Canadian Novelist Austin C. Clarke
We received a call tonight from "Our Man in Toronto" Norman Richmond, Toronto DJ and journalist that our brother Canadian novelist Austin C. Clarke joined the ancestors a few hours ago. Norman Richmond and I met Austin Clarke after arriving in Toronto in 1967 as resisters to the war in Vietnam. I probably met Austin before Norman arrived. Austin and another great Pan African writer, Jan Carew, were our big brothers who mentored us during our exile. Of course Austin was not as political as Jan Carew and when we met for converssation the two of them had heavy political arguments. Austin was from Barbados and Carew from Guyana, South America. Austin's novels told of the Caribbean experience in Canada. We recall one of his characters describing the trip from the Caribbean to Canada as the Middle Passage. While in Toronto, I did an interview with Austin that I will share with readers as soon as I can find it in my archives.
BiographyBorn in St. James, Barbados, Clarke had his early education there and taught at a rural school for three years. In 1955 he moved to Canada to attend the University of Toronto but after two years turned his hand to journalism and broadcasting. He was a reporter in the Ontario communities of Timmins and Kirkland Lake, before joining the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a freelance journalist. He subsequently taught at several American universities, including Yale University (Hoyt fellow, 1968–70), Duke University (1971–72), and the University of Texas (visiting professor, 1973).
In 1973 he was designated cultural attaché at the Barbadian embassy in Washington, DC. He was later General Manager of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation in Barbados (1975-1977). Returning to Canada, in 1977 he ran as a Progressive Conservative candidate in the Ontario election. He was writer in residence at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec (1977), and at University of Western Ontario (1978). From 1988 to 1993 he served on the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
In September 2012, at the International Festival of Authors (IFOA), Clarke was announced as the winner of the $10,000 Harbourfront Festival Prize "on the merits of his published work and efforts in fostering literary talent in new and aspiring writers". Previous recipients of the award (established in 1984) include Dionne Brand, Wayson Choy, Christopher Dewdney, Helen Humphreys, Paul Quarrington, Peter Robinson, Seth, Jane Urquhart and Guy Vanderhaeghe. Clarke was reported as saying: "I rejoiced when I saw that Authors at Harbourfront Centre had named me this year's winner of the Harbourfront Festival Prize. I did not come to this city on September 29, 1959, as a writer. I came as a student. However, my career as a writer buried any contention of being a scholar and I thank Authors at Harbourfront Centre for saving me from the more painful life of the 'gradual student.' It is an honour to be part of such a prestigious list of authors."
Clarke died on June 26, 2016 at the age of 81 in Toronto.
Selected awards and honours
- 1980, Casa de las Américas Prize, Cuba
- 1992, Toronto Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature
- 1997, Lifetime Achievement Award from Frontier College in Toronto
- 1998, Member of the Order of Canada.
- 1999, Martin Luther King Junior Award for Excellence in Writing.
- 1999, W. O. Mitchell Literary Prize
- 2002, Giller Prize, for The Polished Hoe
- 2003, Commonwealth Writers' Prize
- 2009, Toronto Book Award, for More.
- 2012, Harbourfront Festival Prize
- The Survivors of the Crossing (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1964)
- Amongst Thistles and Thorns (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1965)
- The Meeting Point (Toronto: Macmillan, 1967; Boston: Little, Brown, 1972)
- Storm of Fortune (Boston: Little, Brown, 1973)
- The Bigger Light (Boston: Little, Brown, 1975)
- The Prime Minister (Don Mills, Ont.: General Publishing, 1977)
- Proud Empires (London: Gollancz, 1986; Penguin-Viking, 1988)
- The Origin of Waves (McClelland & Stewart, 1997; winner of the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize)
- The Question (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1999; nominated for a Governor General's Award)
- The Polished Hoe (Toronto: Thomas Allen, 2002; winner of the Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize)
- More (2008, winner of the City of Toronto Book Award)
Short story collections
- When He Was Free and Young and He Used to Wear Silks (Toronto: Anansi, 1971; revised edition Little, Brown, 1973)
- When Women Rule (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1985)
- Nine Men Who Laughed (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1986)
- In This City (Toronto: Exile Editions, 1992)
- There Are No Elders (Toronto: Exile Editions, 1993)
- The Austin Clarke Reader, ed. Barry Callaghan (Toronto: Exile Editions, 1996)
- Choosing His Coffin: The Best Stories of Austin Clarke (Toronto: Thomas Allen, 2003)
- They Never Told Me: and Other Stories (Holstein, ON: Exile Editions, 2013)
- Where the Sun Shines Best (Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2013)
- In Your Crib (Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2015)
- Growing Up Stupid Under the Union Jack: a Memoir (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1980)
- Public Enemies: Police Violence and Black Youth (Toronto: HarperCollins, 1992)
- A Passage Back Home: A Personal Reminiscence of Samuel Selvon (Toronto: Exile Editions, 1994)
- Pigtails 'n Breadfruit: A Culinary Memoir (New Press, 1999); as Pigtails 'n' Breadfruit: The Rituals of Slave Food, A Barbadian Memoir (Toronto: Random House, 1999; University of Toronto Press, 2001)
- "A Stranger In A Strange Land", The Globe and Mail, Toronto, 15 August 1990, p. 30.
- ′Membering (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2015)
- "′Membering" page at Dundurn.
- Austin Clarke interview by Linda Richards, January magazine, November 2002.
- Famous Canadian Immigrant Authors
- Austin Clarke's entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia
- Order of Canada citation
- "Austin Clarke", English-Canadian Writers, Athabasca University.
- Carol Brennan, "Austin C. Clarke", Gale Contemporary Black Biography.