Set in British Guyana, the final two books (first published in 1962 and 1963) of The Guyana Quartet continue Wilson Harris' 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 incent 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 ather'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.
Wilson Harris was born in 1921 in the former colony of British Guiana. He was a land surveyor before leaving for England in 1959 to become a full-time writer. His exploration of the dense forests, rivers and vast savannahs of the Guyanese hinterland features prominently in the settings of his fiction. Harris's novels are complex, alluding to diverse mythologies from different cultures, and eschew conventional narration in favour of shifting interwoven voices. His first novel Palace of the Peacock (1960) became the first of The Guyana Quartet, which includes The Far Journey of Oudin (1961), The Whole Armour (1962) and The Secret Ladder (1963). He later wrote The Carnival Trilogy (Carnival (1985), The Infinite Rehearsal (1987) and The Four Banks of the River of Space (1990)). His most recent novels are Jonestown (1996), which tells of the mass-suicide of a thousand followers of cult leader Jim Jones; The Dark Jester (2001), his latest semi-autobiographical novel, The Mask of the Beggar (2003), and one of his most accessible novels in decades, The Ghost of Memory (2006). Wilson Harris also writes non-fiction and critical essays and has been awarded honorary doctorates by several universities, including the University of the West Indies (1984) and the University of Liege (2001). He has twice been winner of the Guyana Prize for Literature.