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Booker prize awardee Marlon James asks writers to stay away from activism

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Jaipur: Jamaican, Marlon James who won the 2015 Booker Prize said, writers should stay away from activism as it increases the risk of didacticism.

“I think the writer enters a dangerous zone by becoming an activist. Didacticism will destroy a book. Writers should try to do their job and let activists do theirs,” he said on the ninth edition of Jaipur Literature festival.

James, a professor of English at Minnesota’s Macalester College, feels writers need to strike a balance when it comes to dealing with social issues.

He won the Booker Prize for “A Brief History of Seven Killings”. The novel, set in the 1970s and 1980s, is based on the story of an assassination attempt on reggae star Bob Marley. The book explores the turbulent political situation in Jamaica and the West during that period,

“It’s not really about Marley. It’s about what happened to the man who tried to kill him and all the people whose life got affected by the assassination attempt,” says James.

The book is told through fifteen characters including gunmen, dons, and politicians. Interestingly, the author hasn’t mentioned Marley by name. But what led to the book?

“I was curious about the assassination attempt on the singer in 1976. Nobody talked about it. Being a writer, I was attracted to the holes in the story, to the unanswered questions and to fill in the gaps,” he said.

James says his literary sensibilities were formed in Jamaica though he moved to the US later for work and he is not quite sure how his book would be accepted in India as it had explicit scenes of sex and gore.

“I have noticed that in India, writers face censorship. My book is quite explicit. I don’t know how it will be accepted,” he adds.

Though there is no direct censorship in Jamaica, he feels that the country still harboured an outdated Victorian sense of morality.

“Writers keep writing without caring much about consequences. It’s our hope. The balancing of freedom and censorship is a very slippery slope,” he feels.

How has life changed after Booker? “People give importance to what I say now. If I put something on Facebook, it becomes the headline of The Guardian,” he chuckles.

His next book will be an ‘African Game of Thrones’, set within the continent.

“I was sick of arguing about whether there should be a black hobbit in the ‘Lord of the Rings’. The book will be drawn from the African folklore that is rich and diverse,” he said.

A big fan of Salman Rushdie, he loves many Indian authors. “I have too many favourite Indian writers. I am a fan of Amitav Ghosh, Amitava Kumar and Jeet Thayil among many others,” said James adding that he admired Anuradha Roy’s book, the Indian contender in the Booker race.(IANS)

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Uhuru Kenyatta in Barbados, Holds Talks with Prime Minister Mia Mottley

In his Jamaica tour, Mr Kenyatta and Prime Minister Andrew Holness launched celebrations to mark the International Decade of People of African Descent in Kingston

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Flag of Barbados. Wikimedia Commons

BY GEOFFREY ISAYA

President Uhuru Kenyatta is in the eastern Caribbean island nation of Barbados for a three-day State visit. Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma said the President landed in the capital Bridgetown and was received by Prime Minister Mia Mottley after his visit to Jamaica.

He is scheduled to hold talks with PM Mottley. “Amongst issues to be discussed include revitalising to bilateral relations, strategies for African common prosperity and cooperation in multilateral issues of mutual concern/benefit,” the CS said in a tweet.

Mr Kenyatta will also take part in the Caribbean Heads of Government meeting at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, a government-owned conference facility on the outskirts of Bridgetown. He will also attend dinner and a cultural evening hosted by PM Mottley.

In his Jamaica tour, Mr Kenyatta and Prime Minister Andrew Holness launched celebrations to mark the International Decade of People of African Descent in Kingston. The fete marking the United Nations designated period was held on the same day that Jamaica observed its 57th independence anniversary on Tuesday.

The launch of the celebrations coincided with the 400-year anniversary of the time ships carrying Africans first landed in the Americas. The President also visited the Jamaican Heroes Circle where he laid a wreath at the shrine of Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey.

He was also the chief guest at the 67th Jamaica Agricultural Show at Denbigh. On Monday, Mr Kenyatta and PM Holness said the two countries would work more closely with each other especially in exchanging expertise and technical knowhow in several sectors among them sports, agriculture and tourism.

uhurru kenyatta
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley inspect a guard of honour after the Kenyan leader arrived in the capital Bridgetown.

They also said that plans are underway plans to introduce air transport connections between Kenya and Jamaica. The president said Kenya is keen on reinvigorating its ties with Jamaica, which thrived during the days of the struggle for independence from colonialism. “Let us strengthen the bonds of shared values. We can create great linkages in areas like tourism and athletics,” said the President.

ROOTS

In one of his address to a team of government officials, the President left the Jamaicans in stitches in the way he revealed he had relatives of Jamaican origin. “In fact, even my wife’s brother’s mother is a Jamaican. She, however, stays in Kenya. That is how we closely relate with this country,” he said.

KENYANS IN JAMAICA

Mr Kenyatta also met Kenyans living in Jamaica. He instructed Kenya’s Ambassador in Cuba Anthony Muchiri, who is also the envoy to Jamaica, to divide his time equally between the countries he serves.

Speaking during a meeting with the Kenyan diaspora in Kingston, Mr Kenyatta said Mr Muchiri will devote more time to support the Kenyan diaspora in Jamaica and work to create more opportunities for Kenyans in the Caribbean nation.

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“The government is here to support you and create more opportunities for Kenyans and also show opportunities existing for Jamaicans in Kenya,” he said.

President Kenyatta, who is accompanied by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, and Cabinet Secretaries Monica Juma (Foreign Affairs), Najib Balala (Tourism) and Amina Mohamed (Sports), said Kenya and Jamaica have a lot in common and can learn from each other.

“No matter the distance between our lands we are all one people,” said President Kenyatta as he called on the diaspora community to be good ambassadors. “Be like a torch which shines the path for other Kenyans and be the mirror that Jamaicans can look into to see who Kenyans are,” said the President.