Earl Lovelace

Earl Wilbert Lovelace (born 13 July 1935) is an award-winning Trinidadian novelist, journalist, playwright, and short story writer. He is particularly recognized for his descriptive, dramatic fiction on Trinidadian culture: "Using Trinidadian dialect patterns and standard English, he probes the paradoxes often inherent in social change as well as the clash between rural and urban cultures."[1] As Bernardine Evaristo notes, "Lovelace is unusual among celebrated Caribbean writers in that he has always lived in Trinidad. Most writers leave to find support for their literary endeavours elsewhere and this, arguably, shapes the literature, especially after long periods of exile. But Lovelace's fiction is deeply embedded in Trinidadian society and is written from the perspective of one whose ties to his homeland have never been broken."[2]

Earl Lovelace
Earl Wilbert Lovelace

(1935-07-13)13 July 1935
OccupationNovelist, playwright, short story writer, journalist
Notable work
The Dragon Can't Dance (1979);
Salt (1996);
Is Just a Movie (2011)


Born in Toco, Trinidad and Tobago, Earl Lovelace was sent to live with his grandparents in Tobago at a very young age, but rejoined his family in Toco when he was 11 years old. His family later moved to Belmont, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and then Morvant.[3] Lovelace attended Scarborough Methodist Primary School, Scarborough, Tobago (1940–47), Nelson Street Boys' R.C., Port of Spain (1948), and Ideal High School, Port of Spain (1948–53, where he sat the Cambridge School Certificate).

He worked at the Trinidad Guardian as a proofreader from 1953 to 1954, and then for the Department of Forestry (1954–56) and the Ministry of Agriculture (1956–66). He began writing while stationed in the village of Valencia as a forest ranger.[3]

In 1962 his first novel, While Gods Are Falling, won the Trinidad and Tobago Independence literary competition sponsored by British Petroleum (BP).

From 1966 to 1967, Lovelace studied at Howard University, Washington, DC, and in 1974 he received an MA in English from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, where he was also Visiting Novelist.

He taught at Federal City College (now University of the District of Columbia), Washington, DC (1971–73), and from 1977 to 1987 he lectured in literature and creative writing at the University of the West Indies at St Augustine. Winning a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1980, he spent the year as a visiting writer at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.[4]

He was appointed Writer-in-Residence in England by the London Arts Board (1995–96), a visiting lecturer in the Africana Studies Department at Wellesley College, Massachusetts (1996–97), and was Distinguished Novelist in the Department of English at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington (1999–2004).

Lovelace was Trinidad and Tobago's artistic director for Carifesta, held in the country in 1992, 1995 and 2006.[5][6][7]

He is a columnist for the Trinidad Express, and has contributed to a number of periodicals, including Voices, South, and Wasafiri. Based in Trinidad, while teaching and touring various countries, he was appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Trinidad and Tobago in 2005, the year his 70th birthday was honoured with a conference and celebrations at the University of the West Indies. He is the president of the Association of Caribbean Writers.[8][9]

Lovelace is the subject of a 2014 documentary film by Funso Aiyejina entitled A Writer In His Place.[10][11]

In July 2015, to mark his 80th birthday, Lovelace was honoured by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest with celebrations in Tobago, including film screenings.[12]

He is the subject of a 2017 biography by Funso Aiyejina.[13][14]


When Lovelace's first novel, While Gods Are Falling, was published in 1965, C. L. R. James hailed "a new type of writer, a new type of prose, a different type of work".[15] Lovelace went on to publish five further novels, including the Commonwealth Writers Prize-winning Salt (1996) and, most recently, Is Just a Movie, winner of the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.[16] In 1986, he published the novel The Wine of Astonishment, which deals with the struggle of a Spiritual Baptist community, from the passing of the prohibition ordinance until the ban. He has also written plays, short stories, essays, and a children's book.


His artist son Che Lovelace illustrated the jacket of the 1997 US edition of his novel Salt.[17] Earl Lovelace has collaborated with his filmmaker daughter Asha Lovelace on projects including writing the 2004 feature film Joebell and America,[18] based on his short story of the same title.[19]

Awards and recognition

Selected works


  • While Gods Are Falling, London: Collins, 1965; Chicago, Illinois: Regnery, 1966.
  • The Schoolmaster, London: Collins, 1968.
  • The Dragon Can't Dance, London: André Deutsch, 1979. Faber & Faber, 1998
  • The Wine Of Astonishment, Oxford: Heinemann Educational Books, Caribbean Writers Series (1983); 2010 edition includes CSEC-specific study notes. ISBN 978-0-435-03340-8
  • Salt (winner of 1997 Commonwealth Writers' Prize; International Dublin Literary Award shortlist 1998), London: Faber & Faber, 1996; New York: Persea Books, 1997.
  • Is Just a Movie (winner of 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature), London: Faber & Faber, January 2011. ISBN 0-571-25567-1.

Short-story collection

  • A Brief Conversion and Other Stories, Oxford: Heinemann, 1988.

Play collection

  • Jestina's Calypso and Other Plays, Oxford: Heinemann, 1984.

Essay collection

  • Growing in the Dark. Selected Essays (ed. Funso Aiyejina; San Juan, Trinidad: Lexicon Trinidad, 2003).

