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Caribbean Literature Festivals Up Their Author Ante

Caribbean literature has been getting a lot of global attention recently and litbloggers will be thrilled to hear what the region's two major literature festivals – Jamaica's Calabash and Trinidad and Tobago's Bocas Lit Fest – have planned this year.

Tallawah reports that the Calabash Literary Festival, which, after its launch in 2001, soon became a staple of the festival circuit, with the distinction of being the only annual international literary festival in the English-speaking Caribbean for many years, is going “globalishus” this year. In other words, expect a star-studded literati lineup:

To wit, this year the organizers are running with the clever concept of ‘Globalishus', which bears the stark reminder that though Calabash (the biggest likkle festival on Earth) is firmly rooted in the local community, its outlook is consistently international.

For all the challenges that can come with securing marquee names (read: superbusy literary heavyweights) to fly to Jamaica in May, the organizers of the Calabash International Literary Festival haven't let let that sway them from pursuing and reeling in the big fish for the Treasure Beach fixture. The estimable likes of Wole Soyinka, Michael Ondaatje, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lorna Goodison and Derek` Walcott, to name only a few, have all made memorable appearances at the alluring sea-side hot-spot of Jake's, which now hosts the event every two years.

And this year's catch is certainly no exception, a whale of headliner: Booker Prize winner and easily one of the most controversially popular literary figures of his generation, Salman Rushdie, a novelist of British and Indian heritage.

Calabash Literary Festival 2007; photo by Georgia Popplewell, used under a CC license.

Calabash Literary Festival 2007; photo by Georgia Popplewell, used under a CC license.

The post continues:

Rushdie, whose oeuvre includes modern prize-winning classics like Midnight's Children, will share top billing with a continent-hopping host of significant talents, namely Antigua's Jamaica Kincaid (Annie John, Lucy), Africa's Mukoma was Ngugi, the Dominican Republic's Xiomara Fortuna, JaQuarvis Coleman (the United States), and Jamaica's own Ad-Ziko Simba, Stephanie Saulter and Christopher John Farley, whose new adventure-laced effort, Game World (Akashic Books), was published earlier in the year to critical acclaim.

Tallawah ends by saying:

The Calabash Festival…looks all set to reprise its decade-plus-long dance with devoted fans from everywhere.

Further down the Caribbean archipelago, in Trinidad and Tobago, the Bocas Lit Fest blog, having already announced its finalists for this year's Burt Award (for children's writing) and the Hollick Arvon Prize, takes a closer look at its 2014 Long List, with a focus on the novel The Butterfly Hotel:

Migration, return and trans maritime journeys are some of the primary signifiers in this, Roger Robinson’s third collection of poems. The work’s focal points are both the Caribbean and its diaspora. The core motif employed by Robinson is that of the butterfly’s migratory path; like our winged friends, he insists in verse, we are indefatigable sojourners.

For so many citizens of the Caribbean diaspora, home is a flighty, elusive concept, difficult to claim no matter how many passports one owns, or where one’s navel string is buried. The poet engages with strong surges of alienation; traveller’s ennui; cultural syncretism and disaffection alike. Whether Robinson is portraying the bustle and melting-pot spectacle of a busy Brixton night, writing odes to the land of his birth, or channeling ancestral memories of the Caribbean’s first peoples, each poem is an emotive odyssey.

NGC Bocas Lit Fest founder Marina Salandy-Brown with writer Shehan Karunatilaka, journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, editor and publisher Margaret Busby, and Thomas Minkus of the Frankfurt Book Fair, participating in a discussion on international publishing at the Hay Festival, Friday 8 June, 2012; photo by Nicholas Laughlin, used under a CC license.

NGC Bocas Lit Fest founder Marina Salandy-Brown with writer Shehan Karunatilaka, journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, editor and publisher Margaret Busby, and Thomas Minkus of the Frankfurt Book Fair, participating in a discussion on international publishing at the Hay Festival, Friday 8 June, 2012; photo by Nicholas Laughlin, used under a CC license.

Past reviews of the finalists have included posts about Malika Booker's collection of poems, Pepper Seed; Gaiutra Bahadur's Coolie Woman, which explores the history of East Indian indentureship; and Robert Antoni's novel, As Flies to Whatless Boys.

Many more blog posts are sure to come about the authors and books involved in this year's flagship regional literary festivals, and they will essentially be saying the same thing: Caribbean literature, in all its glorious diversity, is once more going global.

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