September 4, 2015

Roopnaraine wins Bocas non-fiction literary prize

A Partnership for National Unity co-chairman, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine won the non-fiction category for his work The Sky’s Wild Noise at this year’s One Caribbean Media (OCM) Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.

Dr Rupert Roopnaraine

Dr Rupert Roopnaraine

A formidable chronicle of essays marking a lifetime of political service and social activism, Roopnaraine’s entries range from satirical treatments to eyewitness accounts, from critiques of visual arts to testimonies on the lives of great departed comrades and Guyanese luminaries. The Sky’s Wild Noise is a rare, meticulously plotted gift of Caribbean letters, revealing as much about the resilient, doughty composer of these ruminations as it does decades of socio-political history. The compendium provides a narrative that is dually relevant to Guyana’s society, as well as to the broader Caribbean spectrum.

Meanwhile, Trinidad-born, United Kingdom-based writer Monique Roffey won with the fiction category prize with her novel Archipelago. According to a Trinidad Express article, the tragic circumstances of the flooding of her brother’s home in Maraval in 2008 had inspired Roffey to pen Archipelago. Roffey, according to the Express, said she feels “deeply honoured” after receiving the news on Saturday at an awards ceremony held at Hotel Normandie, St Ann’s.

“This is a response to something very tragic that happened to my family. It happened to my brother (Nigel) and it’s his birthday today. So you could just say happy birthday to my brother. So thank you (for the award) and thanks to my mom,” she told the gathering.

The prize of US$10,000 is part of the annual National Gas Company (NGC) Bocas Lit Fest and is sponsored by OCM, the holding company of the Caribbean Communications Network, parent company of the Express and TV6.

Event founder and director Marina Salandy-Brown said in three years the prize has “gained enormous prestige” internationally partly due to the “near absence” of prizes for Caribbean writing. She noted that prizes are very important to recognise the talent, skill, and dedication required of writers to produce, and to help them promote their work.

She said that the 11 judges were drawn from all over the world and there were 40 titles entered. These were whittled down to three in separate categories: Roopnaraine’s The Sky’s Wild Noise, Roffey’s Archipelago and St Lucian poet Kendel Hippolyte’s collection Fault Lines, which won the poetry category.

Roffey, whose previous novels were Sun Dog, published in 2002, and The White Woman on the Green Bicycle, published in 2009, emerged as the overall winner.

OCM Bocas Prize chief judge, Jamaican author Olive Senior noted that in Archipelago there was “an exploration of the greater Caribbean space in which is embedded a real-life story of trauma and loss and ultimately redemption that is both contemporary and compelling”.

Archipelago tells the story of Gavin Weald, who goes on a yacht adventure with his daughter and dog after his house is destroyed by a flood. Senior said it was an “agonising process” as they had to choose between “apples and oranges” with the different categories. She noted that all three books are “worthy additions to the Caribbean literary canon”.

NGC Human and Corporate Relations Vice President Cassandra Patrovani-Sylvester noted that Caribbean writers work with limited resources and need support. She encouraged writers and aspiring writers to “tell your story. Society needs you desperately”.

OCM Group Executive, Corporate Services, Gregory Camejo noted that the world is taking note of the achievement of Bocas and is making Port of Spain a destination for literary tourism.

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