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GIFTED N TALENTED TRINIS

V.S. Naipaul

Trinidad-born novelist and essayist, known for his works about the colonial legacy in developing nations. The mixture of satire and humor in his fiction generally illustrates the conflict between traditional cultures and contemporary values.

Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was born into a Hindu family of Indian ancestry. He was educated at Queen's Royal College in Port-of-Spain and then at the University of Oxford in England. He then became a resident of England, where he worked as a broadcast journalist for a few years before publishing his first novels, The Mystic Masseur (1957), The Suffrage of Elvira (1958), and Miguel Street (1959), all satires of life in Trinidad.

Naipaul's best-known novels include A House for Mr. Biswas (1961), about an Anglicized Indian in a Creole world; In a Free State (1971), which won the Booker Prize, Britain's most prestigious literary award; Guerrillas (1975), about a would-be West Indian revolutionary; and A Bend in the River (1979), which probes the search for identity in a newly independent African nation. More recent novels include The Enigma of Arrival (1987), a semiautobiographical memoir of an aging author, and A Way in the World (1994), an epic series of narratives based on the history of Naipaul's native Trinidad and the European colonization of the Americas. Among his long essays are India: A Wounded Civilization (1977), Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey (1981), and Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted People (1998).



C.L.R. James (Cyril Lionel Robert James )

James was born on January 4, 1901 in Port of Spain, the largest city in colonial Trinidad. He spent most of his youth in the village of Tunapuna, eight miles outside the city. His father was a schoolteacher, a significant position in the colonial Caribbean, and his mother had been educated in a Weslyan convent. The status and education of his parents marked James as somewhat privileged in relation to the other residents of Tunapuna. As his biographer Paul Buhle writes:

(James') family had for two generations, on both sides, embraced respectability with a ferocious grip, 'not an ideal ... but an armor' against the angers of lumpenization. They had been more or less successful in this effort. All achievements remained precarious. But craft workers, schoolmasters, close readers of the press and of fine literature, they made a coherent life for themselves that would be the envy of colonized peoples across the world. [4]

His childhood was similar to that of most youth in the Caribbean except in two respects: he was a passionate and celebrated cricket player; and he had inherited an appreciation for literature from his parents. He read widely, including the Bible, all of Shakespeare's plays, and all six volumes of Havelock Ellis's The Psychology of Sex from cover to cover. [5] James could have easily received a scholarship to a university in England, but chose to remain in Trinidad. He received a school certificate from Queen's Royal College in 1918, and immediately became a schoolmaster. He was highly respected as a teacher, and once staged a full version of Shakespeare's Othello with his class to ensure his students understood it for their preparatory exams. [6] Intelligent and handsome, James circulated in the island's modest young bohemian milieu. He attended plays and concerts (his favorites included Verdi, Beethoven as well as Calypso), contributed essays and cricket reports to small magazines, and became known as something of an authority on literary matters.
James eventually grew restless, and set off for Britain in 1932 to pursue a career as a writer. There he became a cricket correspondent for the Manchester Guardian and later the Glasgow Herald. He soon became involved in political activity. James joined the social democratic Independent Labour Party (ILP) and became the editor of International African Opinion, a journal published by the International African Service Bureau. Very quickly, James went beyond the politics of the ILP and began to consider himself an anti-Stalinist Marxist. He claimed to have been converted to Marxism by two books: Leon Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution and Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West. [7]
 

I read the History of the Russian Revolution because I was very much interested in history and the book seemed to offer some analysis of modern society. At the end of reading the book I became a Trotskyist in my mind and later joined. It was clear in my mind that I was not going to be a Stalinist. [8]

Upon his conversion, James joined the Revolutionary Socialist League, a small organization affiliated with the Trotskyist Left Opposition, and later became editor of its newspaper, Fight. The Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 led James to initiate his life-long attempt to synthesize of Pan Africanism and Marxism. At the time of his conversion to Trotskyism, James considered them to be virtually synonymous.

