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Writers to talk new TT literature

Features


Marshelle Haseley

Writer of 2020 love story, Love After Love Ingrid Persaud. Her book The Sweet Sop won the BBC National Short Story Award 2018 and the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2017.  PHOTO BY JARYD NILES-MORRIS -
Writer of 2020 love story, Love After Love Ingrid Persaud. Her book The Sweet Sop won the BBC National Short Story Award 2018 and the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2017. PHOTO BY JARYD NILES-MORRIS –

Claire Adam and Ingrid Persaud will take part in an online literary conference
later this month, organised by the Friends of Mr Biswas.

Adam is a UK-based author from TT whose 2019 novel Golden Child won the Desmond Elliott Prize and was listed by the BBC in November 2019 as one of the “100 novels that shaped our world,” based on feedback from a panel of writers, curators and critics (A House for Mr Biswas by VS Naipaul was also listed).

Adam’s novel is the story of a father’s search for his missing son – one of twins, the troubled son of the pair. Within the storyline, themes of love, fear, betrayal and the intricacies of rural life are interwoven – capturing life in modern TT.

Author of the modern love story Love After Love, published in 2020, Ingrid Persaud won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2017 and the BBC short story award in 2018 with her debut publication, The Sweet Sop. the story explores the experience of a son who manages to salvage a relationship with his once distant father, who abandoned him when he was a toddler.

Love After Love written in TT dialect, juxtaposes rural life in Trinidad with living in the city and further compares both experiences to the perceived “greener grass” beyond its shores. Persaud explores domestic abuse, addiction, trauma, self-harm and same-sex relationships – touching on some issues rarely documented as features of TT society in literary work.

Trinidad-born author Claire Adam – Tricia Keracher-Summerfield

Other contemporary writers from TT have also boldly and honestly explored the realities, themes, layers and features of modern society – from drug addiction to illegal migration and same-sex relationships.

The past 40 years have seen the arrival of other writers contributing to the literature of TT in the wake of others such as VS Naipaul, Michael Anthony and Merle Hodge.

The organiser, former UWI literature professor Ken Ramchand, said the conference is based on the belief that “today’s readers should be allowed to cut their teeth on writers who belong to their time and share their sensibility.”

This, he said, would help build a foundation for the future of TT literature while maintaining the literature of the past as timeless points of reference.

The conference, TT Literature 1980-2020, will be held from September 21-24. The four-day programme will be hosted via streaming platform Zoom.

Friends of Mr Biswas is an organisation of writers and academics who hope to assist in the development and management of the Naipaul House at Nepal Street in St James, where Nobel literature laureate Naipaul lived until he left Trinidad to study at Oxford. The organisation wants the house to serve as a museum and international study library and become a home for TT literature.

Ramchand said the idea of the conference took shape in 2015, though the project was announced in 2019, four years after the group’s conference Seepersad and Sons: Naipaulian Synergies.

Ken Ramchand –

Ramchand explained, “Since then, Friends of Mr Biswas has been carrying out activities – workshops, lectures and seminars and readings – building up to the conference.

“Writings of TT are dominated by the names of our earlier writers and no one has surveyed the vast production of the newer writers since 1980, even as some of the older writers continue.”

Panellists and presenters will include young adult fiction writer and 2019 Code Burt Award recipient Jeanelle Frontin, and 2017 third-place winner of the Burt Award for Caribbean Young Adult Literature Lisa Allen-Agostini. Others include Andre Bagoo, Monique Roffey, Breanne McIvor, Commonwealth short story prize for the Caribbean and inaugural Bocas Lit Fest Hollick-Arvon Prize recipient Barabara Jenkins and 2015 Burt Award finalist Michael Cozier. Life writer and Newsday editor-in-chief Judy Raymond will also take part.

Adding to the wealth of knowledge are 3canal band member, writer and stage producer Wendell Manwarren, film director Danielle Diffenthaller, and journalists Sheila Rampersad and Newsday columnist Mark Lyndersay, to name a few.

Wendell Manwarren
Photo: Sureash Cholai – CHOLAI

The writers will discuss topics that include specific genres such as children’s, young adult and adult literature and creative non-fiction, journalism and its relationship with politics, culture, sports and day-to-day life. They will also talkabout their growth and creative processes.

The evolution of literary work and how it relates to the evolution of culture and population consciousness will also be explored.

Discussions will also explore TT’s oral literature, the interconnectivity of performance and writing, contemporary literature, film, theatre, animation and more modern forms of consuming literature such as audiobooks and their place in TT.

Ramchand also hopes to encourage young readers and adults to read TT literature, to offer an authoritative account of its status and to encourage the teaching of literature by TT writers in schools and to a greater degree at the university level – with greater incorporation of contemporary work.

Virtual entertainment will include performances by calypsonians, drummers and theatre groups.

Partners of the initiative include the UWI Department of Literary Cultural and Communication Studies, the National Library and Information Services (NALIS), the National Archives and the Ministry of Education.

People interested in attending the virtual conference can register HERE .

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