Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 3rd 2014 Contents A35
Tuesday, June 3, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Best-selling authors take to a seaside stage, bottles
of Red Stripe beer in hand. Budding writers line up
to read their works to a big, appreciative audience.
Book-loving islanders and tourists mingle with lit-
erary luminaries as the sun sets over the Caribbean
It s the Calabash International Literary Festival,
Jamaica s unique, spirited take on the world of literary
gatherings, and the biennial event held over the week-
end has been getting bigger at each staging.
Since 2001, the tiny, laid-back beach town of
Treasure Beach in arid southern Jamaica has been
home to the festival, attracting Nobel laureates and
a slew of other acclaimed writers. From modest
beginnings, Calabash has grown into a major inter-
national literary event.
One of its three founders, Jamaican novelist Colin
Channer, has dubbed the three-day celebration of
writing as the "greatest little festival in the greatest
little district in the greatest little country in the
This year, authors Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith,
Jamaica Kincaid and Colum McCann were among
the novelists and poets participating in readings and
themed discussions in between reggae-and rap-
fuelled celebrations and beachside socialising. The
festival, free of charge and open to anyone, started
Friday and ran through Sunday evening.
Kincaid, an Antigua-born novelist and essayist,
said the festival has given the people of the Caribbean
a top-flight literary event in a part of the world where
storytelling and creativity with language has always
"Among all the other things we do, black people
also make literature. We are very imaginative, literate
people. The problem has always been access. That s
why this event is so inspiring," she said by the salt-
water pool at Jake s, a hotel that s a collection of
funky, colorful cottages that hosts the celebration
every two years.
Rushdie said it was no wonder that Calabash had
steadily earned a name as a festival of choice for
some of the world s most gifted authors.
"It is an extraordinary event. The audience is big,
extremely appreciative, very focused. And the setting
is spectacular," he told the Associated Press on Sunday,
a day after he took to the stage to discuss his writings
and career in front of an eager, diverse crowd of a
few thousand people.
Rushdie s works include the Booker Prize-winning
Midnight s Children and the best-selling The Satanic
Verses, which some Muslims consider blasphemous.
A fatwa, or Islamic edict, was issued against Rushdie
in 1989 by Iran s late revolutionary leader, Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini, which forced Rushdie into hiding
under British police protection for years.
Just two years ago, an Indian literary festival can-
celled a video conference with Rushdie after threats
of violence. But in Jamaica, the author strolled around
freely and chatted with people.
It s the easygoing, accessible vibe of Calabash that
entices well-known writers to come without their
normal speaking fees, said Kwame Dawes, a Jamaican
poet who co-founded the festival with Channer and
id oes not pay participating authors, but provided
their airfare and accommodation.
"This is a free festival and it s open to everybody.
And I think the writers share that very progressive
spirit," Dawes said on Sunday.
A staging of the volunteer-led festival costs roughly
US$150,000. It has attracted various sponsors and
The success of Calabash has fostered a more lively
literary scene within the Caribbean, inspiring the
creation of literary festivals on other islands, among
them T&T s NGC Bocas Lit Fest and Barbados annual
Bim Literary Festival and Book Fair.
Alison Donnell, an English professor at England s
University of Reading who co-edited the 2011 Com-
panion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature, said
many literary gatherings can seem to be the products
of a "culturally homogenised repertoire of ticketed
good taste," but Calabash and other Caribbean gath-
erings avoid stuffiness.
"They are also feverishly important to a regional
literary culture that has suffered from decades of
the familiar idea that Caribbean writing comes to
maturity" abroad in such major cities as New York,
London and Toronto, Donnell said by e-mail. (AP)
Jamaica literary festival
draws top-flight authors
Acclaimed novelist Salman Rushdie discussing his life and work for an
appreciate audience of book-loving Jamaicans and tourists in Treasure Beach,
Jamaica on Saturday. Since 2001, the tiny, laid-back beach town in arid
southern Jamaica has hosted the Calabash International Literary Festival,
attracting Nobel laureates and a slew of other acclaimed writers. AP PHOTO
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