Earl Lovelace is better known for his novels than his plays. His first novel, While Gods Are Falling (1965), won the 1963 competition for the British Petroleum Independence Literary Award as the best unpublished novel by a national of Trinidad dealing with West Indian themes. With the publication of The Dragon Can’t Dance (1979) and The Wine of Astonishment (1982)—he later dramatized both novels—Lovelace was hailed as an outstanding Caribbean writer, and critical articles analyzing his novels appeared in literary journals. Lovelace also published a volume of short stories, A Brief Conversion and Other Stories (1988), based on his experiences as a civil servant in the Trinidad departments of agriculture and forestry.
After winning the $5,000 British Petroleum Independence Literary Award in 1964, Earl Lovelace received the Pegasus Literary Award in 1966 for outstanding contributions to the arts in Trinidad and Tobago. In 1977 Pierrot Ginnard won an award as best musical drama. Lovelace received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1980, using it to attend the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa and the International Seminar Program of the Eastern Virginia International Studies Consortium. In 1986 Lovelace received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant as writer-in-residence at Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York. In 1997 Lovelace’s novel Salt (1996) won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize.
Earl Lovelace is primarily a novelist, but he has also published poetry and short stories, some of which have appeared in the West Indian magazines Voices and Tempo. In addition, beginning with The New Boss (pr. 1962), he has had several plays produced, including Jestina’s Calypso (pr. 1978), the musical drama My Name Is Village (pr. 1976), and The New Hardware Store (pr. 1980). A collection of his short stories, A Brief Conversion, and Other Stories, was published in 1988. He lectures frequently on such topics as the contributions of Creole, black, and East Indian communities to West Indian culture.
The honors that have been awarded to Earl Lovelace as a writer and teacher are particularly impressive given that his formal educational training was in agriculture and forestry. His first novel, While Gods Are Falling, received the British Petroleum Independence Literary Award. His skills as a teacher led to a post teaching creative writing at Federal City College, Washington, D.C., from 1971 to 1973, and to the position of visiting novelist at Johns Hopkins University during the 1973-1974 school year. In 1980, he was named a Guggenheim Fellow, and in that year he took the position of writer-in-residence at the University of Iowa. Lovelace’s novel Salt was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1997.
First and foremost, Lovelace explores the character of his native countrymen in the rural and urban areas of Trinidad. While it would be easy to dwell on the obvious difficulties of life in an out-of-the-way, developing country that has only recently emerged from colonial rule, Lovelace chooses to focus on the possibilities for growth within the spirit of his people. In pursuit of this aim, he captures the physical environment, the social turmoil, the dreams, and the very language of his island. His ability to engage the reader in the struggles of his characters makes Lovelace a powerful storyteller.
Barratt, Harold. “Metaphor and Symbol in The Dragon Can’t Dance.” World Literature Written in English 23 (1984): 405-413. Describes The Dragon Can’t Dance as a parody of the crucifixion and redemption and its characters as “wrongsided” saints.
Cary, Norman Reed. “Salvation, Self, and Solidarity in the Work of Earl Lovelace.” World Literature Written in English 28 (1988): 103-114. Addresses Lovelace’s novels and plays as significant postcolonial writings. Examines what is called “their quest,” which is often expressed in religious terms.
Dance, Daryl Cumber. Fifty Caribbean Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook. New York: Greenwood Press, 1986. Devotes a chapter to Lovelace, analyzing his major works and listing scholarly articles concerning his books. Dance considers the quest for personhood (a term Lovelace prefers to manhood or identity), and the difficulty of achieving a true sense of self in an impersonal modern urban environment, as the major themes of his writings.
Gowda, H. H. Anniah. “A Brief Note on the Dialect Novels of Sam Selvon and Earl Lovelace.” The Literary Half-Yearly 27, no. 2 (1986): 98-103. Draws comparisons between Lovelace’s use of dialect and that of Samuel Selvon, another West Indian novelist. Offers insights into how the Third...
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