Plays and musicals

  • The New Boss, 1962.
  • My Name Is Village, produced in Port of Spain, Trinidad, at Queen's Hall, 1976.
  • Pierrot Ginnard (musical drama), produced in Port of Spain, Trinidad, at Queen's Hall, 1977.
  • Jestina's Calypso, produced in St Augustine, Trinidad, at the University of the West Indies, 1978.
  • The Wine of Astonishment (adapted from his novel), performed in Port of Spain, Trinidad; Barbados, 1987.
  • The New Hardware Store, produced at University of the West Indies, 1980. Produced in London, England, by Talawa Theatre Company, at the Arts Theatre, 1987.
  • The Dragon Can't Dance (adapted from his novel), produced in Port of Spain, Trinidad, at Queen's Hall, 1986. Published in Black Plays: 2, ed. Yvonne Brewster, London: Methuen, 1989. Produced in London at Theatre Royal Stratford East, by Talawa Theatre Company, with music by Andre Tanker, 29 June - 4 August 1990.
  • The Reign of Anancy, performed in Port of Spain, Trinidad, 1989.
  • Joebell and America, produced in Lupinot Village, Trinidad, 1999.


  • Crawfie the Crapaud (for children), Longman, 1998.
  • George and the Bicycle Pump (also known as Jorge y la bomba; 2000, film directed by Asha Lovelace, based on Earl Lovelace short story in A Brief Conversion and Other Stories)[29]
  • Joebell and America (film, co-written with and directed by Asha Lovelace; Trinidad: Caribbean Communications Network, premiered TV6, Trinidad, 2004).

Further reading

  • Aiyejina, Funso (ed.), A Place in the World: Essays and Tributes in Honour of Earl Lovelace @ 70. University of the West Indies, Trinidad, 2008.
  • Aiyejina, Funso. "Salt: A Complex Tapestry", Trinidad and Tobago Review 18.10-12 (1996): 13-16.
  • Dalleo, Raphael. "Cultural Studies and the Commodified Public: Luis Rafael Sánchez's La guaracha del Macho Camacho and Earl Lovelace's The Dragon Can't Dance", Caribbean Literature and the Public Sphere: From the Plantation to the Postcolonial, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011.
  • Hodge, Merle, "The Language of Earl Lovelace", in Anthurium, Vol. 4, Issue 2, Fall 2006.
  • Raja, Masood Ashraf. "We Is All People: The Marginalized East-Indian and the Economy of Difference in Lovelace's The Dragon Can't Dance". Caribbean Studies. 34 (1): 111–130. 2006.
  • Schwarz, Bill (ed.), Caribbean Literature after Independence: The Case of Earl Lovelace. London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2008. ISBN 978-1-900039-91-8
  • Thomas, H. Nigel. "From ‘Freedom’ to ‘Liberation’: An Interview with Earl Lovelace", World Literature Written in English, 31.1 (1991): 8–20.


  1. "Earl Lovelace", Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. Bernardine Evaristo, "Is Just a Movie by Earl Lovelace – review. An incisive and witty portrait of Trinidadian society...", The Guardian (London), 29 January 2011.
  3. "Earl Lovelace", Best of Trinidad.
  4. "Cultural Icons: Earl Lovelace" Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine, Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism, Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
  5. Peter Richards, "Carifesta Overcomes a Comedy of Errors", Inter Press Service, 11 October 2006.
  6. "Carifesta IX in Trinidad", The Junction Blog, September 17, 2006.
  7. "Some Poetry News – CARIFESTA", Scavella's Blogsphere, 7 October 2006.
  8. "St. Lucia expected to participate in 4th Congress of Caribbean Writers in Guadeloupe", St. Lucia News Online, 7 April 2015.
  9. AirBourne, "4th edition of the Congress of Caribbean Writers, one of the most 'popular' editions ever!", Bajan Reporter, 28 April 2015.
  10. Verdel Bishop, "A place for Lovelace", Trinidad Express Newspapers, 7 April 2014.
  11. Katy Stickland, "Lovelace – ‘A Writer in his Place’" Archived 30 December 2014 at Archive.today, Tobago News, 12 October 2014.
  12. Shereen Ali, "Bocas Lit Fest pays tribute to Earl Lovelace", Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 3 July 2015.
  13. Funso Aiyejina, Earl Lovelace (Caribbean Biography Series, University of the West Indies Press, 2017, ISBN 978-976-640-627-1.
  14. Glenville Ashby, "The Portrait Of An Icon" (review), The Gleaner (Jamaica), 17 February 2019.
  15. C. L. R. James, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, July 1969, no. 7, p. 79, quoted by Kenneth Ramchand, "Trinidad’s Earl Lovelace: Watching the Landscape of this Island", Caribbean Beat, Issue 35, January/ February 1999.
  16. "The OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature 2012", NGC Bocas Lit Fest, 2012.
  17. Cover of US edition of Salt. Archived 4 February 2013 at Archive.today
  18. Joebell and America page Archived 2 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine at Caribbean Tales.
  19. Jeremy Kay, "Asha Lovelace, 'The Dragon Can’t Dance'", Screen Daily, 26 September 2015.
  20. Earl Lovelace biography Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, British Council, Literature.
  21. 1998 Shortlist Archived 21 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine, International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
  22. Lasana M. Sekou, "George Lamming awarded in Cuba; Derek Walcott wins in Trinidad; Earl Lovelace leads in Guadeloupe", Bahamas Weekly, 9 May 2011.
  23. Maia Chung, "Earl Lovelace Pushes For Literary Unity", The Gleaner, 29 May 2011.
  24. "Lovelace cops US$10,000 Bocas prize", Trinidad Express Newspapers, 27 April 2012.
  25. "Lovelace savours Lit Fest victory", Trinidad Express Newspapers, 29 April 2012.
  26. "Writers honoured at Caribbean-Canadian Literary Awards" Archived 21 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Share, 1 November 2012.
  27. Neil Armstrong, "Olive Senior And Earl Lovelace Honoured In Toronto", The Gleaner, 16 November 2012.
  28. Zahra Gordon, "Lovelace: Better future lies in confronting present", Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 17 November 2012.
  29. Asha Lovelace, "George And The Bicycle Pump", Caribbean Tales, 2000.
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