Five Questions with… Austin Clarke

Austin Clarke, author of ‘Membering and an upcoming IFOA participant, answered our five questions!

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IFOA: Your latest work is a memoir called ’Membering. Can you tell us a bit about it?Austin Clarke

Austin Clarke: ‘Membering is the memoir of my life in which I tried to put the reader in my place physically and intellectually. Drawing only on the important events of my life (as a student, writer, immigrant, aspiring politician etc.), the book is something of a study in the leisure of selection.

IFOA: Who or what first inspired you to become a writer?

Clarke: Listening on Sundays in Barbados to the BBC, who aired a programme called Caribbean Writers. I was astonished that people that I walked to school with were being featured on the BBC: Kamau Brathwaite, Derek Walcott, George Lamming, etc. Another inspiration for me was of course my high school English teacher, Frank Collymore (the founding editor of BIM magazine), who encouraged me later on to become a writer.

IFOA: Your novel The Polished Hoe won both the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Has your success changed your approach to writing?Clarke, Membering

Clarke: No, but it’s made me more persistent and galvanized me to write as many books in my lifetime as possible. The success of The Polished Hoe also makes me sometimes want to go back and rewrite all of the books I’d written hitherto.

IFOA: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Clarke: Work every day at the same time for at least five hours and then go back to it at night. And read the classicsboth poetry and prose. And don’t forget history.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: “When I’m not writing, you can find me…”

Clarke: …sitting in a chair listening to Miles Davis or reading Dylan Thomas or James Baldwin.

Austin Clarke is one of the country’s foremost authors, whose work includes 10 novels, six short story collections, three memoirs and two collections of poetry. His novel The Polished Hoe won the 2002 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Clarke is a member of the Order of Canada, holds four honorary doctorates and has been awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the W.O. Mitchell Prize and the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Excellence in Writing, among others. Clarke presents Membering, his unforgettable new memoir, which takes the reader on a lyrical tour of his extraordinary life, interspersed with thought-provoking meditations on politics and race.