Earl Wilbert Lovelace
13 July 1935
|Occupation||Novelist, playwright, short story writer, journalist|
|The Dragon Can't Dance (1979); |
Is Just a Movie (2011)
|Relatives||Che Lovelace (son)|
|Awards||Commonwealth Writers' Prize; OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature|
Earl Wilbert Lovelace (born 13 July 1935) is a Trinidadian novelist, journalist, playwright, and short story writer. He is particularly recognized for his descriptive, dramatic fiction on Trinidadian culture: "Using Trinidadian dialect patterns and standard English, he probes the paradoxes often inherent in social change as well as the clash between rural and urban cultures." As Bernardine Evaristo notes, "Lovelace is unusual among celebrated Caribbean writers in that he has always lived in Trinidad. Most writers leave to find support for their literary endeavours elsewhere and this, arguably, shapes the literature, especially after long periods of exile. But Lovelace's fiction is deeply embedded in Trinidadian society and is written from the perspective of one whose ties to his homeland have never been broken."
Lovelace's first novel, While Gods Are Falling, published in 1965, won the Trinidad and Tobago Independence literary competition sponsored by British Petroleum, and he is the author of five subsequent well received novels, including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize-winning Salt (1996) and, most recently, Is Just a Movie, winner of the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. He has also written drama, essays, short stories and children's books. The artist Che Lovelace is his son.
Born in Toco, Trinidad and Tobago, Earl Lovelace was sent to live with his grandparents in Tobago at a very young age, but rejoined his family in Toco when he was 11 years old. His family later moved to Belmont, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and then Morvant. Lovelace attended Scarborough Methodist Primary School, Scarborough, Tobago (1940–47), Nelson Street Boys' R.C., Port of Spain (1948), and Ideal High School, Port of Spain (1948–53, where he sat the Cambridge School Certificate).
He worked at the Trinidad Guardian as a proofreader from 1953 to 1954, and then for the Department of Forestry (1954–56) and the Ministry of Agriculture (1956–66). He began writing while stationed in the village of Valencia, in north-eastern Trinidad, as a forest ranger. He also had a posting as Agricultural Officer in Rio Claro in the south-east of the island. As Kenneth Ramchand has noted, "In the rural context [Lovelace] attended stick fights, wakes, village festivals and dances. He played cricket and football, and gambled in the rum shop with the villagers. He joined up to take part in the Best Village Competitions. He was living among ordinary people as one of them, and as an artist observing."
In 1962 his first novel, While Gods Are Falling, won the Trinidad and Tobago Independence literary competition sponsored by BP, after which he spent two years in Tobago, marrying in April 1964. While Gods Are Falling would be published in Britain by Collins in 1965.
From 1966 to 1967, Lovelace studied at Howard University, Washington, DC, and in 1974 he received an MA in English from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, where he was also Visiting Novelist.
He taught at Federal City College (now University of the District of Columbia), Washington, DC (1971–73), and from 1977 to 1987 he lectured in literature and creative writing at the University of the West Indies at St Augustine. Winning a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1980, he spent the year as a visiting writer at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.
He was appointed Writer-in-Residence in England by the London Arts Board (1995–96), a visiting lecturer in the Africana Studies Department at Wellesley College, Massachusetts (1996–97), and was Distinguished Novelist in the Department of English at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington (1999–2004).
Lovelace was Trinidad and Tobago's artistic director for Carifesta, the Caribbean Festival of Arts, which was held in the country in 1992, 1995 and 2006.
He is a columnist for the Trinidad Express, and has contributed to a number of periodicals, including Voices, South, and Wasafiri. Based in Trinidad, while teaching and touring various countries, he was appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Trinidad and Tobago in 2005, the year his 70th birthday was honoured with a conference and celebrations at the University of the West Indies. He is the president of the Association of Caribbean Writers.
Lovelace is the subject of a 2014 documentary film by Funso Aiyejina entitled A Writer In His Place.
In July 2015, to mark his 80th birthday, Lovelace was honoured by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest with celebrations in Tobago, including film screenings.
He is the subject of a 2017 biography by Funso Aiyejina.
At the same time as his writing has brought him international prestige and awards, "Lovelace has been valued by readers in his own country for his story-telling, for the vividness of his characters, for the ease and energy of his language, for his celebration of the creole or island-born culture, and for the way his writing makes people feel good about the selves they see in the mirror of his art."
When Lovelace's first novel, While Gods Are Falling, was published in 1965, C. L. R. James hailed "a new type of writer, a new type of prose, a different type of work".
In 1968, Lovelace published his second novel, The Schoolmaster, for which "he invented a language to represent the people of Kumaca, a remote Spanish Creole village of timbered hills, fertile valleys and clear cool rivers that comes breathtakingly alive in Lovelace’s descriptive prose. ... The Schoolmaster can be read as a celebration of the natural world and the attuned people in it; as a parable about the perils of transition from small island to modern nation; and most obviously as a satire about education in a colonial context."
Lovelace's 1979 novel, The Dragon Can't Dance, has been described as "a defining and luminously sensitive portrait of postcolonial island life. ...A poignant, beautifully crafted tale about a man and his country on the cusp of change." Considered his best known work, The Dragon Can't Dance is "a wildly exuberant paean to Trinidad’s carnival traditions and the calypsonians who challenged British rule in the wake of the second world war."
In 1982, Lovelace published the novel The Wine of Astonishment, which deals with the struggle of a Spiritual Baptist community, from the passing of the prohibition ordinance until the ban, the story "animated by a Creole narrative voice" as in other work by Lovelace.
Summing up his 1996 novel, Salt, Publishers Weekly said: "Using language that's as lush as the foliage of Trinidad and dialogue as vivid as the Caribbean, Lovelace creates a parable that applies to any nation struggling with unresolved racial issues and to any people struggling to free themselves from their past." Salt won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and was shortlisted for the 1998 International Dublin Literary Award.
In 2011, Lovelace's Is Just a Movie was published by Faber and Faber. Hailing it as "something of an event", coming 15 years after his previous novel, Bernardine Evaristo wrote in The Guardian: "Lovelace is unusual among celebrated Caribbean writers in that he has always lived in Trinidad. Most writers leave to find support for their literary endeavours elsewhere and this, arguably, shapes the literature, especially after long periods of exile. But Lovelace's fiction is deeply embedded in Trinidadian society and is written from the perspective of one whose ties to his homeland have never been broken. In his new novel, he turns his attention to the remote fictional village of Cascadu and the lives of ordinary individuals whose relationship to politics, their peers and their own weaknesses provide fascinating material." Considered by the Financial Times reviewer to be a novel that "confirms Lovelace as a master storyteller of the West Indies", Is Just a Movie won the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.
Lovelace has also written plays (some collected in Jestina's Calypso and Other Plays, 1984), short stories (collected in A Brief Conversion and Other Stories, 1988), essays, and a children's book, as well as journalism.
The Alma Jordan Library at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, holds the Earl Lovelace manuscripts. The papers mainly consists of typed and handwritten notes, drafts and manuscripts of Lovelace's published output — novels, plays and short stories. Manuscripts of the following novels are included: The Schoolmaster; The Dragon Can't Dance;While Gods are Falling; The Wine of Astonishment; Salt. The collection also includes some unpublished work including poetry.
His artist son Che Lovelace illustrated the jacket of the 1997 US edition of his novel Salt. Earl Lovelace has collaborated with his filmmaker daughter Asha Lovelace on projects including writing the 2004 feature film Joebell and America, based on his short story of the same title, on which his son Walt Lovelace was the director of photography and editor, and Che was the art director.