Ramcharitar’s The Island Quintet Shortlisted for Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

Raymond Ramcharitar’s The Island Quintet: Five Stories has been shortlisted for the influential 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in the category for Best First Book from the Caribbean and Canada. He is the only writer from the Caribbean (Trinidad) on this list. The prize is presented by the Commonwealth Foundation with support from the Macquarie Group Foundation. The final program, starting on April 7, 2010, in Delhi, India will bring together the finalists from the different regions of the Commonwealth, and the two overall winners will be announced there on April 12. 

Director of the Commonwealth Foundation Mark Collins explains that “The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize is distinct and unique in that the books that win often have strong insight, spirit and voice about the incredible diversity, history and society of the Commonwealth. The Prize aims to reward the best of Commonwealth fiction written in English and in doing so, spots rising talent and creates new literary figures from the Commonwealth. This is the Prize to watch for tomorrow’s best-sellers.”

Raymond Ramcharitar was born in Trinidad [also see New Book: The Island Quintet]. A former journalist, he is the author of a controversial study of the deficiencies of the Trinidadian press, Breaking the News: Media & Culture in Trinidad. The following is Peepal Tree Press’ description of The Island Quintet:

Raymond Ramcharitar’s vision is rooted in Trinidad, but as a globalised island with permeable borders, frequent birds of passage, and outposts in New York and London. One of the collection’s outstanding qualities is that it is both utterly contemporary and written with a profound and disturbed sense of the history that shapes the island. As befits fiction from the home of carnival and mas’, it is a collection much concerned with the flesh – often in transgressive forms as if characters are driven to test their boundaries – and with the capacity of its characters to reinvent themselves in manifold, and sometimes outrageous disguises. One of the masks is race, and the stories are acerbically honest about the way tribal loyalties distort human relations. Its tone ranges from the lyric – Trinidad as an island of arresting beauty – to a seaminess of the most grungy kind. It has an ambition that challenges a novel such as V.S. Naipaul’s The Mimic Men, but is written with the anger and the compassion of a writer for whom the island still means everything. In the novella, ‘Froude’s Arrow’, Ramcharitar has written a profound fiction that tells us where the Caribbean currently is in juxtaposing the deep, still to be answered questions about island existence (the fragmentations wrought by history, the challenges of smallness in the global market, race and class divides) and the scrabbling for survival, fame and fortune that arouse the ire of Ramcharitar’s acerbic and satirical vision.

[Many thanks to Maritza Stanchich for bringing this item to our attention.]

For full articles, see http://pleasurett.blogspot.com/2010/02/ramcharitars-island-quintet-shortlisted.html and http://www.peepaltreepress.com/single_book_display.asp?isbn=9781845230753&au_id=154

For article on the prize, see http://pleasurett.blogspot.com/2010/02/ramcharitars-island-quintet-shortlisted.html

See photo of Ramcharitar and book review at http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article_news?id=161572226

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