Erna Brodber

Erna Brodber's uncompromising fiction weaves strands of diasporic history, memory, and identity into illuminating new forms that respond to the need to act as well as the need to know.

Activist, scholar, and writer Erna Brodber has, over the course of a four-decade career, established herself as a major voice in Caribbean literature. Her distinctive polyvocal narratives draw upon the oral and scribal traditions of the African diaspora, echoing sources as diverse as the folk tales of Anansi the spider-god and the modernist novels of James Joyce. Her protagonists contend with destructive magical forces, in the process recovering their own lost or stolen histories—what Brodber describes as “the half [that has] not been told.” In works like Myal (1988) and Nothing’s Mat (2014), she skillfully uses elements of Afro-Jamaican cosmology to convey both the richness of diasporic traditions, as well as the danger of forgetting them. For Brodber, the past is never really dead—an idea she literalizes in Myal, where “spirit thievery” and zombification become a powerful trope for the psychological and political legacies of colonial exploitation. A winner of a Prince Claus Award (2006), the Musgrave Medal (1999), and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (1989), Brodber holds an Honorary D.Litt. from the University of West Indies at Mona (2011). She lives in the village of Woodside, Saint Mary, Jamaica.

This independent scholar has had no calls to my usual occasional paid employment in the past year and I have been living on the prayers that something will turn up. The telephone call and later the representation on paper of a miracle was so frighteningly surreal, I am still wondering if I have been trapped in a composition of mine. ERNA BRODBER