Our Founder, the late Gérard A. Besson who passed away in 2023, has written a number of books—historical novels, non-fiction books about Folklore and History, and corporate histories.
Roume de St. Laurent – A Memoir (2016)
Historical Novel. Partly historical account, partly a fictional tale, Roume de St. Laurent … a Memoir takes the reader into the confidence of Marianne, or Soubise as she becomes, and allows glimpses at Philippe Rose Roume de St. Laurent’s life through her diaries. The memoir of his lover and later wife bursts with the excitement of two adventurers sailing through life together, criss-crossing the Atlantic as the winds of revolutionary change blew them, trying to hold on to each other, to a dream of the future, or just for dear life itself.
In this book, Besson continues his exploration of the French presence in the Caribbean in the 18th and early 19th century and of the formation of a Creole identity in these islands at a time when Atlas truly shrugged in terms of European history, a quest that he began with his previous books The Voice in the Govi, The Cult of the Will and From the Gates of Aksum.
From the Gates of Aksum (2013)
Historical Novel. From the Gates of Aksum weaves Freemasonry and European religious and political intrigue into the tapestry of Caribbean and South American political history.
The book begins in late 18th century Port-d’Espagne, Trinidad, and is told by several narrators. The story spans centuries, from a time when a company of adventurers recovers a mysterious object of an antediluvian science from the secluded kingdom of Aksum in the Ethiopian highlands, on to the first anguished years of the 19th century.
In the riotous wake of the American, French and Haitian Revolutions, the collapse of the Spanish empire in the New World and the rise of the British empire, François de Gurvand, a French colonist, must transport the object from his ancestral home in France to a specific geographical position — the island of Trinidad. A Vatican secret society, the Holy Hermandad, the Emperor Napoleon, various factions of Freemasonry, and another ancient secret society all vie for possession of the object.
From the Gates of Aksum speaks of the role that the early Trinidadians played in that epoch-changing period when the dawning of the Age of Enlightenment altered the course of the history of the world. While the plot and most of the characters are fictitious, the reader familiar with West Indian, South American and European history will find old acquaintances who come to life in this book — such as Francisco de Miranda, Simón Bolívar, and a heroic band of Trinidadians remembered as the Immortal 45.
The Voice in the Govi (2011)
Fictional Novella. A Magical Visit to the Realms of Imagination of Those Who Lived in the 19th Century Caribbean.
The Voice in the Govi whispers to the reader of generations of beautiful Caribbean women, scintillating the lines between life, death, and the in-between. Listen to its murmurs of adventurous voyages between islands, continents and worlds, to its sighs of love and passion, to its rumours of magic both evil and good. Hark! and your Gros Bon Ange will speak in tongues—in French, Patois or English—about a time when a beautiful new race of women was born in the plaçage of the Antilles, la femme de couleur, to whom male pa ka chanjé kon lapli (mistfortunes do not happen like rain). A time when the imagination of those who lived in these islands was inspired by folklore and religion, by petro and rada, by the ever-thinning veil between life and afterlife, when souls had to be brought back from beneath the waters, retirer d’en bas de l’eau.
The story told by Gerard Besson in the tradition of Caribbean Magical Realism follows several generations of Afro-French-Creole girls and women (and their men) throughout the 19th century, out from the times of slavery and across the Caribbean Sea, from Saint-Domingue to Trinidad. Devoted to the Orisha of Love, Erzulie, and possessed of intoxicating beauty and of innate goodness, these women inherit the powers of healing and of clairvoyance. Lifelong companions and lovers, La Sirène Rosa and Amélie Eugénie fight a battle against the main-gauche sorcerer’s tricks of the boy Naza and his evil-minded secret society of cochons sans poils, pigs without hair, whereby they have to bring back zombis from literally a fate worse than death, and ultimately fight a terrifying battle against a murderous soucouyant.
In his Antillean novella, Besson pulls his reader into a past that shimmers like a butterfly’s wing, blending together shades of magic and of history in one captivating tale that radiates the sights, sounds and scents of a time when times were changing in these islands below the wind.
The Cult of the Will (2010)
Non-Fiction. This study deals with the complex issues of race, history and politics in Caribbean society. In its first part, “François Besson”, it examines the fortunes of a French creole family between the mid-18th and early 20th centuries, and describes their experiences against the backdrop of the social and political conflicts occasioned by the excesses of plantation slavery and the upheavals of the French revolution. It looks at Julien Fédon’s revolution of 1795 in Grenada, examines the nature of the relationship between master and slave, the children of these unions, and the deadly divisions that were at times engendered as a result of the custom of the plaçage (concubinage), causing ‘victors’ or ‘victims’ of “The Cult of the Will” to emerge; thus influencing at times the destiny of these islands.
