Bellagio Publishing Network  

 BPN Newsletter Issue No 22, July 1998 


Faber Caribbean series

Maya Jaggi

Extract from an article entitled `The Impure Norm' by Maya Jaggi published in the British Guardian newspaper on 2 May 1998. Reprinted with permission.

The Faber Caribbean Series, edited by Caryl Phillips, was launched in April in Trinidad and Barbados. According to Phillips, British perceptions of the region have been `trapped within the prism of the English language'. The series aims to place excellent anglophone writing - both new and classic - beside translations from French, Spanish and Dutch, and to encompass not only the islands but the Caribbean basin with the littorals of Mexico, Central and South America yielding their own literary gems... It blows apart the colonial map of the `West Indies' - the pink bits tied to London rather than their neighbours - and assails the reductive view of Caribbean culture as Carnival and cricket. `One literature in several languages', as the St Lucian Nobel laureate Derek Walcott exulted.

Faber's initiative coincides with growing international acclaim for the region's writers. As the quincentenary of Columbus's `discovery' was ambivalently marked in 1992, Europe's Nobel, Goncourt and Cervantes literary prizes were monopolised by Walcott, Martinique's Patrick Chamoiseau and Cuba's Dulce Maria Loynaz. Three of the ten authors shortlisted for this year's Dublin-based Impac award are Caribbean (Earl Lovelace, Jamaica Kincaid and David Dabydeen). Recent prize-winners also include Pauline Melville, Robert Antoni, Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Fred D'Aguiar. With publishers and agents moving in there is evidence of the Caribbean becoming the `new India' as a perceived source of innovative, world-class fiction.

Given a dearth of local publishers, the islands' writers have always had to leave to be recognised. So there is excitement that a major British publisher (backed by the BWIA airline and the University of the West Indies) has launched this series `at home'. While books usually reach this tiny and `marginal' market at prohibitive prices, Faber is selling the series here at half price, to remedy what its chairman, Matthew Evans, told local journalists was `an absolutely ridiculous situation where Caribbean readers don't get to read their own writers.' [end]  [BPN, no 22, 1998, p 18.]

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