Winner of the 2014 One Caribbean Media (OCM) Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, Robert Antoni, said he will share the US$10,000 prize money with the other finalists.
Antoni was announced as the winner from the top three writers for his book As Flies to Whatless Boys at an awards ceremony at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Port of Spain, on Saturday.
The other finalists were Lorna Goodison in the poetry category for “Oracabessa (Carcanet)” and Kei Miller for his non-fiction work Writing Down the Vision: Essays and Prophecies.
Antoni expressed thanks to his publisher Johnny Temple and then hailed his competitors as winners.
“Lorna said yesterday that you can’t compare oranges and mangoes and this prize, it’s wonderful, it’s necessary, it’s up to us in the Caribbean to decide who we are, to take a place on the world stage. But my dear friend Lorna is a winner, my new friend Kei is a winner and so whatever the money prize is, I would like to divide it into three between the three of us,” said Antoni.
The OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature is a major award for literary books by Caribbean writers. Books were entered in three categories: poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction. The US$10,000 prize is sponsored by One Caribbean Media.
Chief judge Linton Kwesi Johnson said choosing this year’s winner was a difficult task but it was unanimously decided by the judging panel to name Antoni as the winner.
He described Antoni’s book as “a humorous and poignant novel, is a tall tale, an Anancy-like yarn that is deftly spun as it revels in Trini speech”.
In a video presentation which featured the three finalists, Antoni disclosed that he spent 15 years working on the novel.
He said the first few years involved finding everything he possibly could on the historian John Adolphus Etzler and then he eventually realised he did not want to write a historical novel about the Tuckers but instead an intimate family tale about them.
“For me the most basic definition of a novel is a community of voices and I want to hear each of them individually in my ears and on the page. I always say that the most difficult task for a writer is to get himself out of the way so he can hear his characters,” said Antoni.
“So for me the task of writing involves a great deal of very hard listening. It takes me a long time to come to my voices, it’s a long wait but once I begin to hear them then I can almost step back and become the recipient, the vessel, I let them speak through me,” he added.
The 2014 Hollick Arvon Caribbean writers prize was awarded to Diana McCaulay of Jamaica for her book Loving Jamaica.
This award recognises emerging Caribbean writers and gives the opportunity for training and for their final work to be published.
It is sponsored by the Hollick Family Charitable Trust and the literary charitable trust Arvon, in association with the Bocas Lit Fest.
According to the Bocas Lit Fest website, the award comprises of a cash prize (US$4,500), a year’s mentoring by an established writer, travel to the United Kingdom to attend a one-week intensive Arvon creative writing course at one of Arvon’s internationally renowned writing houses and three days in London to network with editors and publishers, hosted by Arvon, in association with the Free Word Centre and the Rogers, Coleridge and White literary agency.
Lord Hollick said there were 27 entries from writers who had passion and great knowledge about their subject.
Funso Aivejina said the winner came up on the short-list of all the judges and “no other writer came close to that”.
OCM’s chief executive officer (CEO), Dawn Thomas, praised the success of the Bocas Lit Fest and pledged continued support from the media conglomerate
She noted that the Bocas Lit Fest has expanded to include the Bocas Jam session — performances by poets on the Brian Lara promenade and extempo debates.
She commended Bocas Lit Fest for offering training opportunities to journalists who have gone to Scotland.
Thomas hailed founder and director of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest Marina Salandy-Brown for her drive and passion towards the Bocas’ success.
“There is clearly no stopping the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, in this respect allow me to put on the pedestal where it is indisputably belongs, the vision, the leadership, the drive and the enterprise of Marina Salandy Brown, the signature moving force behind Bocas,” said Thomas.
She assured that OCM will continue to support Bocas in 2015 in its capacity of prize sponsor.
The inaugural OCM Bocas Prize, presented in April 2011, was won by Derek Walcott’s collection of poems “White Egrets”. The 2012 Prize was won by Earl Lovelace’s novel Is Just a Movie, and the 2013 Prize was won by Monique Roffey’s novel Archipelago.