And just like that the twenty-first century has turned twenty-two. Its 21st year had been ruinous for most of the planet, in the clutches of a pandemic dubbed COVID 19 that surfaced two years earlier and shows few signs of abating. For us at PREE it was hard keeping up with our daily lives and the demands of a pro bono online magazine dependent on its editors’ goodwill and time for survival. To finally publish the eighth issue feels like an achievement, something to celebrate, even though its theme–sexual violence–is a tough one, one that has moved centrestage with the advent of the global #MeToo movement.
As might be expected the stories and poems featured in this issue come at the subject from different angles. All capture the fear and vulnerability associated with being female, the sense of entitlement towards children and women’s bodies that seems to have become normalized in the human race, especially by those whom power privileges with the upper hand in any given situation.
Guadeloupean artist Kelly Sinnapah Mary’s series of works on sexual violence inspired by the brutal gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey in Delhi in 2016 and her series Vagina engage viscerally and powerfully with the theme of this issue and we’re grateful to Andil Gosine for procuring them for us.
Although it has nothing to do with the theme of this issue we’re pleased to publish a transcript of the conversation between Marlon James and Shalini Puri held at Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai International Lit fest last November. Full of insightful discussion on postcolonial English, cultural appropriation, myth and myth-making among other things the conversation is a treat for literature lovers. Caribbean corporations and corporates might take a leaf out of the book of their Indian counterparts in supporting literary endeavours. Ventures such as PREE could use their support.
2021 saw the publication of important books by several PREE authors and we take the opportunity to highlight and celebrate them here. Leone Ross, whose story Carousel was published in our first issue, appeared at the top of Faber’s prestigious 2021 list with her phenomenal third novel This One Sky Day (also titled Popisho in certain markets) that the New York Times called a “bold, iridescent butterfly of a story.” Kei Miller published his long-awaited book of essays Things I have withheld (Canongate Books) to great acclaim for the concise yet conversational beauty of his prose and the incisive grace of his observations. We were pleased to learn that the only essays that escaped the editorial scalpel in Miller’s collection were the ones previously published in PREE, The White Women and the Language of Bees and The Buck, the Bacchanal, and Again, the Body. Meanwhile Diana McCaulay, one of our founding editors, prevailed over 430 writers from over twenty countries to win the inaugural Watson, Little Prize for an extract from her manuscript, Roots of Stone. She also appeared on BBC’s The Cultural Frontline with acclaimed Indian writer Amitav Ghosh to discuss her 2020 novel Daylight Come as part of a discussion on climate change.
2021 saw the publication of our first print anthology, Bookmarked, and the establishment of our print arm, PREE Ink. We are behind with the promotion and marketing of this book which should soon be available from online distributors such as Amazon though we’re very happy to announce its curation into the Caribbean Collections at the British Library. Meanwhile do view our video of the launch event for Bookmarked held last February with Kwame Dawes and Luke Neima (deputy editor of Granta) in the form of a webinar on strategies for writers wanting to get published.
2022 looks promising for new work from Caribbean authors. Already the UK Observer has hailed Ayanna Lloyd Banwo as one of the 10 best debut novelists of 2022 for her novel When We Were Birds (Penguin). This makes us particularly happy as agents discovered Lloyd after reading her short story, Nothing the Forest Raises is a Monster, in the first issue of PREE. Another of our favourite writers, Marlon James, is already making literary waves with his new novel Moon Witch, Spider King (the second in The Dark Star Trilogy) set to be released in February this year. Ingrid Persaud, who was the star of Faber’s list in 2020 with Love after Love is busy working on her next novel so there is much to look forward to in the near future from Caribbean writers.
Wishing all our readers a productive and happy 2022!