Prize-Winning Canadian Political Novelist Austin Clarke to Speak at UB

Release Date: February 20, 2004 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- One of Canada's best-known political novelists, Austin Clarke, author of "The Polished Hoe," a sensual, hypnotic work about the pain and social hatred resulting from colonialism, will speak at the University at Buffalo on March 3 as a guest of the Department of African American Studies in the UB College of Arts and Sciences.

His talk, "History or Memory: The Construction of the Narrative in 'The Polished Hoe,'" will take place at 4:10 p.m. in 322 Clemens Hall. It will be free and open to the public.

Clarke, a resident of Canada since 1955, has worked as a journalist and broadcaster, and as a visiting professor at several North American universities. He is the author of five short-story collections and 10 novels, including "The Polished Hoe," an eloquent, evocative murder novel set nearly 50 years ago on the fictional Caribbean island of Bimshire, a stand-in for Clarke's native Barbados.

Critic Latha Viswanathan described the novel as one that "balances the exotic setting with the harsh realities of poverty and deprivation and with themes of color and race...(and) offers catharsis through violence."

It also is one, says Clarke, in which everything fell into place.

"I felt the freedom and the liberation from all of the things that could influence the writing of a book negatively. I was not anxious for anything," he says. "I was in a very good mood. I was healthy. I was cheerful. And I had retained my sense of humor. And I thought ... that they are the ingredients that an author must experience and realize if he or she is going to write something that is great and good."

"The Polished Hoe" is great and good. It won Canada's 2002 Giller Prize, the largest annual Canadian prize for fiction, and the 2003 Commonwealth Prize for best book of the year. In 1999, Clarke received the W.O. Mitchell Prize for his outstanding body of work and service as a mentor to other writers. His other novels include "The Origin of Waves" and "The Question."

Clarke's visit is made possible by support from the Office of the Dean of the UB College of Arts and Sciences, the Canadian-American Studies Committee, the Butler Chair in the Department of English, the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures and the Buffalo Theory Graduate Group.

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