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The CLR James Journal

Volume 24, Issue 1/2, Fall 2018

Shawn Gonzalez
Pages 215-237

Ethics of Opacity in Harold Sonny Ladoo’s No Pain Like This Body

Harold Sonny Ladoo’s 1972 novel No Pain Like This Body has been analyzed for its seminal representation of the traumas experienced by a formerly indentured Indo-Trinidadian family in the early twentieth century. However, relatively little attention has been given to Ladoo’s experimentation with multiple languages, particularly English, Trinidadian Creole, and Hindi. This article argues that Ladoo’s multilingualism offers a guide for approaching the traumatic experiences he represents. While some aspects of the novel, such as its glossary, make the characters’ language more comprehensible, others, such as the orthography Ladoo chooses to represent Creole speech, deliberately distance the reader. Using decolonial theorists of language, particularly Édouard Glissant's writing on multi­lingualism and opacity, this article considers Ladoo’s use of multilingualism both as a limit to readers’ understanding as well as an invitation to continued engagement with those aspects of the text that are resistant to easy comprehension. This article contrasts opacity as a reading methodology with some of the dominant paradigms for understanding linguistic difference in the field of comparative literature, which rely on linguistic and textual mastery. Ultimately, the article proposes reading multilingual texts through opacity as a model for decolonial reading in which creative, active engagement with the text can produce solidarity without requiring complete transparency.

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