Jamaica's Erna Brodber and Trinidadian Andre Alexis are among the The 2017 recipients of the US$165,000 Windham-Campbell Prizes.
The recipients were announced earlier this week.
In fiction, André Alexis (Canada/Trinidad and Tobago) and Erna Brodber (Jamaica); in nonfiction, Maya Jasanoff (United States) and Ashleigh Young (New Zealand); in poetry, Ali Cobby Eckermann (Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal/Australia) and Carolyn Forché (United States); and in drama, Marina Carr (Ireland) and Ike Holter (United States). This is the first year that prizes have been awarded in poetry.
The awards, among the world’s richest literary prizes, will be conferred in September at an international literary festival at Yale celebrating the honored writers and introducing them to new audiences.
The Windham-Campbell Prizes were established in 2013 by novelist and memoirist Donald Windham in memory of his partner of 40 years, Sandy M. Campbell, to call attention to literary achievement and provide writers working in English with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns.
The Windham-Campbell Festival will take place at Yale on Sept. 13-15. Karl Ove Knausgård, author of “My Struggle,” a widely acclaimed series of six autobiographical novels, will deliver the keynote on the theme “Why I Write.” All festival events, including the keynote, are free and open to the public.
The Windham-Campbell Prizes are administered by Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which houses the Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell papers.
Activist, scholar, and writer 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 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.