Pictures of a Dying Man
A novel by Agymah Kamau
September 1, 1999 • 6 x 9 • 227 pages • 978-1-56689-087-8
The mysterious death of an island village’s favorite son forces the townspeople to reexamine their lives.
When Gladstone Belle is found hanging from a beam in his own house, everyone in the village tries to understand who he really was, and why he killed himself. In this Caribbean Citizen Kane, the voices of Gladstone’s past accumulate, complementing and contradicting each other, to arrive at an understanding of Gladstone’s true identity and the circumstances that complicated his life. And his death.
Is a human life merely the sum of other people’s perceptions of it, a compilation of rumors and hearsay? What happens if those views are erroneous? Continuing in the vein of his critically acclaimed novel, Flickering Shadows, Agymah Kamau weaves a colorful story, full of deception, love, and loss, around a community’s remembrances of a Gladstone Belle. We discover the intricacies of living in a small Caribbean community by seeing things through the eyes of an array of vivid characters, including Isamina, his wife; Esther and Sonny-Boy, his mother and father; Carl, the suspicious husband of his former lover; PeeWee, the village gangster; Theophilus Bascombe, a disgruntled coworker; and Marie Antoinette LaSalle, the histrionic clairvoyant.
In a diverse community and political world riddled with rumors of murder and disappearance, Gladstone’s humble beginnings and honest manner win the community’s trust. He quickly moves up the political ladder. But his life is cut short when he decides that he can no longer look the other way. He realizes that everything around him has suffered from this corruption: his marriage, his friendships, and his dignity. The narrative of Gladstone Belle’s life and death illumines the complexity of class distinctions within a postcolonial community.
“Kamau’s intriguing second novel gives new meaning to the notion that seeing is not always believing. . . . Kamau writes in a lilting, unaffected style with real compassion for his characters. This is a haunting, powerful, beautiful story.” —Library Journal
“Conveys lyrically and simply the lifestyle of an unnamed Caribbean village and the complexity of a single human life.” —Booklist, starred review