Anthony Winkler's archives presented to National Library
Though he lived in the USA most of his adult life, Anthony Winkler (1942-2015) never lost his "thick Jamaican accent", according to his daughter, Becky, who added, "Americans often had difficulty understanding him."
On Thursday, Winkler became a lot more accessible to the world. The National Library of Jamaica (NLJ) then got possession of the extensive archives of the acclaimed Jamaican novelist, textbook writer, playwright and poet, who received a silver and gold Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica in 2004 and 2014, respectively, for his contribution to literature.
Two of his works were made into movies, The Annihilation of Fish, starring James Earl Jones and Lynn Redgrave, and The Lunatic, starring Jamaican actor Paul Campbell. Another actor in the latter film, Roy Thomas, was a special guest at the handover.
Those using the archives will probably spend much of their time laughing out loud at Winkler's farcical, often bawdy humour. He found particular delight in startling beginnings for his novels, for example, The Duppy, which opens with, "One Saturday morning, not very long ago, I dropped dead and turned into a duppy."
Nicole Prawl, head of preservation and conservation at the NLJ, told the audience that the archives have been divided into four series. Series 1 contains professional and personal correspondence; Series 2 contains legal and final papers, mostly contracts with publishers; Series 3 contains his creative writing, and Series 4 contains scrapbooks.
The material was formally presented to the library by Winkler's widow, Cathy, and their children, Adam and Becky, who, accompanied by 11 other members of his family, came from Atlanta for the function. It would have delighted Winkler who, in his memoir, Going Home to Teach, reflects on America as "nothing more than a place where I worked. My home was Jamaica, and my heart longed to return there."
In a poignant moment near the end of Thursday's ceremony, which was dubbed Home at Last, his son told the audience, "He's finally home, where he always wanted to be."
Winkler's daughter said that she and her brother grew up on Anancy stories and Jamaican folk songs and phrases. When Winkler told her she looked "mawga," she said, she knew she was looking good by American standards, and she remembered him singing Linstead Market and Sammy Dead as they drove along the highway to Chicago. Her father taught the children to be independent, she added, and he'd have been pleased that both she and Adam will be receiving doctorates by the end of the year.
Actor Andrew Brodber, entertained the audience by reading excerpts from Going Home to Teach and The Duppy. In the former, Winkler relates the immediate cause for his emigration to the USA - his disgust at an easily avoidable scheduling mix-up which caused two girls that he had been tutoring for months to be unable to take an important exam.
In her closing remarks, the library's CEO, Winsome Hudson, called on the Government to provide a new national library, stating that it was running out of space and would be hard-pressed to accommodate another major collection like the Winkler archives.