Wednesday 11 December, 2019

A rich blend of literary talent

(l-r) Claire Adam, Marlon James, Krystal Sital and Earl Lovelace

(l-r) Claire Adam, Marlon James, Krystal Sital and Earl Lovelace

A book award means more than money and acclaim. It signifies the respect and recognition of one’s community in the literary world. At the 2019 NGC Bocas Lit Fest, May 1 to 5 at NALIS Port of Spain, several award-winning writers will take the Bocas stage. 

Chief among them is head judge of the 2019 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature: Marina Warner, eminent historian, short story writer, and novelist. Dame Marina, the current and first-ever president of the Royal Society of Literature, has most recently been endowed with lifetime achievement awards from the British Academy and the World Fantasy Convention. 

Joining her at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest are a formidable crew of much-lauded poets, fiction and non-fiction writers. Celebrated son of the Caribbean soil, 2015 Man Booker Prize Winner Marlon James will read alongside Nalo Hopkinson, whose impressive speculative fiction accolades include a Locus Award, a World Fantasy Award, an Andre Norton Award, a British Fantasy Award. James is no stranger to winning big at Bocas, either: he took home the 2015 OCM Bocas Prize (Fiction).

The youngest winner of the Forward Prize for Poetry, Danez Smith, is set to rock the 2019 festival stage. The chair of the 2018 Forward Prizes, Bidisha, praised Smith’s collection Don’t Call Us Dead as “an astonishing formal and emotional range and a mastery of metrical, musical language”. International award-winning talent is set to be a festival staple, with Mexican author Yuri Herrera in the lineup. Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World, translated by Lisa Dillman, was the first book by a Spanish-language author to win the $10,000 USD Best Translated Book Award for Fiction. 

This gathering of critically celebrated writers will converge with the indisputable star status of T&T writers, living at home and abroad. Earl Lovelace, 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature winner, recipient of a Commonwealth Writers Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a NALIS Lifetime Literary Award, will read from and discuss his classic The Dragon Cant Dance, published 40 years ago. Rising T&T stars are another festival staple: notable among them is Claire Adam, whose debut novel Golden Child was selected by actress Sarah Jessica Parker for her fiction imprint, SJP for Hogarth (Penguin Random House). 

Krystal Sital, another festival talent from T&T, is earning her own bright literary spotlight. Her memoir, Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad was handpicked by festival founder and director Marina Salandy-Brown as a personal favourite. Speaking of Secrets We Kept, Salandy-Brown says, “Not since Harry Ladoo's No Pain Like This Body, has there been such a vivid evocation of dysfunctional family life but with the gift of hope, escape and finally triumph. A must read.”

The presence of such lauded writers, prizewinners and rising stars alike, at the 2019 NGC Bocas Lit Fest signals one thing for certain: this gathering of voices is worth people’s time and attention.

See www.bocaslitfest.com to learn more about the festival’s 100+ events and 100+ participants. 

Festival title sponsor is the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago, First Citizens is the lead sponsor. Main sponsors are One Caribbean Media and the Ministry of Community Development Culture and the Arts.

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