Ten writers representing six different countries are in the running for the 2011 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, sponsored by One Caribbean Media. The prize longlist, announced by the judges on 28 February, includes three books of poetry, four of fiction, and three of non-fiction. The writers range from Nobel laureates to debut authors.
In the poetry category, the three contenders are all extended meditations on themes of memory, loss, and hope. Kamau Brathwaite’s elegiac and typographically complex Elegguas joins Kei Miller’s uplifting collection A Light Song of Light and Nobel laureate Derek Walcott’s White Egrets, which muses over age and mortality.
Three novels and a book of short fiction vie in the fiction category. Myriam Chancy’s The Loneliness of Angels, steeped in Haitian history, charts human connections across gulfs of time and space. Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo, inspired by a Senegalese folktale, plays with the conventions of traditional storytelling. Rabindranath Maharaj’s The Amazing Absorbing Boy offers a fresh take on the Caribbean migrant experience. And Tiphanie Yanique’s How to Escape a Leper Colony lyrically explores its characters’ emotional intimacy.
The non-fiction category brings together Beauty and Sadness, a collection of literary criticism and memoir by Andre Alexis; Edwidge Danticat’s Create Dangerously, a series of essays on the role of the “immigrant artist”; and Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul’s travel narrative The Masque of Africa, which investigates the survival of indigenous religious beliefs on the continent.
The judges read approximately sixty books entered for the Prize, which will be presented for the first time this year. The OCM Bocas Prize is open to books by Caribbean writers published in the previous calendar year, and comes with an award of US$10,000. The winners in the three genre categories will be announced on 28 March, and the Prize will be presented on 30 April, during the first annual Bocas Lit Fest in Port of Spain. Details of the four-day event (28 April–1 May) will be released on 22 March.
The 2011 judges include a range of distinguished writers and scholars from the Caribbean and its international diaspora. The poetry panel, chaired by Merle Collins, also includes Jane King and Mark McWatt. publisher Margaret Busby chairs the fiction panel, which also includes David Chariandy and Lorna Goodison. Historian Bridget Brereton chairs the non-fiction panel, joined by Sir Hilary Beckles and Charlotte Williams.
The final cross-genre judging panel, headed by Arnold Rampersad, will also include Marjorie Thorpe as representative of the Prize administrators.
The 2011 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature longlist:
Elegguas, by Kamau Brathwaite (Barbados) — Wesleyan
A Light Song of Light, by Kei Miller (Jamaica) — Carcanet
White Egrets, by Derek Walcott (St. Lucia) — Faber
The Loneliness of Angels, by Myriam Chancy (Haiti/USA) — Peepal Tree
Redemption in Indigo, by Karen Lord (Barbados) — Small Beer
The Amazing Absorbing Boy, by Rabindranath Maharaj (Trinidad and Tobago/Canada) — Knopf Canada
How to Escape a Leper Colony, by Tiphanie Yanique (US Virgin Islands) — Graywolf
Beauty and Sadness, by Andre Alexis (Trinidad and Tobago/Canada) — House of Anansi
Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work, by Edwidge Danticat (Haiti/USA) — Princeton
The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief, by V.S. Naipaul (Trinidad and Tobago/UK) — Picador