In a career that has spanned decades, Earl Lovelace has won two Caribbean writing prizes. The esteemed author was awarded the first Grand Prize for Caribbean Literature by the Regional Council of Guadeloupe earlier this month, for his new book, Is Just a Movie. The last regional accolade he received was the Independence Literary Prize in 1965, which he won for While Gods Are Falling. In an interview at his Cascade home he said: "I don't think there has been a prize for local writing since." He called for the society and the media to do more to recognise positive accomplishments: "It's almost like we have a problem with success." The new literary prize, worth €10,000 (US$15,000), was created in November, 2008 by the Association of Caribbean Writers at the inaugural meeting of the body, which was held under the patronage of Derek Walcott. The group took the decision to honour a Caribbean author writing in French, English, Spanish or Dutch. According to the association's Web site, the prize was to reward "an author who clearly demonstrates an open Caribbeaness." It would pay "tribute to a distinguished servant of fine Caribbean literature" for "a work in which differences are transcended and the logics, languages and imaginative worlds of a common Caribbean identity are explored." Is Just a Movie, with its themes of identity, diversity and belonging, written in Lovelace's lyrical and compassionate prose, evidently fits the bill.
'Lit Fest tremendous'
Commenting on the upcoming Bocas Lit Fest, which will also offer a monetary prize for Caribbean writing, Lovelace said: "I wish it well. I think it's a tremendous thing. "For writers who live in the Caribbean, there are very few prizes they can qualify for, by themselves." He has been asked to be one of the featured readers at Bocas Lit Fest, which will take place at Nalis on Abercromby Street, from April 28 to May 1.
A lot more to come
As Lovelace fans will know, his latest work has been long in coming; his last novel, Salt, for which he garnered the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, was published in 1997. So now that Is Just a Movie is out and doing well, what's next for the 75-year-old author? "I have a lot of things to do actually," he says. "Among them is a novel which I have been working on for a little while-an autobiography, which I have pretty much finished a first draft of. "I have a screenplay to complete and I have some plays which I have to attend to, so I have a lot to do."
Lovelace made the trip to Guadeloupe for the announcement of the prize, for which six regional writers had been short-listed. The event was dedicated to the memory of Martiniquan poet and writer, Edouard Glissant. "There were about 70 people," he said, "including writers, publishers, scholars, press, academics." He recounts: "We had to travel far to get to the place where the ceremony was held. It was in an estate house up on a hill; it was quite lovely. It showed you what a rural setting can be like.
"We also went to (Guadeloupian writer) Simone Schwarz-Bart's country house. It was a very lovely place; it gave you a sense of space." He said the rural beauty of the spaces gave him some inspiration for another major project, the Matura-based Earl Lovelace Foundation. The organisation aims to build a research centre, library and multi-purpose facility, and to host festivals and workshops for young regional writers. "We just got the paperwork done for the registering of the company," Lovelace said. "We're about to begin work, meet and re-energise plans. Sometimes you have all the energy, everything is working, then you hit a bump. But we're about to go forward again." "I think it will be very important. That is one of the things I really look forward to seeing done, both for myself but certainly for the community."