Twelve historical volumes of Guyanese literature were unveiled last evening at the Umana Yana by President Bharrat Jagdeo. These are the first products of the Caribbean Press, an initiative launched by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports to provide an outlet for local and Caribbean literature.
The press is also to make those works already in existence readily available to the average reader.
Established in May 2009, the Caribbean Press is the brainchild of Drs. David Dabydeen and Ian McDonald, who noted that not only was it notoriously difficult for local writers to get published but that parts of the history were quietly disappearing.
In an attempt to arrest this process the two writers selected 30 works of enormous value to Guyanese literature and sought to have them reprinted. These twelve volumes are only the first set of the series and it is expected that in a few months another twelve works would be released.
Though not available for sale to the public, copies were presented to the Chief Librarians of both the National Library and the library of the University of Guyana, while others will be distributed to libraries throughout the country noted Dr. Frank Anthony, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, who was also present at the proceedings.
According to Dr. Dabydeen the books are all historical ‘firsts’ in their own way, from The Discoverie of Guyana by Sir Walter Raleigh, which was the first book ever published on Guyana, to The Shadow Bride by Roy Heath, who won a Guyana Prize for this work, one of the first to feature a chief character in the guise of an Indian woman.
Also a part of the memorable collection was the two volume set of The Asylum Journal written by the Scotsman Robert Grieve who took over the Asylum in the 1800s and immediately ordered the inmates unchained and the cells painted in brighter colors, upending and changing the ways of the asylum in the days when such places were treated like leper colonies.
Dr. McDonald in his support of the project asked that the Government does its best to set out a sum in each year’s budget to republish and thereby save at least 30 of these books each year, such as The Asylum Journal of which only one original copy exists today; in fact, many of the poems and stories have long ceased to exist on paper in any other place outside of the anthologies included in these volumes.
President Jagdeo said that these works will benefit the generations of the future as we strive to forge our cultural identity, and he looks forward to continuing the project and seeing that it is supported to the end.
He also said that in time the Government will also be involved in other cultural media – hinting at the possibility of local short films.
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