MITTLEHOLTZER NEEDS TO BE HONORED
Six more editions have been added to the Guyana Classics Series. This series is perhaps the most important development in Guyana’s literary history, far more important and beneficial than the hosting of CARIFESTA which was successfully done a few years ago; and far more important than the Guyana Prize for Literature which has failed to stimulate local literary output.
The Guyana prize for Literature has become a fishing expedition for writers in the Diaspora who have gobbled up most of the awards. But the Guyana Prize for Literature is now going to be overshadowed by the publication of the Guyana Classic Series.
The recent additions to this series now mean that there are some twenty six works about Guyana that form part of this significant addition.
The Guyana Classics is by far the most important literary event in our country’s history since Independence. It allows important works which would otherwise have been left to gather dust on the shelves of libraries and in private collections to become part of the local repository of literary history.
This collection is part of our literary heritage. In the future, other important works will be added.
Guyana has produced outstanding literary personalities amongst which Edgar Mittleholtzer must be ranked as our greatest novelist.
He was by far the most prolific local novelist at a time when there were not many local writers. His prose was simple and dealt with many local themes unlike many of our present day crop of writers who bypass the local setting in their publications.
The Guyana Classics has also given recognition to Martin Carter who is referred to as our national poet. A country should never have a national poet. There should be many national poets whose works should all be given the recognition that they deserve.
In the case of Martin Carter, he owes the title of national poet more to his middle class roots and the fact that his output though sparse and erratic, reflected a perspective of one who was involved in the events that gave rise to his poetry.
This is what makes his poetry special. It reflected his personal bitterness and frustrations, his middle class outlook, his friendship with key political figures and their politics.
His work is showing promise to be dwarfed by other local poets in the future but it is hardly likely that any local novelist could match the feats of Mittleholtzer.
Mittleholtzer deserves a special place in our literary collection. In fact he deserves posthumous recognition as our greatest writer despite the dark forces that possessed him and which led to his suicide. He deserves to be honored by the government of Guyana. A fitting monument and reading park should be erected in his memory and all his major works should be included in the Guyana Classic collection.
Guyana should be proud of this collection. We should be proud to show it off. It should be available to both locals and foreigners to purchase.
This of course is easier said than done. The poor man may not be inclined to purchase this collection. It is affordable but not cheap. But the poor man can have access to those copies that are available in the libraries.
There is however a better way in which this collection can become more widely disseminated. It is through radio.
Many, many years ago there was a drama adaptation produced for radio of Edgar Mittleholtzer’s My Bones and My Flute.
This is the sort of work that lends to such dramatic productions and there is no reason why this particular adaptation cannot be dug out of the archives and replayed for radio lovers in Guyana.
There is no reason why other works, including non- fiction and poetry, cannot be serialized for radio. This would allow tens of thousands of Guyanese to learn more about these works. It would be a useful way of ensuring that the Guyana Classic collection reaches the small man.
Today when you turn on the radio, there are very few programmes of any educational content. It is mostly music and more music.
So how about special readings dedicated to these classic works so that more Guyanese can partake of this rich heritage that Guyana has and which are now being published as part of the Guyana Classic Collections.
The serializing of selected works of this collection will also help to boost sales of the classics because those who hear the serials will eventually want to read them in full.