My recent article, ‘“Our words spoken among us, in fragments:”’ Austin Clarke’s Aesthetics of Crossing’ is free and available in the Journal of West Indian Literature. Here’s a brief excerpt — click for the entire article:
In a fascinating and revealing interview of Austin Clarke by Dionne Brand and Rinaldo Walcott, Brand opens the discussion by wondering:
Why isn’t your work more out there?… why isn’t it acknowledged, because you have been writing a very, very long time,… and I want to know what you attribute that to? I can’t figure it out because the stories are so beautifully made, you know, and touch so much of what is Canadian, what makes up this city… that I don’t understand it at all. I mean, I do, but I wanted you to tell me why you think it is so. (1)
Clarke responds reservedly, explaining that he has “suspicions” about the biases of some aspects of the Canadian literary establishment while also insisting that “there are no Canadian critics qualified to look at the things I write, in the sense of having a sensitive feeling towards what I write” (1–2). This discussion intriguingly suggests the manner in which Clarke and Brand are not decidedly opposed to canonization but rather seek a place within or a form of acknowledgment from Canadian literature. Where canonical crisis is often imagined to have a conservative bent, here it is insurgent.[i] What is it about Clarke’s novels and short stories that they at once “touch so much of what is Canadian” yet remain such an enigma for Canadian literary criticism? Does the absence of “sensitive feeling” towards his work indicate a lack of sympathy towards Clarke and his writing or a deeper unfamiliarity with the formal traditions and aesthetic codes that his work draws upon?