By Dr Meenakshi Malhotra

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Toni Morrison

What can you say about a writer who gave a voice and identity to a whole people — a group and a community whose silences are made to speak and sing in her books? A writer whose voice rang out with passion, courage and conviction  to detail the sub-human conditions in which her people had lived?  A trailblazer whose works depicted the toils and travails of a long suppressed people whose experiences were unrecorded in history books? A writer whose passionate courage helped her to articulate her convictions about the dehumanisation of a whole race?

Morrison was born in 1931 and grew up in a family atmosphere which provided a context for arousing a keen interest in the stories, narratives, folklore, myths and rituals of the African American community. This early interest is evident in the rich oral quality of her writings, its lyrical cadences and it’s measured and “layered polyphony’’. Later, she studied English and Classical Literature from Howard University in Washington D.C. where she acquired her BA degree. This was followed by a Masters from Cornell University in 1955.

Subsequently, she taught at Howard  University for two years. She also got married to a Jamaican architect named Harold Morrison in 1958 and they had two sons, before divorcing in 1964.The next few years Morrison wrote, juggled teaching assignments and also did a twenty year stint with Random House as an Editor. This platform enabled her to identify writing talent and she was able to help many aspiring young African American writers to get published.

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Wole Soyinka was the first Nigerian author, poet, playwright and essayist to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986. He has taught in number of universities, including Cornell, Oxford, Harvard and Yale.

Soyinka had been living in America for twenty years before President Trump came to power. He was a scholar-in-residence at New York University’s Institute of African American Affairs when he tore up his green card. He said: “I had a horror of what is to come with Trump… I threw away the card and I have relocated, and I’m back to where I have always been.” He returned to Africa. 

VSNaipaulHe’s 82-years-old, frail and not in the best of health, but Nobel laureate Sir VS Naipaul had the crowds at Jaipur hanging on to his every word on Saturday at the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival (ZeeJLF). Speaking to Naipaul about his life and writings was Farrukh Dhondy, his long-time friend and eminent British novelist and scriptwriter, even as his wife, Lady Nadira, sat in a chair behind him, taking notes, holding the microphone when he became too tired to hold it, and prompting the words when he forgot what he was saying or ran out of steam. 

Ahmed Rafiq is not only recognised for playing a central part in our language movement, he is also known as a distinguished writer and a prominent researcher on Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore and his literature. In 1995 he received the most prestigious award of our nation– the “Ekushe Podok”– for his outstanding contribution to Bengali literature, and the “Swadesh e Rabindra” from the Tagore research institute in Kolakata, in 2011. When it comes to dependable information on Tagore’s literature, he is one of the few people one can rely on.

Colombian author became standard-bearer for Latin American letters after success of One Hundred Years of Solitude: The Guardian

Gabriel García Márquez in Monterrey in 2007 Gabriel García MárquezThe Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez, who unleashed the worldwide boom in Spanish language literature and magical realism with his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, died at the age of 87. He had been admitted to hospital in Mexico City on 3 April with pneumonia.

Matching commercial success with critical acclaim, García Márquez became a standard-bearer for Latin American letters, establishing a route for negotiations between guerillas and the Colombian government, building a friendship with Fidel Castro and maintaining a feud with fellow literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa that lasted more than 30 years.