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Jamaica Kincaid: "The garden is a very political place"


Author Jamaica Kincaid has become increasingly popular in Sweden and her books are translated into Swedish on a continuous basis. The latest in the line is the novel Mr. Potter about Kincaid's absent father. But when SVT meets the American author, she wants to talk above all about her passionate gardening interest - and what botany can teach us about power.

The author Jamaica Kincaid has a public interest in gardening, which is noticed immediately when the Cultural News meets her in the Bergian garden in Stockholm. In the plant kingdom she sees reflections of power relations, similar to the ones she describes in her books.

- I love gardens. They interest me from an aesthetic, literary and political perspective. The garden is a very political place. Many plants in here come from elsewhere. In the garden we can understand how dominance and classification work, take for example Linnaeus nomenclature. Naming something is an effective way to exercise power, says Jamaica Kincaid.

Early on interested in botany

She says that she became interested in botany at school early.

- My favorite subjects were botany, geography and history. Now all three have been united in one way and become one with my whole being. I'm researching everything: Where does this come from? How did it get its name?

- It's natural for a person with my history to do, to ask questions like: How did people who look like me come from Africa to the Caribbean? How did our presence change the topography of the Caribbean? One interesting thing is how well I knew about British plants but not at all the plants that grew in my home country, says Jamaica Kincaid and continues:

- I do not seek knowledge to solve something complicated, I want to understand why it is complicated.

Not seeking reconciliation

Jamaica Kincaid was born in 1949 on the island of Antigua, which until 1981 was a British colony. At 16 years old, Kincaid was sent to the United States to provide for the family. Today, she is a professor at Harvard and has written several acclaimed novels with autobiographical features, including My Mother's Autobiography of 1996. In which, with her unsentimental language, she reconstructs mother's life in a Caribbean characterized by colonialism.

In Mr Potter from 2002, it is instead the father's life that is pieced together. The taxi driver Mr. Potter who never wanted to be known to his daughter. And it is also not reconciliation that Jamaica Kincaid seeks as she writes.

- I don't know if you have the word 'closure' in Swedish. In English, it means to be reconciled in a beautiful moment. No, that's not something I write to achieve, Jamaica Kincaid says, laughing.

Source: svt

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