumbo wrapped itself like a worm around the netherland of the brain where it grew fat and slimy on a diet of impiety and taboo.
The shopkeeper gasped like one violently slapped in the face. Bumbo hit him on the side of the head, on the chin; bumbo drove a dirty blade into the solar plexus of his dignity, manhood, conscience. His eyes gaped in astonishment: here in his establishment, a place of grit and decency, bumbo darted through the room like a rabid bat.
It was true that his shop was poor, that it resembled a weed growing out of the mud rather than a thing made by a human hand. Its floor was filthy. Flies swarmed everywhere in the dark room. Dim light trickled from a few kerosene lamps placed on the crude tables.
But poor might be dirty and poor might be ramshackle and stink like fat Queen Victoria after eight hours in a crinoline, but poor was not nasty. Bumbo was nasty.
From The Lunatic (P75-77) by Anthony C Winkler (25 February 1942 – 18 September 2015), Kingston Publishers 1987.