Seven more titles in the Guyana Classics Series, republished under the Caribbean Publishing House, were last evening launched at the Umana Yana, bringing the total number of books produced so far to eighteen.
Among the seven titles launched last evening were: The Portuguese of Guyana by Sister Mary Noel Menezes, Latchmee and Dillo by John Edward Jenkins, Interiors by Mark McWatt, The Demerara Martyr by Edwin Angel Wallbridge, Indian Notices by William Hilhouse and Mercy Ward by Ian McDonald. A collection of testimonies from slaves in Berbice between the years 1810 and 1820 was also compiled and published.
In February, 11 titles were launched by President Bharrat Jagdeo. The remaining books in the Guyana Classics Series will be republished next year. The Publishing House is the fulfillment of a pledge made by President Jagdeo during the Carifesta X celebrations held here in 2008, after Professor David Dabydeen appealed for such a facility. Following this appeal, the President allocated US$100,000 annually towards the establishment of the Publishing House. While the books continue to be printed in the United Kingdom, the intention is to have a printery set up here at some stage.
Editor of the Publishing House, Professor Dabydeen said last evening that the next set of books to be republished will include works by Jan Carew, Edgar Mittelholzer, Wilson Harris and other winners of the Guyana Prize for Literature. There will also be anthologies on various art forms in Guyana in addition to a collection of speeches made by late President, Dr Cheddi Jagan in the National Assembly between 1947 and 1951. After these projects are completed, the focus will be almost exclusively on the writings of living writers in Guyana and further afield, Dabydeen said.
Addressing a sizeable gathering, consulting editor of the Publishing House, Dr Ian McDonald said that the reprinting of the Guyana Classics was important since the younger generation did not know about the great works produced by Guyanese authors. He said that it was “absolutely essential” that the work of retrieving Guyanese classics continues even beyond the publication of the 36 titles identified in the series.
While praising the initiative of the Publishing House, McDonald said that it complemented the work of the Guyana Prize for Literature. He noted that such prizes were now being implemented in other territories in the Caribbean even as he welcomed the return of the Guyana Prize after an absence of a few years.
Culture Minister Dr Frank Anthony said that the Publishing House had done “extraordinary work” in producing 18 titles in such short space of time. He said that while the emphasis had been on placing the books in libraries and schools, members of the public can now purchase them at Austin’s Book Store.
Anthony said that the purpose of the publishing house was to stimulate new writers in the country. He added that to complement the work of the publishing house work had started on targeting young writers. While the plan was to have the young writers display their work at a forum called “The Festival of Words,” they were not yet ready to have this. Anthony pledged that this will become a reality. He said too that the press will also allow young writers to get published.
Meanwhile, speaking about the return of the Guyana Prize for Literature, the minister said that funding had already been provided to the Secretariat.
He said too that when the Prize will be held, a prominent member of the literary community will visit Guyana and hold Master Workshops to sharpen the skills of local writers.
Speaking about the decision to republish the speeches of Dr Jagan, Anthony noted that several motions had been passed in Parliament to honour the legacies of former Presidents. He explained that the decision was taken to record all their speeches in the Parliament and to publish them. He said that soon speeches of former Presidents Forbes Burnham and Janet Jagan will also be published.
Copies of the books launched last evening were handed over to the National Library, the University of Guyana Library and the National Archives.
As with the titles launched in February, copies of the books will be donated to secondary schools across the country.
Last evening’s launching featured a segment titled “Young Pens in Concert,” where young writers read some of their work. The cover of the book that will feature Dr Jagan’s speeches was also unveiled.