When I hear people arguing about Marxism versus the nationalist or racialist struggle, I am very confused. In England I edited the Trotskyist paper and I edited the nationalist, pro-African paper of George Padmore, and nobody quarreled. The Trotskyists read and sold the African paper and ... there were (African) nationalists who read and sold the Trotskyist paper. I moved among them, we attended each other's meetings and there was no problem because we had the same aim in general: freedom by revolution. [9]

In 1938 James completed the manuscript of his most important work, The Black Jacobins. To a Euro-American audience still in serious denial about the reality of slavery, James graphically revealed the brutality inflicted by nascent capitalism. The Black Jacobins also refuted much of the mythology surrounding racial inferiority being debated - from eugenics to fascism - by that same Euro-American audience. James showed how even in the most degraded circumstances, slave society had cultivated a leadership that included such figures as Toussaint L'Ouverture, Jean-Jacque Dessalines and Henri Christophe. The significance of The Black Jacobins is indicated by one writer:

A classic of Marxist historiography, The Black Jacobins was a major influence on works such as Eric Williams's Capitalism and Slavery and an anticipation of the 'history from below' developed by E.P. Thompson and other (writers) after the Second World War. But it was also intended as a political intervention, written amid 'the booming of Franco's heavy artillery, the rattle of Stalin's firing squads and the fierce shrill turmoil of the revolutionary movement striving for clarity and influence' [from James' introduction to The Black Jacobins - PD], and aimed especially at promoting the struggle for the liberation of Africa from colonial rule. [10]
In 1938 James attended the founding conference of the Trotskyist Fourth International in Paris. James P. Cannon, one of the founders of the American Communist Party (CPUSA) who had split to launch the Trotskyist opposition in the US, invited James to visit the US for a speaking tour on the Black struggle. James remained in North America for the next 15 years, where the international Trotskyist movement had its largest - fewer than 1000 members - organization, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP).

During this period James held several discussions with Trotsky, who was then living in exile in Mexico, on issues in the struggle against racial oppression. These discussions helped shape the SWP's political work against racism. During 1941 James also spent several months as a lecturer and pamphleteer for striking sharecroppers in southern Missouri. [11] In anticipation of tactics used in the 1960s civil rights movement, James urged Blacks to enter segregated restaurants, "ordering, for instance, some coffee," launching a sit-down and campaigning around the issue.

In 1948 James wrote The Revolutionary Answer to the Negro Problem in the USA, which was published as a pamphlet by the SWP. The document clarified the party's position on racism, and distinguished it from the contradictory positions of the Stalinist CPUSA. The Stalinists urged Blacks to subordinate racial issues for the sake of class issues and advocated self-determination for the "Black Belt," regardless of the reluctance of southern Blacks themselves to demand nationhood. James wrote:

We say, number one, that the Negro struggle, the independent Negro struggle, has a vitality and a validity of its own...
We say, number two, that this independent Negro movement is able to intervene with terrific force upon the general social and political life of the nation, despite the fact that it is waged under the banner of democratic rights, and is not led necessarily either by the organized labor movement or the Marxist party.
We say, number three, and this is the most important, that it is able to exercise a powerful influence upon the revolutionary proletariat in the United States, and that it is in itself a constituent part of the struggle for socialism. [12]
James remained a committed advocate of Trotskyism while the working class movement was ascendant from the 1930s through the post-WWII strike wave. However, as class struggle began to decline, James started to identify more with the emerging nationalism of Africa and the Caribbean. In 1941 James left the SWP - he rejoined in 1947 before leaving for good in the early 1950s - and formed the Johnson-Forest Tendency with philosopher Raya Dunayevskaya and others. [13] The group translated sections of Marx's 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, attempted to insert Hegelian philosophy more directly into Marxist discussion, and developed a "state capitalist" analysis of the Soviet Union. [14] By the mid-1950s, the Johnson-Forest Tendency had broken from Trotskyism's insistence on a revolutionary party, and attempted to create a new type of Marxist organization. [15] James began to advocate a loose form of struggle, which one writer has termed a "celebration of spontaneity." [16]

