Where Beauty Survived by George Elliott Clarke

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Canada: Knopf, August 2021

ABOUT GEORGE ELLIOTT CLARKE

George Elliott Clarke (Photo: Giovanna Riccio)
(Photo: Giovanna Riccio)

Librettist, novelist, playwright, poet, screenwriter, and scholar, George Elliott Clarke won the Governor-General's Award for Poetry in 2001 (for Execution Poems). In 2004 he received the Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award. In 2005 his work attracted the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellowship Prize. In 2005-6 he published his first novel, George and Rue, in the US, UK, and Canada, while The Motorcyclist, a novel based on the life of his father, was published by HarperCollins Canada in 2016. In 2012 he was appointed the Poet Laureate of Toronto and served a three-year term, which was shortly followed by a two-year term as the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada (2016-17). He has taught at Duke, Harvard, and McGill universities, and currently teaches at University of Toronto.

Where Beauty Survived
An Africadian Memoir

by George Elliott Clarke

IN THE WORDS OF TORONTO'S AND CANADA'S FORMER POET LAUREATE HIMSELF, THE STORY OF HOW HE WENT FROM PROCLAIMING HIMSELF AS GEORGE JOHNSON TO PROUDLY BECOMING THE MAN WE KNOW AS GEORGE ELLIOTT CLARKE

Where Beauty Survived - Canadian edition

My Dear Reader,

Where to begin to chronicle my beginnings…?

Where indeed? To the world he is known as George Elliott Clarke:

Former Poet Laureate of Toronto
 (2012-15)
Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada
 (2016-17)
Poet
Professor
Son
Father
African-American
Nova Scotian/Africadian

Where Beauty Survived is the result of hard work, hardships, and hard-earned lessons gleaned from a childhood that was both happy and, in the words of Clarke himself, “hellish.”

Born 1960 in Windsor, Nova Scotia, a place just a few miles away from the Africadian (African-Nova Scotian) settlements of Windsor Plains, Clarke had to contend with contradictions both inside the home and without from a very young age.

George Elliott Clarke age 25

Inside: a father whose hands could create beautiful, delicate oil paintings on glass, “a treasury of shimmer,” and whose hands also doled out harsh smack-downs for any perceived slight.

Outside: raised to be a fine, upstanding young man only to come to the stark realization that no matter how hard one worked to excel in athletics, arts and intellectual endeavours, they would still be poor, dumb, criminals in the eyes of the rich, white world.

Nothing is held back and Clarke lays bare first love(s), heartaches and heart breaks; family relations, revelations, drawn-out tensions and influences that him made the person he is today.

This is Clarke’s story in his own words set in the picturesque backdrop of beautiful Nova Scotia and filled with remarkable people who helped shape the man we know. In Where Beauty Survived: An Africadian Memoir, Clarke shows that beauty can indeed survive, in fact thrive, in even the darkest of circumstances.

And, so, dear Reader, I conclude with this:

Through all of life’s ups and downs, never have I forgotten my roots, my origins, my Windsor Plains and North End beginnings. I come from a people and a place worth chronicling, and my success belongs equally to the community that raised and challenged me…and inspired me.

 — George!

George Elliott Clarke age 5 1/2

 

 

PRAISE FOR THE WORKS OF GEORGE ELLIOTT CLARKE

The Motorcyclist, with its dense, rich layers of social commentary, historical allusions, and compulsive wordplay, transcends family history…. George Elliott Clarke is an extraordinary wordsmith, and so it is no surprise that his prose is often glorious.” — LITERARY REVIEW OF CANADA

“Rich, dense and syntactically serpentine, The Motorcyclist resists consumption in large doses…. Clarke’s linguistic introversions, his endless wordplay, might thwart our usual reading pace, but this also seems part of the point: In a book, and a world, where the sexual is the political, where shades of skin are shades of meaning, and where the motorcycle season is the de facto mating season, it’s not a bad thing to slow down and take your time.” — THE GLOBE AND MAIL

“Black is easily one of the most compelling, dynamic and conflicting characters in recent Canadian fiction…. The result is a work which is both visceral and thoughtful, harrowing and insightful, cruel and tender…. With The Motorcyclist, Clarke has rendered not just an entire world, but also an entire man, flawed and unforgettable.” — TORONTO STAR

“George Elliott Clarke is not just a national—that is, Canadian—treasure, but a treasure of world literature. In many ways he is the most fearless of writers; a true original. In his new novel, 'the true Black Acadian tragedy of George and Rufus Hamilton'—a stunning story of murder and near-redemption—Clarke has written a stark, beautiful, disturbing symphony for the ages. George and Rufus are as vivid, unforgettable, haunting characters as I have ever met. Every page of this novel has heartbreaking genius.”  — HOWARD NORMAN

“This is a dark tale of race relations told with cinematic touches of noir and bloody daubs of sang-froid.... Clarke so effectively reveals the ways in which poverty enrages the Hamilton brothers that some of his pages are as evocative as those of James Baldwin.... George Elliot Clarke is one of our most ebullient writers, deeply sensual and carnal, and his lush and luxurious language captures the bodies of both men, with all their appetites, in memorable ways.”  — THE GLOBE AND MAIL

“An extraordinarily painful story, George & Rue is magnificently delivered.... It is courageous, illuminating, and deserving of a broad audience.”  — CBC.CA

 

 

 

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