Denis Williams was a painter in London, a novelist in the Sudan, an art historian in Nigeria, and an archeologist in his native Guyana: the polymath’s polymath. He moved in and out of disciplines, institutional contexts, and metropolitan and anti-colonial politics in the era of decolonization. Perhaps this restlessness explains his relative obscurity in any one field. His 1963 novel Other Leopards appeals precisely because it is disordered and contrarian—full of a thoroughly timely postcolonial ambivalence about disciplinarity, historiography, and possibly even history itself.
How best to sum up the hardwired recalcitrance of the novel’s protagonist and narrator? Perhaps by saying that he’d likely be delighted by the daft list of descriptive metadata that JSTOR currently associates with this novel:
Topics: Verandas, Hell, Pumps, Ambivalence, Prime ministers, Cigarettes, Lamps, Knees, Pipe smoking, African culture.
This preposterous list appears at the head of an excerpt originally published in the November 1963 issue of Transition, one of the premier political and cultural journals of anglophone Africa in this era. As excerpted, Other Leopards may seem a good match for Transition, striking a political note of postindependence disillusionment. It opens with a prime minister’s rousing speech in Jokhara (a lightly fictionalized Sudan), then goes on to describe political strife between the Arab Muslim north and the Black Christian south, as well as a strike by latrine workers that leads to a coup d’état. “End of the private joke of democracy, first try; no crying; no regrets,” remarks our narrator.
— Read on www.publicbooks.org/b-sides-denis-williamss-other-leopards/