The name of David Dabydeen will be familiar to anyone with an interest in Caribbean literature. The author of three collections of poetry and six novels to date, Dabydeen’s fictional output has won him numerous prestigious awards including three Guyana Prizes for Literature; the 2004 Rajo Rao Award for Literature; and the 2008 Anthony N. Sagba Award for Literature. Yet until now his critical articles and essays have only been available in academic journals or interspersed in collections of scholarly writing. Pak’s Britannica is the first book to be devoted solely to Dabydeen’s academic works, bringing together the best of his output from the last twenty-five years with a series of interviews. Collectively, they provide the reader with a unique insight into the mind of this acclaimed scholar.
Dabydeen has never shied away from tackling the more controversial aspects of race, ethnicity and “belonging”, thus inviting readers to re-examine their own views through a consciously provocative style of writing. Each of the essays bears testament to Dabydeen’s desire to inform yet question received knowledge, while also illustrating the highly cosmopolitan nature of his views on literature, history and art. Dabydeen’s abiding concern with highlighting the historical erasure of black history and culture in the West – a subject frequently tacked in his fiction as well – has continued to inform his writing from the earliest to the most recent articles in this collection.
The second part of the book contains the transcripts from a series of interviews between Dabydeen and a group of Caribbean scholars from universities around the world. Like his essays, these interviews cover a wide range of topics, such as his childhood memories; his love for the visual arts; the subversive and redemptive power of writing; or how he perceives there to be an absence of “rich” culture in contemporary English society. Drawn together for the first time, these interviews give a more intimate perspective into his extensive body of work and highlight the ease with which he freely transgresses any sense of cultural, racial or linguistic boundaries. His razor-sharp wit, coupled with a liberal usage of the vernacular, provides strong evidence of there being a much more mischievous side to Dabydeen’s personality than might have otherwise been evident from a study of his academic writing alone.
Lynne Macedo is Associate Fellow of the Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies at the University of Warwick. Her research interests include Anglo-Caribbean literature and the history of cinema in the Caribbean. She is the co-editor of No Land, No Mother and the author of Fiction and Film: The Influence of Cinema on Writers from Jamaica and Trinidad.