What's So Great About Jean Rhys?
'All of writing is a huge lake.’ — Jean Rhys
In celebration of the RSL’s 200th birthday, and the Caribbean Bocas Lit Fest’s 10th, this panel of writers discuss the Dominican author’s impact on Caribbean literature and across the globe. An RSL Fellow, Rhys is best known for her 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea, which imagined the early life of Bertha Mason from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Yet her writing career spanned decades and forms, from the novel Good Morning, Midnight, to Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography, published the year that she died.
Citing Rhys as her writing ‘hero’, Linda Grant describes her as ‘a novelist of yearning, rage and desire, whose unadorned prose hits the solar plexus.’ Trinidadian poet and arts reporter Shivanee Ramlochan ‘thinks often of Jean Rhys’ Antoinette, carrying her arsonist’s candle through the empty, cold halls of her oppressor’s mansion, ready to raze it.’ For writer and translator Lauren Elkin, Rhys’ work has been undervalued ‘for decades’, her ‘reliance on her life as inspiration for her fiction used to minimise her artistic achievement.’ This event will be moderated by Shahidha Bari. Join our panellists to explore all this and more, and to find out just what is so great about Jean Rhys.
Lauren Elkin is a writer, translator and academic. Her most recent book, Flâneuse: Women Walk the City, was a Radio 4 Book of the Week and a finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. 91/92: a diary of a year on the bus, and her translation of Simone de Beauvoir's lost novel, The Inseparables, are forthcoming. She is at work on her next book, Art Monsters.
Linda Grant FRSL is a novelist and journalist. She has written five non-fiction books and seven novels. Her first novel, The Cast Iron Shore, won the David Higham First Novel Prize and was shortlisted for the Guardian Book Prize.The Clothes on Their Backs was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2008 and she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2014.
Shivanee Ramlochan is a poet and book blogger. She is the Book Review Editor for Caribbean Beat Magazine, and a team member of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, as well as Paper Based Bookshop, Trinidad's sole speciality Caribbean bookseller. She writes about books for 'Novel Niche', with emphasis on close readings of Caribbean and queer literature. Her debut book of poems, Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting, was shortlisted for the 2018 Forward Prize for Best First Collection.
Shahidha Bari is a Professor at the University of the Arts London, the writer of "Dressed: The Secret Life of Clothes" and a Presenter of BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking, known as the Arts and Ideas podcast.
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