Dear readers:
For our sixth anniversary in May 2010, The Caribbean Review of Books has launched a new website at www.caribbeanreviewofbooks.com. Antilles has now moved to www.caribbeanreviewofbooks.com/antilles — please update your bookmarks and RSS feed. If you link to Antilles from your own blog or website, please update that too!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Death must not find us thinking that we die

Martin Carter's famous poem feels more personal, more visceral, as I get older. Sad news from Guyana this morning that David de Caires, the founder and editor of the Stabroek News, has died. He would surely have been an extraordinary figure had he lived in any place, at any time. In Guyana in the last forty years, he was a hero. He was a champion of his people's right to be heard, to speak the truth and know the truth. I am immensely grateful that I knew him, and wish I had known him better. Many tributes will follow, from many people. This morning, I am thinking of him and reading Martin Carter.

...even now the greener leaf explodes
sun brightens stone
and all the river burns.

In the November Latin American Review of Books

The November edition of the Latin American Review of Books web journal is now online--with reviews of, among other books, Louis A. PĂ©rez's Cuba in the American Imagination; a study of the semiotics of Latin American postage stamps; a collection of images by the Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo; and Stephen Hart's Companion to Latin American Literature. Well worth a Saturday read....

Friday, 31 October 2008

"The life will throw light on the books"

The merit of writers' biographies continues to be disputed. For some, the work is all we need to know. Others say they love the books, so they want to know more about the people who wrote them. Then there is always the possibility that the life will throw light on the books and deepen our understanding of them.

--From Ian Buruma's meaty review of Patrick French's Naipaul biography, The World Is What It Is, in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books. Buruma is an intriguing choice for reviewer--about fifteen years ago Naipaul's agent approached him to write an authorised biography, an opportunity Buruma turned down:

I was intrigued, flattered, and deeply apprehensive. The idea of writing the life of a man who was still alive was daunting enough. Such projects typically result in acrimony. The idea of writing the life of a man as fastidious and difficult as V.S. Naipaul was particularly daunting. And I was not at all sure that delving into the nooks and crannies of his private life would be a pleasure for me, or enlightening for the readers. I can still remember my sense of embarrassment when Naipaul, looking intently at his shiny brown shoes, began to tell me about his sexual frustrations, as we sat opposite one another in his oddly impersonal London flat. I knew then that this project was not for me. I doubted whether an honest book could be written by anyone while Naipaul was still alive.

I was wrong.

Bestian Antilles readers will be pleased to see that Buruma quotes Lloyd Best twice in his review.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

"The Winner Is...": a conversation about the value of literary awards

Presented by the Caribbean Review of Books and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize

From internationally famous awards like the Nobel Prize, the Man Booker, or the Pulitzer to obscure local writing competitions, prizes for books and writers play a crucial role in the literary economy. Judges' decisions, whether or not we agree with them, influence the books that get published, sway the choices of ordinary readers, and determine whether writers can make a living from their work.

There are very few significant literary awards in the Caribbean. But over the last two decades, many Caribbean fiction writers have won--and enjoyed publicity from--the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. This event brings together three present or former judges of the CWP to discuss their personal experiences of and insights into the judging process, and the benefits--and dangers--of this and other literary awards.

Michael Bucknor, chair of the regional judging panel for the 2009 CWP, will be joined by Kenneth Ramchand (judge in 1988) and Judy Raymond (judge in 2001), for a conversation moderated by CRB editor Nicholas Laughlin.

Wednesday 5 November, 2008, 7.00 pm, at the National Library in Port of Spain.

All are invited. For further information, email crb [AT] meppublishers [DOT] com.


Michael Bucknor is lecturer in literatures in English at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies.

Kenneth Ramchand is associate provost of the University of Trinidad and Tobago, and head of UTT's Academy for Arts, Letters, Culture, and Public Affairs.

Judy Raymond is a journalist and editor of Caribbean Beat.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Links, links, links

- Geoffrey Philp posts a reminiscence of the late Alton Ellis by the dub poet Malachi.

- Charmaine Valere reports on her initial impressions on reading David Dabydeen's new novel Molly and the Muslim Stick.

- Nicolette Bethel posts the sixth episode of her "Culture, Arts, and Carifesta" podcast series. "It focuses on the cultural industries in the Caribbean, paying close attention to those industries which currently exist, and why and how we should invest in them, especially during hard economic times."

- Annie Paul writes about the recent Walter Rodney conference at UWI-Mona, Trinidadian musician Ataklan's latest release, and "reproduction rights"--i.e. copyright issues in the Caribbean.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Book of the week: Selected Poems, by Ian McDonald

The new Antilles book of the week is Ian McDonald's Selected Poems, a long-overdue survey of the career of one of the Caribbean's most admired writers. McDonald, who is probably still best known for his novel The Humming-Bird Tree (1969), didn't publish his first full book of poems until Mercy Ward in 1988, though he published individual poems in magazines and journals as far back as the 1950s. After Mercy Ward came Essequibo (1992), Jaffo the Calypsonian (1994), and Between Silence and Silence (2003). The new Selected Poems, edited by Edward Baugh, collects more than ninety poems from these predecessor volumes, arranged chronologically.

As Baugh writes in his introduction: "the sobering awareness of mortality which deepens McDonald's verse is irradiated by his celebration of life, his gratitude for happy days and for earth's bounty of joy."

(Read two poems by Ian McDonald published in the November 2007.)