Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 11th 2015 Contents B37
October 11, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
The third annual NGC Bocas Lit
Fest South comes off this afternoon
at San Fernando Hill. Last weekend
two writers who had been celebrat-
ed in previous years by Bocas gave
an audience at the Learning
Resource Centre in UWI, St Augus-
tine, a taste of what people can
expect at today s event.
Author Robert Antoni, who was
born in the US to Trinidadian par-
ents, won the OCM Bocas Prize for
Caribbean Literature last year for his
book As Flies to Whatless Boys.
Author Caryl Phillips, who grew
up in Britain but whose parents were
from St Kitts, was long-listed for
the Bocas Prize in 2012 for the essay
collection Colour Me English:
Thoughts About Migrations and
Belonging Before and After 9/11.
Antoni and Phillips are friends
with each other and with Raymond
Ramcharitar, who is also an author
and who moderated a discussion
between the two that ranged from
the reception of Caribbean literature
abroad to the fate of books in the
age of social media and smart
phones. The men also read passages
from their latest books: Antoni s As
Flies to Whatless Boys and The Lost
Child from Phillips.
"The opportunity to have some
of our best writers here is what Bocas
is about," said Marina Salandy-
Brown, founder and director of the
Bocas festival. She explained that
she would have liked the men to
come for Bocas South but they had
The authors responded to a ques-
tion from Ramcharitar about how
their work is received by audiences
in Europe and America.
"For some reason I ve found a
large and enthusiastic readership in
Finland," said Antoni to laughter
from the audience.
"Who can explain that? Except
that they have a lot of s--- and farts
in their jokes, and I guess so do I.
They have a very bawdy sense of
"You write for the story that s
being told. That s what guides me,"
he added more seriously.
"I have to trust in that---that
wherever I take it, people will
respond even if they ve never heard
Phillips said that in the past there
was more scepticism towards
Caribbean writers and writing in
Britain than there is today.
"I think literature has become
more globalised and national bound-
aries are not as important in literature
as they were," he said.
"It seems to me [Caribbean liter-
ature] is part of a more global phe-
nomenon where writers of all sorts
of different backgrounds tend to
travel a lot more and tend to read
their work in front of much more
During the Q&A, two audience
members asked questions about the
impact of social media and smart-
phone technology on reading.
Antoni said he was concerned
about what would happen to society
if "all of your relationships are vir-
tual." But, he added, "the other part
of me says you can t fear all of that."
"I think what s going to happen
is technology is going to transform
the way we tell our stories and the
way those stories are transmitted.
They re probably not going to be
paper-based. They re going to be
electronic---like it or not," he said.
Phillips worries that digital tech-
nology is upending "the great moral
purpose of literature," which is to
encourage empathy and to remind
us that in spite of our differences
"we are all part of one family"
"If we were not part of one family,
we wouldn t be able to read Anna
Karenina and feel anything. We
wouldn t be able to watch Ibsen plays
and feel anything," he said. "We
wouldn t be able to read a novel by
an Indian novelist. We wouldn t be
able to read Gabriel García Márquez.
"The platforms, the media that
we re talking about [are] so damn
narcissistic that it is working against
the impulse in literature towards
empathy," he said.
The event was a partnership
between Bocas, the ANSA McAl
Caribbean Awards for Excellence
(ANSCAFE), UWI, St Augustine,
and the University of T&T. It was
streamed online at the ANSCAFE
website. Caryl Philips won an
ANSCAFE award in 2013.
"The purpose of these events is
to promote the work of our laureates
and by extension knowledge and
excellence," said Maria Superville-
Nielson, who spearheads the awards,
in closing remarks. "We wish all
people to become familiar with
excellence and to know those who
have attained it are in their midst
and that it is attainable."
Ramcharitar, who is in charge of
communications for ANSCAFE, said
events like the Phillips/Antoni dis-
cussion are important.
"We d like to do much more," he
"We ve committed to having one
public lecture every year of our lau-
Superville-Nielson told the audi-
ence of Ramcharitar s excitement in
getting to spend time with the two
"Raymond picked them up from
the airport on Thursday night," she
said, drawing laughter, "and he came
in at about five to eight on Friday
morning, and he said, You know, I
miss talking to writers about writing.
He was so invigorated, and that s
what this is all about, getting our
students to interface with these
accomplished writers, these great
The five-year-old Bocas Lit Fest
has been expanding outside of Port-
of-Spain and its main event in April.
There s now Bocas South in October
and Bocas Tobago in July. Next
month Bocas will present readings
and a conversation with three writers
from the English-speaking Caribbean
at the Miami Book Fair.
Bocas South will include writing
workshops, a discussion with Cana-
dian-Trinidadian author Sabrina
Ramnanan, spoken word perform-
ances and many more events.
preview south Bocas lit fest
Local author Robert Antoni, left, and his British colleague Prof Caryl Phillips,
right, captivated an audience attending the Anthony N Sabga (ANSA)
Caribbean Awards for Excellence special presentation of a Literary
Conversation held at the Learning Resource Centre at UWI, St Augustine,
on October 3. Local author Raymond Ramcharitar, centre. PHOTO: SEAN NERO
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