Marlon James, Booker Prize Winner, Speaks at Bocas Literary Festival

Marlon James

Jamaica’s Booker-winning author Marlon James was one of the featured speakers at the Bocas literary festival in Trinidad. When he appeared at Bocas in 2013, he will not well known outside of the Caribbean and the Americas and used to make jokes about being called “unsuitable to represent Jamaica” on an international level. Responding to the situation now, he says, it was “telling Bunny Wailer that you cannot hang out with Peter Tosh because you have never been known to smoke weed.” James won the prestigious Booker fiction prize for his novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” a story of Bob Marley’s attempted assassination. He returned to Bocas as a national Caribbean hero, with James saying that Jamaica staged a “celebration within a celebration” when he won the prize. Bocas is now in its seventh year and enjoys a wide cultural reach by reflecting a region that has sent its people to every continent around the world in a response to its colonization. James was among several speakers from the Diaspora, including Jamaican Olive Senior, 74, who now lives in Canada and whose collection of short stories “The Pain Tree,” won the $10,000 Bocas prize. James participated in several discussions about his statement that could not have grown as a writer if he had stayed in Jamaica, He calls his development as a writer as coming from a fictional tradition of “Jane Austen meets black people.” He refused a request from his publisher to rewrite his prize-winning novel in the third person and continued to embrace patois and “chatting bad” as its language. “A lot of us wield Standard English as if it’s our master,” he said. “Mess with it, violate it! If you don’t get the patois, I don’t give refunds.”

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Stephanie Korney