Guyanese literature

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Guyanese literature has been produced by a number of authors, most of whom write in the English language. Many Guyanese-born writers have emigrated abroad.

History of Guyanese literature[edit]

The first book written on Guyana, by Sir Walter Raleigh in the 16th century, was The Discoverie of the Large, Rich, and Beautiful Empyre of Guiana (With a Relation of the Great and Golden Citie of Manoa (Which the Spanyards call El Dorado) and of the Provinces of Emeria, Aromaia, Amapaia, and Other Countries, with Their Riulers, Adjoyning (Robert Robinson: London, 1596).

One of the earliest and most notable Guyanese authors was Edgar Mittelholzer, author of Corentyne Thunder (1941). His works often deal with issues of interracial relations, particularly the strain between European and non-European Guyanese.

Famous novelists include E. R. Braithwaite (author of To Sir, With Love, 1959), Wilson Harris (author of Palace of the Peacock, published in 1960 and followed by many other novels), Jan Carew, Roy Heath (author of works including the Georgetown Trilogy and The Shadow Bride), and Michael Gilkes.

They were succeeded by a new generation of writers from the 1980s onward, including Beryl Gilroy, John Agard, Grace Nichols, Jan Shinebourne, Cyril Dabydeen, Sasenarine Persaud, and David Dabydeen.

Martin Carter is considered Guyana's greatest poet.[1]

Michael Abbensetts is a noted playwright of works for the stage and television in the UK.

Vincent Roth's two-volume memoirs, A Life in Guyana: Volume 1 - A Young Man's Journey, 1889-1923 and A Life in Guyana: Volume 2 - Later Years, 1923-1935 (edited by Michael Bennett), were published in 2002 by Peepal Tree Press.

In more recent years, Pauline Melville has written fiction including The Ventriloquist's Tale (1997) and The Migration of Ghosts (1998), Oonya Kempadoo is the author of Buxton Spice (1998) and Tide Running (2001), and Sharon Maas has had published Of Marriageable Age (1999), Peacocks Dancing (2001) and The Speech of Angels (2003).

The influential intellectual and historian Walter Rodney was Guyanese, his most important book being How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972). Travelling and teaching widely, he was a proponent of Pan-Africanism and a supporter of the downtrodden. Rodney returned to Guyana in 1974 and was active in the opposition movement, leading to his assassination in 1980.

Guyana Prizes for Literature[edit]

The Guyana Prizes for Literature were founded by President Desmond Hoyte in 1987, with a view to promoting the development of local literature. Prizes are awarded biennially in categories including best book of fiction, best first book of fiction, best book of poems, best first book of poems, and best play. The Guyana Prizes are managed by a committee consisting of a number of university personnel, and the chief librarian of the Guyana National Library.

Winners have included Wilson Harris, Fred D'Aguiar, David Dabydeen, D. Gokarran Sukhdeo, Pauline Melville, Ian McDonald, Cyril Dabydeen and Ruel Johnson.

Guyana Poetry Prize[edit]

Previous winners: Fred D'Aguiar, Grace Nichols, Ian McDonald.

Previous winners of Guyana Prizes for Literature (incomplete)
Year Winner
2006 Elly Niland
2006 Ryhaan Shah
2006 Cyril Dabydeen
2006 Mark McWatt
2006 Michael Gilkes
2004 Fred D'Aguiar
2004 David Dabydeen
2004 Paloma Mohamed
2004 Ian McDonald
2004 Berkley Semple
2002 Michael Gilkes
2002 Stanley Greaves
2002 Ruel Johnson
2000 David Dabydeen
2000 Paloma Mohamed
2000 John Agard
2000 Raywat Deonandan
2000 Maggie Harris
1998 Pauline Melville
1998 Gokarran Sukhdeo
1998 Dennis Craig
1998 John Agard
1998 Paloma Mohamed
1996 Grace Nichols
1996 Denise Harris
1996 Fred D'Aguiar
1996 Harold Bascom
1994 Harold Bascom
1994 Fred D'Aguiar
1994 Mark McWatt
1992 David Dabydeen
1992 Ian McDonald
1992 Michael Gilkes
1989 Martin Carter
1989 Roy Heath
1989 Brian Chan
1987 Jan Shinebourne
1987 Wilson Harris


  1. ^ Al Creighton, "Martin Carter and his poems", Stabroek News, 24 June 2012.


  • Balkaran, Lal (ed.), Bibliography of Guyana & Guyanese Writers 1596-2004: An A-Z Guide of Books on Guyana by Guyanese and Non-Guyanese Writers and On Other Subjects by Guyanese Writers, with a Foreword by Professor Jan Carew (LBA Publications, Canada).

External links[edit]