Austin Clarke : Perfect Blend of Writing and Culture
The Caribbean Is One Nation.
submitted by the Mahogany Coconut Group
Austin “Tom” Clarke the distinguished Barbadian born writer,
who recently died in his adopted home
of Canada, has left a body of work that should influence many Caribbean writers
for decades to come. Clarke was the hallmark of authenticity and never appeared
to be esoteric and untouchable, like so many of his counterparts, whose success
seems to always take them on journeys that separate them from their roots. To
put it another way, we are saying that some of our best and most internationally
acclaimed writers tend to be strangers to the region.
Perhaps Clarke’s accessibility could be the result of choosing Canada as his Diasporic domicile while others chose England. His struggles to establish himself as a writer have been well documented and it is indeed a tribute to his tenacity that although success was rather slow in coming, he was successful in sustaining it to the very end.
Most of Clarke’s work reflected his distaste for the colonial system that he would have been exposed to growing up in perhaps the most colonial of islands, Barbados. The Barbadian’s lack of interest in regular protest is often the subject of conversation among other Caribbean nationals. This can be traced to the island being referred to as “Little England”. However, we must state, that the term Little England is seldom now used in any serious manner, as it was thirty or so years ago.
One of Clarke’s relatively early works: "Growing up Stupid Under The Union Jack", is staple reading for those Caribbean nationals, who want a very clear understanding of what it meant to be growing up in a society that was struggling to emerge from the vestiges of colonialism. His awards and achievements are well documented and while his views of the Caribbean may not reach the bitter level of a Naipaul, we are convinced that Clarke would have also had serious misgivings about the post independence leaders of his own island Barbados and the wider Caribbean.
His selfless mentoring of many Caribbean writers and his penchant for cooking, calypso and an almost unparalleled command of Bajan (Barbadian) dialect in his writings, are undeniable proof that Austin Clarke lived his culture while he wrote it. We have no doubt that his hard work and dedication to maintaining a Caribbean flavor and culture throughout his work, certainly guarantees him a well earned place, in the upper echelons of Caribbean writers.