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Austin C. Clarke (Austin Chesterfield Clarke) Biography

(1934– ), (Austin Chesterfield Clarke), Survivors of the Crossing, Amongst Thistles and Thorns, The Meeting Point

Barbadosborn novelist, journalist, and broadcaster; he went to Canada in 1955 and studied at the University of Toronto. He has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, served as cultural attaché at the Barbados Embassy in Washington, and taught at several universities including Yale. His first two novels, Survivors of the Crossing (1964) and Amongst Thistles and Thorns (1965), depict the impoverished conditions and deprivation of most people in Barbados. There followed three novels, The Meeting Point (1967), Storm of Fortune (1973), and The Bigger Light (1975), which provide the most complete fictional portrait that exists of black Caribbean immigrants in Canada. Collections of stories such as When He Was Free and Young and Used To Wear Silks (1971), When Women Rule (1985), and Nine Men Who Laughed (1985), extended this portrait and helped to establish Clarke's reputation as Canada's best-known black author. Later stories include In This City (1992). While his fiction exposes the discrimination and hardships faced by West Indian immigrants in Canada, it also reveals much good-humoured resilience. At the same time, Clarke shows little sympathy for the mechanistic habits of the dominant, urban culture in Canada. His novel The Prime Minister (1977) achieved some notoriety for its portrait of political corruption in Barbados, where it was banned. Proud Empires (1986), a comic novel about politics in 1950s Barbados, vividly evokes the sociocultural aspirations of the people. Thus his fiction combines both serious analysis and rollicking humour which is evident particularly in the pungent wit and vigorous speech of his characters. Clarke has received many awards, including the Casa de Las Americas prize (1980).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Cheltenham Gloucestershire to Cockermouth Cumbria