Caribbean-born authors Austin Clarke and Joseph Jomo Pierre are 2013 Governor General’s Literary Awards finalists.
The publisher of six short story collections, three memoirs and 10 novels, including The Polished Hoe that won the 2002 Giller Prize – Canada’s top award for fiction — and the 2003 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Clarke made the shortlist for poetry for his book, Where the Sun Shines Best.
The book encompasses a tragedy of epic proportions, a lyrical meditation on poverty, racism and war and a powerful indictment of the ravages of imperialism.
Three Canadian soldiers awaiting deployment to Afghanistan beat a homeless man to death on the steps of their armoury after a night of heavy drinking. Clarke, whose downtown Toronto residence overlooks the armoury and surrounding park, describes the crime, its perpetrators, the victim and a cast of homeless witnesses that includes a prostitute who first alerts police to the vicious crime.
The subsequent trial evokes reflection on the immigrant experience the poet shares with one of the accused and the agony of that young soldier’s mother.
Now 79, Clarke came to Toronto from Barbados in 1955 to attend the University of Toronto. He worked as a reporter in Timmins and Kirkland Lake before joining the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a freelance producer and broadcaster. It was while working in the Canadian media that he wrote his first novel, The Survivors of the Crossing which was released in 1964.
Clarke also lectured at several American universities and served as Barbados’ cultural and press attaché in Washington, an adviser to late Prime Minister Errol Barrow and general manager of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation in Barbados before returning to Canada in 1976.
The holder of four honorary doctorates, he was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1998.
Born in Trinidad & Tobago and raised in Scarborough, Pierre is shortlisted in the drama category for Shakespeare’s Nigga, which is a riveting drama rife with power struggles and forbidden love that explores the relationship between the artist and the characters in his head.
A York University Bachelor of Fine Arts graduate, he has been a playwright in residence at Obsidian Theatre, Factory Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, Tarragon Theatre and the inaugural collective for Canstage’s Festival of Ideas and Creation.
The finalists for the Governor General’s Literary Awards are chosen by peer assessment committees appointed by the Canada Council.
A total of 979 titles in the English Language category and 624 in the French Language were submitted.
The winners will be announced on November 13 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre at Canada’s National Ballet School. The awards presentation takes place on November 28 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.