The task today is to call for, to teach, to illustrate, to develop spontaneity - the free creative activity of the proletariat. [17]
James was expelled from the United States in 1953 for alleged passport violations. For the remainder of his life he would continue to develop and advocate an idiosyncratic Marxism. He lived in England for a time, and in 1958 returned to Trinidad, where he became a leading intellectual figure in the national independence movement. He pointed to the 1956 Hungarian revolution as proof that a revolutionary party was no longer needed to lead workers to victory. He hailed Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana as "Africa's Lenin" only to see his regime overthrown in a military coup. He joined Eric Williams' post-colonial government in Trinidad, only to break with him and be bitterly disappointed. He lectured at US and European colleges and continued to write until his death in London in 1989.
 

James nevertheless remained, till his death, rooted in the Marxist tradition, insisting that 'the idea that the emancipation of the workers will be the work of the workers themselves is the literal and total truth.' He resisted pressures from many of his admirers who, under the influence of black nationalism, argued that black liberation could be achieved only by a movement autonomous of the working class, and argued instead that white workers must be won to the struggle against racism. The universality of human emancipation affirmed in The Black Jacobins was central to James's thought to the end. [18]

C.L.R. James was quintessentially a Caribbean writer. This was at once both his strength and his weakness. Like many cultural figures who emerge from a colonial milieu, James reflected a contradictory consciousness torn between the metropole and the colony. He was never able to synthesize these opposites.

James learned about himself as an artist through the great products of Western civilization, the Bible, Shakespeare and the classic nineteenth-century novel. But he also intuitively grasped, from his Caribbean surroundings, the incapacity of the accompanying 'master race' narcissism to encompass the many-sidedness of humanity. Confronting the enigma of Western civilization's self-destructive path, James spent his lifetime searching out antidotes. [19]
One of James' most important influences was the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. Like James, Trotsky applied a "European" ideology - Marxism - to the political culture of an underdeveloped nation (Russia). Trotsky then went on to use the methodology of Marxism to generalize the Russian experience into a broader political strategy - Permanent Revolution - for liberation struggles in all underdeveloped and oppressed countries.

In contrast to Trotsky, James came late to a political understanding of his life. Having intimate experience with the debilitating colonial system, James was a consistent and committed activist against imperialism. However, he drew his political analysis, not from his Caribbean roots, but from the global stage. James developed his politics from the general to the specific. As a result, James was unable to maintain a consistent analysis, which has resulted in the controversy surrounding his intellectual legacy: where Black nationalists, socialists, Marxists and academics all contend for his imprimatur.



Paul Keens-Douglas

 Paul Keens-Douglas was born in Trinidad but spent his early childhood in Grenada, where his family resides, and where he attended Presentation Boys College. He holds diplomas in Commercial Broadcasting and Radio & Television Production from Announcer Training Studios and RCA Institutes of New York, an Honours Degree in Sociology from Sir George Williams University (Concordia), Montreal, Canada, and has done two years post-graduate work at the University of the West Indies, Mona.  Jamaica.

Active in drama from an early age, he has a wide and varied background in Theatre and the Creative Arts. Since his return to Trinidad in 1974, he has focused on highlighting the Trinidad & Tobago and Eastern Caribbean vernacular in poetry, storytelling, dramatic presentations, and advertising, both as writer and performer.

 A self-published author, he has to his credit seven volumes of works, twelve albums and one video. He has produced several radio and television storytelling series, and is the founder/producer of the annual Tim Tim Storytelling Show and the Carnival Talk Tent which focuses on the oral traditions. His work has been featured in several anthologies and well known international publications. and has been highlighted on the BBC and on Canadian and American radio and television.
 

