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Award winning author calls for Govt to support writers
Multiple-award winning T&T author Rabindranath Maharaj says more government support is needed if the country is to produce prolific writers. He was speaking to the T&T Guardian after lunchtime readings of the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine’s annual Campus Literature Week at the Alma Jordan Library, yesterday.
Hosted by the Department of Literary, Cultural and Communication Studies, the event started on Monday and ends tomorrow. Students of the department’s Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) Creative Writing Programme, as well as writers from the campus and public are reading from their own works of fiction during lunchtime readings from 12 am to 1.30 pm at the Audio Visual Room, third floor, Alma Jordan Library.
The finale on Saturday will be the gala reading and closing ceremony, when Maharaj will read from his award-winning novel, The Amazing Absorbing Boy. Guests will also be treated to a reading from a short film that Maharaj has recently completed, Crabman and Sandbird, and the reading will be done by one of its actors, Errol Sitahal.
They will be invited to a cocktail reception following the ceremony. This event is slated to start at 7 pm at the Learning Resource Centre (LRC), UWI’s St Augustine Campus. Maharaj said: “Festivals like the Bocas Lit Festival and the MFA programme is a start but it’s only a beginning. I think what has to happen is the authorities, the Government and perhaps business people need to continue that journey.
“One of the ways they can do that is by instituting or encouraging publishing houses to operate. “In Canada, for instance, publishing houses once they publish Canadian material, they get a grant from the government. If we do that here, I think it will play a big part in further encouraging local writers.”
Maharaj said while having the MFA programme and Bocas Lit Festival were commendable, as they encouraged people to learn the art and the process of writing, they needed to be published. He said not having the avenues to be published was a tragedy and a waste. Maharaj said besides government support and the establishment of publishing houses, grants, subventions and perhaps more literary festivals should be made more readily available to budding writing talent.
He said T&T paid a lot more attention and divert a lot of resources to the more visual art forms, such as music. Maharaj is writer-in-residence at the campus, as part of the Faculty of Humanities and Education’s MFA creative writing programme. He is the award-winning author of eight books, including five novels. His latest novel, The Amazing Absorbing Boy, won both the Trillium Fiction Award and the City of Toronto Book Award.
Recently, this novel has also been optioned for film adaptation. He was born and raised in Trinidad and emigrated to Canada in the early 1990s, where he has received numerous awards for his writing, including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, which honours significant contributions and achievements by Canadians. In 2012, Maharaj received a Nalis Lifetime Literary Award as part of the commemoration of T&T’s 50th independence anniversary.
Shivannee Ramlochan, Rhonda Harrison, Anna Levi, Shari Paul, Ann Second, Jay Bonny King and Omega Francis read from their works yesterday. UWI’s St Augustine Campus’ literature week has been held almost every year since 2003 and has featured, in addition to readings by various specially invited guests and MFA students, writers Olive Senior, Shani Mootoo, Earl Lovelace and Lawrence Scott.
Lunchtime Readings today:
• Barbara Lalla
• Shanti Charles
• Sherwin Thomas
• Portia Subran
• Kevin Hosein
• John Hagley
• Chadd Cumberbatch
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