The one hundred and thirteenth Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded today. Unlike in previous years, I was particularly nervous about this year’s prize. The last time WE won a Nobel Prize in Literature was almost twenty years ago and WE have only won this prestigious prize twice in its history – Derek Walcott in 1992 and V.S. Naipaul in 2001. Suffice to say, when Antiguan-born novelist, essayist, and short story writer Jamaica Kincaid was tipped as a top contender for the prize this year, I was over the moon.
I met Kincaid last year while covering the first installation of the Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival. Having never viewed any previous interviews of her and made do with having her live in my head through her work all these years, I was taken aback by her unrelenting candor. She was captivating. She was unfiltered. She was unapologetic. She is a woman who knows herself and knows her reason for doing the work she’s doing. I was particularly excited when she explained why she changed her name from Elaine Cynthia Potter Richardson. She wanted to be able to write freely from judgment by those back home.
Kincaid’s “Girl” is one of my favorite pieces from her for its rhythm, cadence, and unmistakable Caribbean-ness in its universality. It’s a story, like many of her other works, that explores that complex mother-daughter relationship she also had with her own mother. This story has greatly influenced me in my current short story writing journey. For a writer just finding her way in this literary space, Kincaid’s life and work have certainly cleared a path for a young woman like me to make my own voice heard and clear a path for others as well.
There are many reasons Kincaid deserves this accolade, in fact, A Small Place, Annie John, Girl, and The Autobiography of My Mother are just four reasons why. Nevertheless, the prize was awarded to American poet Louise Glück “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.” Even the words that were woven together to commend Glück’s work seem, poetic.
There’s a plethora of West Indian (Caribbean) literary icons currently doing dynamic work in the literary space. WE will win another Nobel Prize in Literature and I will be there waiting, patiently, when it is awarded to Jamaica Kincaid.