The second part of the book, “Eric Williams”, studies the manner in which an historian-turned-politician, tragically afflicted by “The Cult of the Will” and perhaps convinced that history is destiny, used, in Trinidad and Tobago, the politics of inherited guilt and inherited victimhood to create scapegoats in an attempt to assuage his “Inward Hunger”, while making clever use of ‘Black Nationalism’ that was becoming popular in the 1950s. Revisionist in its scope, this book undertakes to change our understanding of the past, so that we may create a more useful future. It examines the points in time when the historical narratives of the country changed, occasioned by a shift in moral values, bringing about a different interpretation of its history. It ponders the question whether the presidency of Barack Obama may mark the end of the Eric Williams narrative of victimhood, scapegoating and irresponsibility as expressed in its politics, and herald the start of a new, New World narrative endowed with empowerment and responsibility.
“Your thesis comes across as logical, though speculative at times, but put together with the deprivations he (Eric Williams) admittedly experienced at Oxford and at the Caribbean Commission, the victimhood narrative is plausible, and indeed has become disruptive of this country’s civility, democracy and ethnic harmony . . . You have created a serious challenge to orthodoxy. You have broken up quite a few myths, and in fact forcefully argued how the passion for psychic compensation and restoration by Williams has led to an intensely institutionalized culture of victimhood. A victimhood now challenged by Obama, a challenge which not only shifts the paradigm but holds better promise for spiritual growth and the shaping of a common humanity.” (Professor Emeritus Ramesh Deosaran)
Folklore & Legends of Trinidad and Tobago (1991)
Fiction. Folklore stories that make your hair stand on end!
The folklore of Trinidad and Tobago has pan-Caribbean appeal, as it is shared in common with many former French territories in the region from Louisiana to Haiti, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica and St. Lucia.The beautifully illustrated book has been celebrated as a milestone publication in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Book of Trinidad (1991)
In Collaboration with Bridget Brereton
Non-Fiction. The Book of Trinidad, a perennial favourite with Trinidadians all over the world, is an eclectic mix of travelogues, recipes, newspaper reports, official records, the seminal work of historians and, perhaps more importantly, the oral traditions of the very old whose memories link back to the turn of the century. Fully illustrated with rare pictures from a wide range of sources, The Book of Trinidad has sold thousands of copies since its first publication in 1986.
The history of beautiful Trinidad is a relatively short but multi-faceted one in comparison to its neighbouring islands in the Caribbean. The Book of Trinidad travels through centuries of Trinidad’s life, exposing an experience in which the changing of seasons was the only constant in an otherwise timeless world.
The remarkable thing in the development of Trinidad has been the make-up of its population. Literally, people from all over the world found a home in the island by virtue of their Catholicism or other considerations. Truly antique strains, such as the Rada from West Africa and Maronite Christians from the Ottoman Empire, Brahmins from India, French aristocrats, Corsican revolutionaries, Portuguese converted to Protestanism from Madeira, Chinese peasants, liberated Africans, and Shiite Muslims who have continued to the present to celebrate Muharrum (Hosay) were all poured into the mould of British colonialism and stamped by the prejudices of the time. Writers Bridget Brereton and Gerard Besson bring together the people of Trinidad by commemorating the memory of shared experiences among this plethora of cultures in the development of our beloved country.
Brereton and Besson’s collaboration in The Book of Trinidad draws together the collective experience of the nation’s people to put together the colourful mosaic that is, in truth, our national patrimony.
Tales of the Paria Main Road (1973)
Fiction. For Paria Publishing’s 35th anniversary and in honour of Gérard A. Besson being awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of the West Indies, we are presenting a limited second edition of his first published work, Tales of the Paria Main Road. First published in 1973, this whimsical book began Gérard’s journey into publishing, which lead to the formation of Paria Publishing Company Limited. Tales of the Paria Main Road is comprised of three short stories loosely based on the mis-adventures of Jerry and his friends as a young men in Trinidad during the 1960/70’s. It touches on the folklore of Trinidad and Tobago’s Afro French culture and introduces the reader to some of the characters who still inhabit to this day the forest of the Paria Main Road. Not all is folklore and tall tales, however. At the time, Trinidad, like much of the world, was changing and this was ever present in the growing social awareness of the “Black Power Movement” which played a big part of our nation’s growth, as seen through Besson’s eyes.
125 Years of Business in the Caribbean: The History of ANSA McAL (2006)
In collaboration with Alice Besson
With a Foreword by Bridget Brereton
Company History. This lavishly illustrated coffee-table book was commissioned by A. Norman Sabga, Group Chairman and Chief Executive o fhte ANSA McAL Group of Companies to document the Development of the
50 Years of Scotiabank Trinidad and Tobago (2004)
In collaboration with Alice Besson
The Angostura Historical Digest and The Angostura Story (2002)
A Diary of Dreams (1988)
In collaboration with Sue-Ann Gomes
From Colonial to Republic: The History of Colonial Bank in Trinidad and Tobago (1987)
In collaboration with Selwyn Ryan and Ronald Harford
A Photograph Album of Trinidad and Tobago (1985)