The Legacy of Austin Clarke

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Filed under Library News:  Archives & Research Collections Mills
Distinguished Canadian author Austin Clarke passed away over the weekend. A manuscript of his Giller Prize-winning novel “The Polished Hoe” is among the extensive materials belonging to Clarke that are housed in McMaster’s archives.

Distinguished Canadian author Austin Clarke passed away over the weekend. McMaster University Library’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections is home to the author's extensive archives which, in addition to drafts, correspondence and photographs, also includes the manuscript for Clarke's Giller Prize-winning novel The Polished Hoe.

We were saddened to hear of the loss of this great talent,” says Vivian Lewis, University Librarian who says the Library enjoyed a relationship with Clarke that spanned more than three decades.  “His work expressed a perspective that added much to Canadian literature. We hope that his remarkable archive, of which McMaster is the proud custodian, will help to preserve his legacy and continue to be used by future generations of students, scholars and aspiring authors as a source of learning and inspiration.

Born in Barbados on July 26, 1934, Clarke immigrated to Canada with his family in 1956. His interest in writing began early in life, and in the 1960s his short stories began to be published in Canadian and other periodicals.

Clarke's stories and novels are primarily centred around the plight of the immigrant West Indian in Canada, although his first two novels, The Survivors of the Crossing and Amongst Thistles and Thorns, take place in Barbados.

Clarke’s archive which contains material from between 1949-2013, consists of a number of manuscripts including a version of The Polished Hoe with the author’s hand-written revisions, manuscripts of his short stories, plays and poetry as well as a large number of tape recordings of interviews and programmes he recorded as a correspondent for the CBC, including a 1963 interview with Malcolm X.

In addition to winning the 2002 Scotia Bank Giller Prize for his novel The Polished Hoe, which also won the Trillium and Commonwealth prizes, Clarke was the inaugural recipient of The Rogers Communications Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for his semi-autobiographical novel The Origin of Waves, published in 1997.

McMaster is also home to the archives of Canadian literary talents Farley Mowat, Margaret Laurence, Pierre Berton, Matt Cohen, Sylvia Fraser and Peter C. Newman, as well as Canadian publishers McClelland and Stewart, Key Porter Books, Macmillan Canada and Clarke Irwin.