Erna Brodber and André Alexis to receive Fiction Prize at Windham-Campbell Prize Festival

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A post by Peter Jordens.

As reported previously, Erna Brodber (Jamaica) and André Alexis (Canada/Trinidad and Tobago) are two of the eight recipients of a 2017 Donald Windham-Sandy Campbell Prize, both in the category of fiction. Each will be recognized with a $165,000 individual prize to support their writing. The 2017 Windham-Campbell Prize Festival will take place September 13-15 at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT. The Prize Ceremony will be the opening event. Brodber and Alexis will participate in a variety of panels during the Festival and will read from their work during the Festival’s closing event, the Prize Recipient Readings on September 15. For the full Festival program, go to http://windhamcampbell.org/festival.

Here are Brodber’s and Alexis’s citations from the Windham-Campbell Jury and Selection Committee:

Erna Brodber’s uncompromising fiction weaves strands of diasporic history, memory, and identity into illuminating new forms that respond to the need to act as well as the need to know. Activist, scholar, and writer Erna Brodber has, over the course of a four-decade career, established herself as a major voice in Caribbean literature. Her distinctive polyvocal narratives draw upon the oral and scribal traditions of the African diaspora, echoing sources as diverse as the folk tales of Anansi the spider-god and the modernist novels of James Joyce. Her protagonists contend with destructive magical forces, in the process recovering their own lost or stolen histories—what Brodber describes as “the half [that has] not been told.” In works like Myal (1988) and Nothing’s Mat (2014), she skillfully uses elements of Afro-Jamaican cosmology to convey both the richness of diasporic traditions, as well as the danger of forgetting them. For Brodber, the past is never really dead—an idea she literalizes in Myal, where “spirit thievery” and zombification become a powerful trope for the psychological and political legacies of colonial exploitation. A winner of a Prince Claus Award (2006), the Musgrave Medal (1999), and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (1989), Brodber holds an Honorary D.Litt. from the University of West Indies at Mona (2011). She lives in the village of Woodside, Saint Mary, Jamaica.

André Alexis‘s work displays a mastery of literature’s history and a startling power of invention, balancing intellectual sophistication with a sense of humor, pathos, and beauty. Born in 1957 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, André Alexis is the author of many books, including six novels, a short story collection, and a book of nonfiction. Across all genres, he works in astonishingly clear, supple prose that propels readers through the complex philosophical questions —How does an awareness of mortality shape consciousness? What is the relationship, if any, between love and reason?— that have pre-occupied him through two decades of work. Alexis’s latest project is a five-part series of novels that he describes as a “quincunx.” Beginning with Pastoral (2014) and continuing through Fifteen Dogs (2015) and The Hidden Keys (2016), each book has attempted to resuscitate a forgotten or neglected genre: the pastoral, the apologue, the quest narrative. But while his work deals in paradoxes and tropes borrowed from long-dead thinkers, Alexis has time and again proven himself to be a provocative and modern thinker; his work feels ever current, even as it delivers all the humor and warmth of a well-told tale. He has received many honors, including, most recently, the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

 

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