Austin Clarke, 1934-2016

June 28, 2016 | Book Buzz

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Austin ClarkeAustin Clarke, one of Canada's best loved authors, died on June 26, 2016. Born in St. James, Barbados, he came to Canada in 1959 to study at the University of Toronto. After two years, he opted for a career in journalism covering the civil rights movement in Harlem, among other stories. In 1963, he conducted an interview with Malcolm X for the CBC which is available online. He wrote about these days, and his experiences with racism in his recent memoir, 'Membering, published in 2015. 

Clarke wrote eleven novels including More which won the Toronto Book Award and The Polished Hoe, which won both the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Prize in 2002. 

He also wrote essays, memoirs, short stories and poetry. His work gave a voice to those who had been left out of Canadian literature. 

In the words of Donna Bailey Nurse:

When I think of Austin Clarke, I think of how his fiction irrevocably etched West Indians, Bajans, black people, and himself into the landscape of Toronto and the collective imagination of Canadians. I think of the courage with which he exposed to white people the psychological realities of being black in the world.

In April 2010, Mr. Clarke participated on a live chat with Book Buzz. These were his memorable parting words to us:

Work hard. Every day at the same time, for the same hours, and you will see success in your self. And Book Buzz, it was a ball. be cool. I can go now, and have my martini.
Be cool, Austin.

Austin Clarke was always cool. He will be greatly missed.