An active Rotarian, he is a founding member of the Association of Black Storytellers of America, and holds the Zora Neale Hurston Award. the Caribbean American lntercultural Organisation Award, Washington, and the Beryl McBurnie Foundation for the Arts Award, Trinidad. A total professional in control of his management, talent and
properties, he makes regular tours of the Caribbean territories and metropolitan countries lecturing, performing and doing workshops.

A former Creative Director with McCann-Erickson (Trinidad) Ltd. Paul now freelances within the Advertising Industry, developing programmes, concepts and promotions for a variety of clients. With this wide and varied background. it is not surprising that he has moved into the field of Management and Staff Training,
 focusing on inter-personal and cross-cultural communication. and is as much sought-after conference presenter and after-dinner speaker.



Earl Lovelace

Earl Lovelace was born in Toco, Trinidad in 1935, and spent his childhood in Tobago and Port of Spain. His first job was as a proofreader with the Trinidad Publishing Company, and he later joined the Civil Service, serving first in the Forestry Department and then in the Department of Agriculture.

His first novel, While Gods Are Falling, won him the BP Independence Literary Award which enabled him to study in the United States as visiting novelist at Howard University. It was followed by The Schoolmaster, a novel which drew on his experiences in rural Trinidad. The promise evident in these novels of the sixties was fulfilled in The Dragon Can't Dance, and The Wine of Astonishment which, a West Africa magazine argued, "put him in the front rank of Caribbean writers." It was followed by a collection of plays, Jestina's Calypso, published in 1984, and a short story collection, A Brief
Conversation & Other Stories, published in 1988. Lovelace, who is presently a Visiting Professor at Wellesley College, was awarded the 1997 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for his latest novel Salt.



Anson Gonzalez

Anson Gonzalez is internationally recognised as a poet with several collections and with poems in most of the new major anthologies of Caribbean poetry. His career as a poet began in 1967 with the publication of Quinquennial which appeared in Writing: Anniversary 5. Since then his poems have been published in numerous journals, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, and anthologies. In the early '70s he began to
promote poetry and work toward sustaining the literary culture of the Caribbean and Trinidad and Tobago in particular. In 1973 he founded, edited, and published The New Voices, a bi-annual literary journal which has published poems, plays, short stories, and non-fiction by more than 300 Caribbean writers. The New Voices was published continuously for 20 years and is now available upon request via electronic mail. One of the major accomplishments of The New Voices was the Bibliography of Creative Writing
in Trinidad and Tobago (1962-present). The bibliography documented books published by Trinidad and Tobago nationals in all aspects of creative writing. Although no longer available in print, the bibliography is still being updated and is available online. In 1974 Anson Gonzalez established a publishing imprint called New Voices which published his own poetry collections and many other books by Caribbean writers. The New Voices Newsletter was founded in 1981 and served the Caribbean writing community for 12 years by providing information about writers, literary competitions, grants, and workshops.

One of the founders and former presidents of the Writers' Union of Trinidad and Tobago, Anson Gonzalez established the celebration of Poetry Day (October 15) in Trinidad and Tobago in 1979. The occasion is now observed annually in eight other Caribbean countries and has given poetry and poets a prominent place in the cultural calendar. In his continuing efforts to promote creative writing, he conducted two radio programmes, Self-discovery through Literature and Trinidad and Tobago Literature: ON AIR, designed to sensitize the public to the tradition of letters in Trinidad and Tobago and to encourage the public to read the works of our authors. He has also conducted creative writing classes throughout the Caribbean organized by the Writers' Union of Trinidad and Tobago, the University of the West Indies, the Organization of American States, and the Trinidad Theatre Workshop founded by Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott. During his career, Anson Gonzalez has organized numerous literary competitions and poetry readings, obtained and awarded prizes to writers, and provided scholarships to writers' workshops. He has also judged many poetry writing and recitation competitions, even the prestigious Casa de las Americas Caribbean and Latin American literary competition. He has been awarded the Writers' Union Writer of the Year Award (1988), and honoured for his services to the Caribbean literary community by the University of Miami.

