from Letters to the Editor,
The Guyana Chronicle
December 23, 2000

Where are the Guyana Prize books?

I HEARD on the radio on Monday morning (Dec 18) that in the National Cultural Centre, Georgetown, the awards ceremony for the Guyana Prize for Literature was being held.

'Entry is absolutely free'. That's great I thought, I like to read and I would like to know more about Guyanese writers, so that's the place to go.

And I must say it was a really nice evening.

At the entrance I was welcomed by a very friendly lady.

'I hope you have an enjoyable evening', she said and handed me over the programme.

On entering the hall I felt a little disappointed that not many people were there, but it was quite an honour to be in the midst so many distinguished guests.

Except the nominated authors and the jury there were also Mr Hoyte, Mrs Jagan, the British High Commissioner, to name just the persons I know from the newspapers.

The prizes were handed over by the President himself, amidst of a lot of cameras from TV and newspapers.

The jury report was impressive and made me very curious to know more about the book that won in the fiction category. The book has an intriguing title 'Sweet like Salt Water' written by Raywat Deonandan.

When the ceremony was finished I looked in the entrance hall to find a place where I could see the nominated books. Alas, it was not there.

So on my first free afternoon I went on a search of the bookstores because I thought this would make a very nice Christmas gift.

I started at 'Austin's', went from there to 'Bookseller', to 'Guyana Stores' and finally to 'Universal Bookstore'. In each bookstore they did not sell the book that won the prize. Nor did they sell any of the books, poetry or drama of the other nominated authors.

I was able to buy in one store (Austins) a copy of Guyana's one and only, very good literature magazine Kyk-Overal. Not the latest, December 2000 as was proudly announced on Monday evening, but an issue from 1998.

In not one bookstore was the suggestion made that they will try to get the book. I am really surprised about this. I wonder how the jury succeeded in getting a copy of the nominated books. Did each author give his copy to one of the jury members and that member gave it to the next?

I think that for booksellers this is a unique chance to highlight Guyanese writing. The advertising was already done by TV and the newspapers. As a reader, I think it is really a shame that recent Guyanese top publications can hardly be accessed.