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Haitian-American writer gets prestigious Caribbean literature award

Published:Sunday | April 28, 2013 | 12:00 AM

The Third Congress of Caribbean Writers came to a climax on the fourth and final day of its activities with the announcement of this year's winner of the 'Association of Caribbean Writers Grand Prize for Literature' to Haitian-born novelist Edwidge Danticat. The grand prize was bestowed on Danticat for her novel: Creating Dangerously - the Immigrant Artist at Work (Princeton University Press, 2010). It is a series of deeply personal memoirs on tumultuous events in her life leading up to her migrating from violence-ravaged Haiti to face new challenges in her adopted United States; then again feeling the suffering of those left behind afflicted by devastation - from earthquakes to political assassinations.

Special mention was made on the works of Colombian, Santiago Gamboa and Trinidad and Tobago's Lawrence Scott. Gamboa's novel 1209 Necroplis (translated by François Gaudry, 2010) reveals the details of the death of an evangelical pastor who had recently shared with an audience of a congress his captivating tale of redemption at the hands of a charismatic tattooed messiah from Miami. Scott's novel Light Falling On Bamboo (Tindal Street Press, 2012) explores the life, love and art of Trinidad's finest 19th-century painter, Michel Jean Cazabon (1813-1888). He shows us Trinidad - a land full of prejudice and social injustice in a uniquely complicated time of post emancipation and the interplay of the different races in this small corner on the planet.

The bi-annual Congress of Caribbean Writers was held from April 10-13 at the Langley Fort Royal Resort in Deshaies, the Guadeloupe Islands and drew a gathering of more than 50 authors who discussed issues related to the theme, 'A Collective epic: fighting for freedom, historical truth and fiction in Caribbean literature'. The congress seeks to bridge language barriers between Caribbean people (Spanish, English, French and Dutch speaking) through their writings and publications. In the words of the Congress patron Josette Borel Lincertin, president of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, "The world-honoured literature of the Caribbean needs to overcome language barriers and geographical boundaries to try to build a common literary space".

The congress had its opening ceremony on 10 April at the Espace Régional du Raizet, on rue du Général de Gaulle in Abmes. Here guest of honour American novelist Russell Banks received a standing ovation for his speech on the beginning of the creolisation of the Americas by the descendants of enslaved Africans. Banks went on to describe that the founding of the Americas began on ële de Gorée off the coast of Senegal, where enslaved Africans peered out from cracks in the walls of their dark holding cells into the brilliant sunshine across the vast ocean expanse in which their future lay. They saw ships waiting offshore to transport them to a faraway land in which, unknown to them, their descendants would overcome the horrors of slavery and rise to become a great people in the New World.

Contributed by JAMAQUE Magazine