Celebrating the centenary of the spellbinding Guyanese writer, 1921–2018
Born in New Amsterdam, in what was then British Guiana, on 24 March, 1921, Wilson Harris is considered one of the most original writers of the twentieth century, for his fiction, essays, and poems exploring human history, metaphysics, and the natural world, in an inimitable style dense with metaphor, symbolism, and mythological reference.
As readers in the Caribbean and around the world mark Harris’s centenary, we’ve collected some of the best resources on his life and work from across the web. Explore the groundbreaking, mind-expanding work of Wilson Harris through the videos, texts, and other links below, and join us on Saturday 27 March at 6 pm (TT/Guyana time) for the premiere of a special filmed performance celebrating Harris’s intellectual legacy, produced by the Moray House Trust in Guyana with support from the NGC Bocas Lit Fest.
The Unfinished Genesis of the Imagination
On Saturday 27 March, 6 pm TT/Guyana time, we premiered this specially recorded dramatic presentation.
The Unfinished Genesis of the Imagination is a dramatised reading excerpted from a longer work in progress, inspired by the writing of Dr. Duane Edwards, adapted by Isabelle de Caires, and directed, written, and edited by Nicholas Singh. With actors Keon Haywood, Nathaniel Powers, Onix Duncan, Mark Luke Edwards, and Le Tisha Da Silva. Director of photography: Kojo McPherson.
The play compares two approaches to social change in the Caribbean: Wilson Harris’s dreamworld of the creative imagination and Walter Rodney’s more grounded approach. This excerpt explores the radical imagining championed by Wilson Harris and shows where this approach might lead.
Produced by the Moray House Trust with support from the NGC Bocas Lit Fest.
Da Silva, Da Silva: A Tribute to Wilson Harris
In 1987, producer Tariq Ali and director Colin Nutley made a film for the BBC combining interview footage of Harris with a partial dramatisation of his novel Da Silva’s Cultivated Wilderness. After Harris’s death in 2018, Ali released an excerpt from the film online.
Celebrating Palace of the Peacock at Moray House
In November 2014, the Moray House Trust in Guyana hosted an evening celebration of Harris’s landmark debut novel, subsequently archived on YouTube:
The Writer As Magician: Wilson Harris at 95
From the NGC Bocas Lit Fest archives: at our 2016 festival, in the year of Harris’s 95th birthday, this tribute event includes readings from Harris’s novels by Pauline Melville, Riyad Insanally, and Vanda Radzik, and a conversation about the significance and legacy of his writing with scholars Kenneth Ramchand, Gemma Robinson, and Gordon Rohlehr, and publisher Jeremy Poynting, hosted by Nicholas Laughlin.
An excerpt from Harris’s novel Heartland
Read the opening chapter of Harris’s 1964 novel Heartland, plus an introduction to the book by Michael Mitchell, courtesy of Peepal Tree Press. Heartland was republished in Peepal Tree’s Caribbean Modern Classics series in 2009.
Harris interviewed in 2003
In 2003, writer Fred D’Aguiar interviewed Harris for BOMB magazine, just ahead of the publication of his novel The Mask of the Beggar.
The Wilson Harris Bibliography
“In all his novels, Harris’s major concern is to explore imaginatively uncharted territory … to trace a subterranean tradition that grew out of the unacknowledged experience of all who disappeared into the dividing gulfs between peoples and cultures….
Compiled by the Harris scholar Hena Maes-Jelinek, The Wilson Harris Bibliography is a comprehensive list of works by and about Harris, with an insightful critical overview.
James Procter surveys Harris’s body of work
The British Council’s Wilson Harris page includes a brief biography alongside a critical perspective from scholar James Procter.
Gemma Robinson on Harris’s early writing
This essay by scholar Gemma Robinson, published in the Stabroek News soon after Harris’s death in 2018, looks at his early writing, including the poems in Eternity to Season.
Fred D’Aguiar on Harris’s metaphysics
Originally broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 2008, and later published in The Caribbean Review of Books, Fred D’Aguiar’s essay “Prosimetrum” contemplates the elasticity of time and space in Harris’s fiction.
Andre Bagoo on Harris interpreted through Carnival masquerade
“Like one of his characters, Harris has come back. He has returned in the form of a band of moko jumbies — a motley crew of painted spirits striding high above us on wooden stilts, roaming the concrete jungle of Port of Spain, haunting Trinidad’s Carnival….”
For Carnival 2019, the Trinidad mas band Moko Sõmõkow presented an adaptation of Palace of the Peacock, brought to life in the streets of Port of Spain by stiltwalkers in magnificent costumes designed by Alan Vaughan. This piece by writer Andre Bagoo, published online by Global Voices, explores the background to the mas presentation, with photos by Maria Nunes.
“A Surveyor’s Journal”, a poem by Ishion Hutchinson
Inspired by and dedicated to Harris, this poem appeared in Ishion Hutchinson’s debut book, Far District.
Moko Sõmõkow’s 2019 presentation of Palace of the Peacock was followed in 2020 by their mas interpretation of Harris’s novel Resurrection at Sorrow Hill — both documented by photographer Jason C. Audain in these online image galleries.
Image copyright © 2019 Jason C. Audain, used with the photographer’s permission