SOME of the more notable books on and about Guyana were written by non-Guyanese.
Fresh in our minds will be ‘The Sly Company of People Who Care’ (2011) by Rahul Bhattacharya, which won the Hindu Literary Prize (2011); the Ondaatje Prize (2012); and was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize (2011); and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (2012).
There are other significant titles that date as far back as to the 16th Century: ‘The Discovery of Guiana’ by Raleigh (1596); ‘Lutchmee and Dilloo’ by Edward Jenkins (1877); ‘Canoe and Camp Life in British Guiana’ by Barrington Brown (1876); ‘In Guiana Wilds’ by James Rodway (1899); ‘Green Mansions’ by W. H. Hudson (1904); and ‘Those that be in Bondage’ by A. R. F. Webber (1917).
All of books mentioned contributed to the preservation of our literary heritage, whether or not they depicted this country in a positive or indifferent manner. There are, however, a few books some of us would rather wipe from our minds, like ‘For The Love of My Name’ by Lakshmi Persaud.
In the case of the book, ‘The Sly Company of People Who Care’, the author lived about one year in Guyana after a short initial visit. In the case of the book, ‘For The Love of My Name’, the author lived and visited Guyana at crucial periods in our history.
Lakshmi Persaud taught at Queen’s College for two years (1963 to 1964), a period of civil strife and racial upheaval. The other notable time Persaud spent in Guyana was post-1992 election, when democracy was restored to the country.
That post-1992 election time was also noted for riots and civil disorder. During these dates, Persaud did her research on ‘For The Love of My Name’.
‘For The Love of My Name’ is Persaud’s third novel, and it is “based on Guyana, and is a story built around authoritarianism in Guyana.” This book is a part of our literature.
Lloyd Searwar said at the launching of the book that Lakshmi Persaud “has in this novel come very close to writing a great Guyanese and West-Indian novel.”
Persaud has, to date, authored five novels, namely: ‘Butterfly in the Wind’, published by Peepal Tree Press in 1990; ‘Sastra’, published in 1993; ‘For The Love of My Name’, her third novel, which was launched in December 1999; and ‘Raise the Lanterns High’, published by Black Amber in 2004. Her most recent novel, ‘Daughters of Empire’, was published by Peepal Tree Press.
Lakshmi Persaud was born in Tunapuna, in the village of Pasea, Trinidad. She read for her BA (Hons) and her Ph.D. at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, and her Post-graduate Diploma in Education at Reading University, UK.
Persaud’s contribution to literature has been recognised in various ways. In 1994, the Trinidad Guardian published the bestseller list for Caribbean books, and Persaud’s books, ‘Sastra’ and ‘Butterfly in The Wind’ placed first and third respectively.
Her novels are being used as texts in Caribbean and post-colonial literature courses in a number of Universities, including: Warwick, Birmingham, Goldsmiths College (London), London Metropolitan, Washington, Toronto, Puerto Rico, California (Los Angeles), Miami and Mills College (California), and The University of the West Indies. Extracts from her novels have been used in English examinations in the Caribbean from ’11+’ to GCSE level.
In recognition of her work, Warwick University established a ‘Lakshmi Persaud Research Fellowship’ at its Centre for Translation and Comparative Cultural Studies.
For the 50th Anniversary of the Independence of Trinidad and Tobago, the National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) awarded Lakshmi with a Lifetime Literary Award for her significant contribution to the development of Trinidad and Tobago’s Literature (Professor Bishnodat Persaud).
Persaud’s most recent award was the conferral of an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Letters – DLitt) by the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus. We can all share in this award as Guyanese and West Indians. Congratulations Dr Lakshmi Persaud! (To respond to this author, either call him on (592) 226-0065 or send him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
• ‘An Introduction to Guyanese Literature’ is now available at the National Library. This book is an up-to-date guide, featuring significant literary landmarks, from the 16th Century to the new millennium. This 150-page book, including over 100 photographs, is an attempt at bringing to the fore little known facts about lesser known aspects of our literature. The big books, the big authors and the big success stories in Guyanese Literature are also featured.