Austin Ardinel Chesterfield Clarke, CM OOnt (born July 26, 1934), is a Canadian novelist, essayist and short story writer who lives in Toronto, Ontario. He has been called “Canada’s first multicultural writer”
Born in St. James, Barbados, Clarke had his early education there and taught at a rural school for three years. In 1955 he moved to Canada to attend the University of Toronto but after two years turned his hand to journalism and broadcasting. He was a reporter in the Ontario communities of Timmins and Kirkland Lake, before joining the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a freelance journalist. He subsequently taught at several American universities, including Yale University (Hoyt fellow, 1968–70), Duke University (1971-72), and the University of Texas (visiting professor, 1973).
In 1973 he was designated cultural attaché at the Barbadian embassy in Washington, DC. He was later General Manager of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation in Barbados (1975-1977). Returning to Canada, in 1977 he ran as a Progressive Conservative candidate in the Ontario election. He was writer in residence at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec (1977), and at University of Western Ontario(1978). From 1988 to 1993 he served on the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
In September 2012, at the International Festival of Authors (IFOA), Clarke was announced as the winner of the $10,000 Harbourfront Festival Prize “on the merits of his published work and efforts in fostering literary talent in new and aspiring writers”. Previous recipients of the award (established in 1984) include Dionne Brand, Wayson Choy, Christopher Dewdney, Helen Humphreys, Paul Quarrington, Peter Robinson, Seth, Jane Urquhart and Guy Vanderhaeghe. Clarke was reported as saying: “I rejoiced when I saw that Authors at Harbourfront Centre had named me this year’s winner of the Harbourfront Festival Prize. I did not come to this city on September 29, 1959, as a writer. I came as a student. However, my career as a writer buried any contention of being a scholar and I thank Authors at Harbourfront Centre for saving me from the more painful life of the ‘gradual student.’ It is an honour to be part of such a prestigious list of authors.”
Selected awards and honours
- 1980, Casa de las Américas Prize, Cuba
- 1992, Toronto Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature
- 1997, Lifetime Achievement Award from Frontier College in Toronto
- 1998, Member of the Order of Canada.
- 1999, Martin Luther King Junior Award for Excellence in Writing.
- 1999, W. O. Mitchell Literary Prize
- 2002, Giller Prize, for The Polished Hoe
- 2003, Commonwealth Writers’ Prize
- 2009, Toronto Book Award, for More.
- 2012, Harbourfront Festival Prize
- The Survivors of the Crossing (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1964)
- Amongst Thistles and Thorns (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1965)
- The Meeting Point (Toronto: Macmillan, 1967; Boston: Little, Brown, 1972)
- Storm of Fortune (Boston: Little, Brown, 1973)
- The Bigger Light (Boston: Little, Brown, 1975)
- The Prime Minister (Don Mills, Ont.: General Publishing, 1977)
- Proud Empires (London: Gollancz, 1986; Penguin-Viking, 1988)
- The Origin of Waves (McClelland & Stewart, 1997; winner of the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize)
- The Question (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1999; nominated for a Governor General’s Award)
- The Polished Hoe (Toronto: Thomas Allen, 2002; winner of the Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize)
- More (2008, winner of the City of Toronto Book Award)
Short story collections
- When He Was Free and Young and He Used to Wear Silks (Toronto: Anansi, 1971; revised edition Little, Brown, 1973)
- When Women Rule (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1985)
- Nine Men Who Laughed (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1986)
- In This City (Toronto: Exile Editions, 1992)
- There Are No Elders (Toronto: Exile Editions, 1993)
- The Austin Clarke Reader, ed. Barry Callaghan (Toronto: Exile Editions, 1996)
- Choosing His Coffin: The Best Stories of Austin Clarke (Toronto: Thomas Allen, 2003)
- They Never Told Me: and Other Stories (Holstein, ON: Exile Editions, 2013)
- Where the Sun Shines Best (Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2013)
- Growing Up Stupid Under the Union Jack: a Memoir (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1980)
- Public Enemies: Police Violence and Black Youth (Toronto: HarperCollins, 1992)
- A Passage Back Home: A Personal Reminiscence of Samuel Selvon (Toronto: Exile Editions, 1994)
- Pigtails ‘n Breadfruit: A Culinary Memoir (New Press, 1999); as Pigtails ‘n’ Breadfruit: The Rituals of Slave Food, A Barbadian Memoir (Toronto: Random House, 1999; University of Toronto Press, 2001)
- “A Stranger In A Strange Land”, The Globe and Mail, Toronto, 15 August 1990, p. 30.
- “Austin C. Clarke”, Gale Contemporary Black Biography.
- The Canadian Encyclopedia.
- Alliaougana Festival website, 2010.
- Austin Clarke biography at Bim Literary festival and Book Fair, 2012.
- Paul Irish, “Austin Clarke wins Harbourfront Festival Prize”, TheStar.com, September 28, 2012.
- Mark Medley, “Austin Clarke wins Harbourfront Festival Prize”, National Post, September 27, 2012.
- Austin Clarke named recipient of the Harbourfront Festival Prize”, Open Book Toronto, September 28, 2012.