Anson Gonzalez may be contacted at the following address:

P.O. Box 3254
Diego Martin
Trinidad and Tobago
 Email: ansong@trinidad.net



Selwyn R. Cudjoe

Selwyn R. Cudjoe is a Professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College where he teaches courses on the African-American Literary Tradition, African Literature, Black Women Writers, and Caribbean literature. His most recent course is entitled "Caribbean Intellectual Thought." He is also a visiting scholar at the Afro-American Studies Department at Harvard University.

A graduate of Fordham University where he received both a B.A. in English (1969) and an M.A. in American Literature (1972), Professor Cudjoe earned a Ph.D. in American Literature from Cornell University (1976). Prior to joining the Wellesley faculty in 1986, he taught at Ithaca College and Cornell, Harvard, Brandeis, Fordham, and Ohio universities. He has been a lecturer at Auburn (N.Y.) State Prison and taught at Bedford-Stuyvesant (N.Y.) Youth-In-Action.

In October, 1993, Selwyn Cudjoe was asked to join a delegation of 30 educators and religious and community leaders from New England selected to accompany exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on his anticipated return to Haiti where, as observers, they were prepared to assist in monitoring restoration of democracy and human rights. An authority on Caribbean writers and a Visiting Scholar in Afro-American Studies at Harvard University from 1992-1994, Dr. Cudjoe received his second National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in 1994 to organize a Summer Seminar in Caribbean Literature for secondary school teachers. Held at Wellesley College, the six-week seminar attracted teachers from Africa, the Caribbean and across the U.S. He received a third and fourth Endowment for the Humanities Award for the academic year 1996-97 and the summer of 1995. He is also the recipient of the Marion Butler Mclean Professor in the History of Ideas (1995-99).

Previously, in 1991, he received an NEH Fellowship and an ACLS Fellowship (which he declined) for his sabbatical project, The Intellectual Legacy of C.L.R. James, and was named Visiting Scholar at Harvard's W.E.B. Dubois Institute. That year, in collaboration with William Cain, Professor of English at Wellesley College, Professor Cudjoe also organized a conference on the intellectual legacy of C.L.R. James, a West Indian scholar and activist. Participants included such scholars as Orlando Patterson, Derek Walcott, Robin Blackburn and Michael Foot. He also conducted the Trinidad and Tobago Literature Project for high school teachers (summer 1996 and 1997) and for young adults (summer 1998).

In April, 1988, Professor Cudjoe coordinated the first major conference on women writers of the English-speaking Caribbean at which critics and social commentators including Jeremy Poynting and Daryl Dance met with authors Jamaica Kincaid, Paule Marshall and Rosa Guy, among others.

Dr. Cudjoe is the author of V. S. Naipaul: A Materialist Reading (University of Massachusetts Press, 1988), Movement of the People: Essays on Independence (Ithaca, Calaloux 1983), Resistance and Caribbean Literature (Ohio University Press 1980), and The Role of Resistance in the Caribbean Novel (Latin American Studies Program, Cornell University, 1976). He has edited Caribben Women Writers (Calaloux, University of Massachusetts, 1990); Eric Williams Speaks (Calaloux, University of Massachusetts, 1993) and co-edited C.L.R. James: His Intellectual Legacy (University of Massachusetts Press, 1994). He also edited a new edition of Maxwell Philip's Emmanuel Appadocca (University of Massachusetts Press, 1997). Cudjoe is also a member of the Editorial Board of Encarta Africana , an encyclopedia in CD-ROM form, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Anthony Appiah.

A producer and host of television programs for Trinidad and Tobago Television, he wrote the documentary, Tacarigua: A Village in Trinidad, produced by Cornell University. He recently completed a second documentary that focused on women writers of the Caribbean. It premiered at Wellesley College in April 1994.
 



Sources:
1. David P. Lichtenstein '99, Brown University, Contributing Editor, Caribbean Web
2. Alana's Trinbago pages
3. "Naipaul, V. S.," Microsoft® Encarta® Online

***Also check out the Trini Bookstore on-Line.

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