Saturday, 11 April 2015


Following the nomination of several authors for prestigious international awards, Caribbean literature gets a further boost in April with the 4th Congrès des écrivains de la Caraïbe (4th Congress of Caribbean Writers), being held in Guadeloupe April 15 to 18.

With the theme of “Travel, Migration, Diasporas in Caribbean Literatures”, the congress features some 50 writers over the four-day event, hosted by the Regional Council of Guadeloupe and the Association of Caribbean Writers.

The authors will give readings, join panel debates and meet with students, according to the organizers. Participants will also pay tribute to Maryse Condé, the renowned Guadeloupean writer who was recently nominated for the Man Booker International Prize.

“This biennial meeting is an occasion to place literature as the compendium of our Guadeloupean history, and equally to look at our international role and to examine our Caribbean culture,” said Victorin Lurel, President of the Regional Council.

In a statement ahead of the congress, Lurel urged Caribbean populations to support literature, and he reaffirmed Guadeloupe’s commitment to promoting books and bridging the language divide in the region.

“Although honoured globally, the literatures of the Caribbean still need these kinds of international meetings to go beyond linguistic barriers and geographic partitions, and to try to build a common literary space,” Lurel said.

Writers from 21 nations of the Caribbean and the wider Americas are set to participate in the Congress, representing countries such as Antigua, Barbados, Colombia, Cuba, Guyana, Haïti and Jamaica, among others.

Daniel Maximin
The Guadeloupean poet and novelist Daniel Maximin is the guest of honour, with the Congress paying homage to his long career as writer, professor and advocate of the arts.

Maximin will give the inaugural address. His last published work is the seminal Aimé Césaire, Frère-Volcan - recording 40 years of dialogue with the late Martinique-born literary icon.

Other writers hailing from around the region include Joël Des Rosiers and Yanick Lahens of Haïti; Carlos Roberto Gómez Beras, of Puerto Rico; Earl Lovelace, Lawrence Scott and Elizabeth Nunez, of Trinidad  and Tobago; Kwame Dawes of Jamaica; Yolanda Wood of Cuba; and Mac Donald Dixon and Vladimir Lucien of St. Lucia.

Lucien, a poet, comes fresh from being honoured in Trinidad, with his book Sounding Ground on the shortlist of three works for the 2015 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.

The Congress will present its own prestigious award, the Prix littéraire de l’Association des écrivains de la Caraïbe, and the competition is tough, reflecting the great productivity of Caribbean writers over the past two years. Eighteen nominees come from French-speaking islands, 10 from the Anglophone countries and 14 from Spanish-speaking nations.

The list includes Dany Laferrière (Haiti), Simone Schwarz-Bart and André Schwarz-Bart (Guadeloupe), Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua), Sharon Leach (Jamaica), and Héctor Torres (Venezuela), just to name a few.

Participating writer Kwame Dawes
The Congress has grown massively since its launch in 2009, when Nobel laureate Derek Walcott was the guest of honour, and both writers and readers are increasingly embracing the richness of Caribbean diversity and history, say scholars.

As Earl Lovelace notes: The linguistic plurality of our geographic basin is considered, often wrongly, as an obstacle to exchange, to cooperation. But In truth, it’s an extraordinary source of wealth.

(UPDATE: The Grand Prix Littéraire was awarded on April 18 to Simone and André Schwarz-Bart for their work l'Ancêtre en Solitude, published by éditions du Seuil, February 2015.)