The writer Professor David Dabydeen is used to breaking records but he could break the ultimate one if his last novel MOLLY AND THE MUSLIM STICK wins the Guyana Prize for Fiction for a record fourth time on August 31st in Georgetown, reports John Mair for the Demerara Waves site.
|The Guyana Prize is the most valuable literary award in the Caribbean. Insiders on the Prize jury hotly tip Guyana’s ambassador to China to pull this off. The result is a closely guarded secret but leaks to this effect are already coming to the ears of this writer. If true,this would be an astonishing achievement for Professor Dabydeen, latterly of the Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies at Warwick University.
MOLLY AND THE MUSLIM STICK is set in England and Guyana.It deals with an Englishwoman, who, abused by her father and his friends, matures into a broken and wounded creature, half soothsayer, half madwoman : a creation to rival the fabulous beings of Guyanese myth. As her life story unfolds, we enter a gothic narrative peopled with talking animals, demented prophets, shape-shifting ghosts , stereotyped Amerindians and a Muslim walking stick. The real world is present too : Raleigh’s discovery of Guiana, the Suez crisis, anti-Semitism , Islamophobia and the ‘clash of civilisations’. Guyana becomes a space for healing and redemption,. The London Daily Telegraph said in its Review of MOLLY: ‘…it’s rare to read a novel so ambitious, so tautly written, so able to survey a personal and historical landscape mired in horror and from it to divine otherworldly pathways that hint at the possibility of redemption.’
Dabydeen, born in Berbice but who grew up in London, has won the Guyana Prize for Fiction three times already; in 1992 for his novel THE INTENDED, in 2000 for his novel A HARLOT’S PROGRESS and in 2004 for his novel OUR LADY OF DEMERARA. A fourth win would make him the record holder His work has in the past been awarded the Raja Rao Prize( India), and been short-listed for the Dublin Impac Prize( the world’s largest prize for a single work of fiction) and the James Tait Black Prize( Britain’s oldest literary prize). In 2008 Dabydeen, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature was awarded the Sabga Prize, commonly known as the Caribbean ‘Nobel’ Prize.
Contacted in Beijing China (where he is Guyana’s Ambassador Plenipotentiary), Dabydeen told me , ” I heard there was a shortlist. The competition is always intense, involving significant writers like Ian McDonald, Mark Mcwatt, Pauline Melville, Sir Wilson Harris, Fred D’Aguiar, my cousin Cyril Dabydeen, Chur Bissoondyal, Jan Shinebourne-Lo and a host of others who have received many accolades and international recognition, not to mention good younger Guyanese authors like Ruel Johnson. Whoever wins the Guyana Prize is the recipient of a great honour from his/her country, and it is a humbling experience. Anyway, we are a community of writers putting Guyana on the world’s literary map. People tend to appreciate and know countries by their artists. So, for instance, Elizabethan England is known by Shakespeare, Victorian England by Dickens , France by Renoir, Spain by Picasso, Germany by Beethoven, Trinidad by Naipaul, St Lucia by Walcott, and so on. Guyana is the ultimate winner of the Guyana Prize. It’s also uplifting to know that we are one of the few Caribbean countries to have a national literary prize, and that the total monies spent on the Guyana Prize( Fiction, Poetry, Drama) makes it the largest such award programme in the region. Much richer Caribbean countries give little or no support or encouragement to their writers .
When the Bahamas pulled out of hosting CARIFESTA, it was Guyana who volunteered and held an extraordinarily successful event in 2008, attracting such distinguished writers as Nobel Prizewinner Derek Walcott. So let’s give praise to Former President Hoyte, who set up the Guyana Prize, to Dr Cheddi and Mrs Jagan and to President Jagdeo for continuing to support it. And if I am lucky enough to win, the drinks are on me!’
The prizes will be awarded at a ceremony at the National Cultural Centre in Georgetown on August 31st.