A game of dominoes turns into a battle of life and death
Frank Martinus Arion’s debut novel Double Play (1973) was the first Antillean novel written from a black perspective. In all of his work, Arion reflects on the topics of racism and discrimination, the relationship between the community and the individual and the effects of colonialism on the world. In the end, equality is the only way forward.
Double Play is a story about four dominoplaying Antillean men and their wives. While playing, the men talk about the island of Curaçao, women, politics and money.
Their life on the island is characterized by corruption, inferiority complexes and a lack of future prospects – partly due to colonialism and partly due to the powerlessness of the people themselves. Each of the four men represents a certain class on the island. Janchi Pau is a smart, Jack of all trades. Manchi Sanantonio is a bailiff suffering from megalomania. Taxi driver Boeboe Fiel has been appointed union leader against his will, and Chamon Nicolas is a rack-renter who doesn’t really belong on the island. All four men have a double agenda, their own kind of double play.
The conversations between the four rum-drinking men, each with a weapon on his belt, add even more tension to the game. They talk about cheating and prostitution, white domination, nationalism and the islanders’ inability to stimulate their own economy. They also discuss the need for education and the bloody uprising of 1968. As the story develops, Arion demonstrates how women’s emancipation is essential for resolving many of the ongoing issues on the island. Nora, Boeboe’s wife, sleeps with all kinds of men - Chamon being one of them - of them to be able to afford food and shoes for her children. She hates her waste-ful husband but leaving him is not an option.
Not only does Double Play provide a flawless portrait of the social position of these characters, it offers insight into their thoughts, dreams and political ideals. Double Play is a prime example of how a socio-political novel can be artistically convincing.