Revolution and historic change – words that can remain detached concepts unless we can somehow connect them with their human face and the lives behind them. This is what first-time novelist Montague Kobbé achieves in marvelous style and depth in The Night of the Rambler – weaving a Caribbean tapestry of places, wider events, the individuals shaped by them, and how they ultimately come together to shape events themselves in the times leading to a revolution on Anguilla in 1967.
Ahead of all that, this young author’s own journeys both within and outside the Caribbean served to equip him for this unusual tale of change on a small and distant island. Born in Venezuela, Montague Kobbé’s family ties have extended to Anguilla for some twenty-five years. Ahead of that, in his early youth he also spent time on the equally small islet of Carriacou in the Grenadines before moving to Europe to complete his higher education in the UK. Since then, he has managed a balance between literature and life, residing nowadays in London along with stints elsewhere on the European continent, working in media and maintaining a regular literary column in the WEEKender supplement of St. Maarten’s Daily Herald. Montague also contributes to other media, with published work in Anguilla, Antigua, Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina, Venezuela, Spain, and the UK.
The appearance of his first novel in 2013 has kept him circulating into some familiar territory with speaking appearances at major book fairs and events between London, New York and Miami, which is where he paused to describe his earliest connection to Anguilla and his fictional recreation of its revolution. First-hand accounts of the event on the island from those who were main participants of it were a central feature of growing up in Anguilla: “It was more like the story choosing me than me choosing the story,” Kobbé reflects. “There’s not much that’s been written about it, and it’s a remarkable story.” The novel’s title refers to the fifteen hours that cover an abortive coup attempt launched by motorboat from Anguilla to St. Kitts by a collection of rebels whose lives past and present provide the human backdrop to what generated Anguilla’s insistence on self-rule.
Along the way, Kobbé also puts this event and those who lead it in the wider context of national revolutions elsewhere in the region. As he points out: “I like to say that The Night of the Rambler is a book about revolution, about human dignity, and about the extent to which people will go to get it. But where Rambler really comes to life, I feel, is in depicting the common ground that is shared, perhaps beneath the surface, by a number of seemingly disparate islands in the Caribbean. In a way, by tying the national sentiment of the ’60s (which was shared by most English-speaking islands) to the labor movements of the ’30s I try to make it obvious that you can make direct causal connections between the present reality and the past. I also use a more haphazard device when I point out certain coincidental parallels. That is where the two aspects, the chronological and the geographical come together to paint a picture that is, hopefully, coherent and inclusive of a wide array of discrete realities. In the Caribbean the difference between the separate islands, the various cultures and heritages, is as evident as the fact that there is something greater than these differences. The Night of the Rambler is my attempt at illustrating wherein lies that “something greater.”