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Set in British Guyana, the final two books (first published in 1962 and 1963) of The Guyana Quartet continue Wilson Harris’s literary exploration of the legacy and future of the former colony, which began with The Palace of the Peacock.
The Whole Armour tells the story of Christo, accused of a murder he didn’t commit, and on the run in the jungle swamplands of the Pomeroon River. When the man who is harbouring him dies, and when it becomes clear that his resourceful mother, Magda, doesn’t believe he is innocent in either case, Christo stages his own death and steps into a dangerous otherworld, where hallucinatory premonitions keep pace with dreamlike reality.
The Secret Ladder, the final book of the Guyana Quartet, follows the government surveyor Russell Fenwick, an unwilling and diffident captain of a strong-willed crew – all of them uneasy in one another’s company – on a journey along the Canje River. When they encounter Poseidon, the oldest inhabitant of the area – descendent, so it is rumoured, of an escaped slave – his accusations of unfair dealings and the threat of rebellion that he carries with him upset the group further. As Fenwick, a scientist in a near-magical world, awaits the rain so that he can take his measurements, the clash between interlopers and rebels builds to a nightmarish climax.
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