(1921- ) Guyana-born writer, in the UK from 1959, who applies an intense magic-realist (see Magic Realism) colouring and vigour to his stories, set in Guyana – some of which concern themselves with the creation of a Myth of Origin for the nation. His first series, the Guyana Quartet – Palace of the Peacock (1960), The Far Journey of Oudin (1961), The Whole Armour (1962) and The Secret Ladder (1964), with Heartland (1964) as a pendant – treats Guyana as a kind of tympanum on which the eternal return of past peoples and unending conquests makes a kind of dance: WH's prose is highly rhythmical, heavily foregrounded, and Reality and its Perception constantly shiver to the beat. A second, more loosely connected sequence comprises The Eye of the Scarecrow (1965), The Waiting Room (1967), Tumatumari (1968) and Ascent to Omai (1970). Other novels, like Black Marsden (1972), Companions of the Day and Night (1975) and The Angel at the Gate (1982), are also loosely connected; the Carnival trilogy – Carnival (1985), The Infinite Rehearsal (1987) and The Four Banks of the River of Space (1990) – is more tightly constructed, treating modern life as a Cycle patterned on Dante's Divine Comedy (written circa 1320); the third volume also introduces a number of characters whose lives are splintered presentations of the Underlier figure of Odysseus. Resurrection at Sorrow Hill (1993), like many of WH's novels, uses the image of a voyage up-River to give order and flow to inveterate conflations of history and myth. [JC]
other works: The Sleepers of Roraima (coll 1970) and The Age of the Rainmakers (coll 1971), presenting Native American material in a Twice-Told fashion; Da Silva da Silva's Cultivated Wilderness, and Genesis of the Clowns (coll 1977), two novellas; The Tree of the Sun (1978).
Theodore Wilson Harris