When Jan Carew passed away in early December 2012, it was as if that great wind that buffeted him around the globe, had spent itself. For 92 years, through his youth, young adulthood, manhood, and well into his advanced years, this wind (whom he referred to as the Arawak/Taino god ‘Huracan’) was his companion and his siren. It pushed and pulled him from the familiar into unknown vistas. Skillful sailer he was, Jan continuously adjusted his sails as needed to even out his keel, and re-balance his boat. And, at each new landing, he persevered — from the Customs Office in Trinidad and Tobago, to university in the US and then in Europe, to making a living as an Artist in Paris, Amsterdam and London, to secreting himself away to write in Ibiza, to plunging himself into Ghanaian politics with Nkrumah, to watching the fallout of the Cold War in his home Guyana and Cuba, to setting his compass for Canada and the US at the height of the Black Power struggles. In the late 1980s, now Emeritus Professor of African American Studies at Northwestern University, he thought he should settle someplace warm where he could write. The village of Tlaquepaque, Mexico was the choice, but, the wind was not done with him. After a few years, he and family were in motion again, as he accepted a series of visiting professorships at a range of US universities. Even in his ninth decade, he gave into his wanderlust one more time. This time was to move to Louisville, Kentucky where he accepted his final visiting professorship in the Department of Pan-African Studies. For the remaining 11 years, he resettled back into his writing and started to paint again. A delightful exhibit of his work was mounted in Louisville in 2005 and a number of prints of these paintings went to homes of admirers.
For years, people entreated Jan to write his memoirs and, while he was loathe to do so — he had so many other projects in mind — he did periodically keep notes and write short passages that were clearly memoirs. But, it was not until his late 80s, that he realized that he should go about this more methodically. A few months before he passed, he was pleased to hear that Hansib Publications (UK) was doing final work on the manuscript of the first volume of his memoirs, Potaro Dreams: My Youth in Guyana. The book came out posthumously in 2014.
Another work in the pipeline was a pet project — a novella for young adults, The Riverman. He had sent the manuscript to Seaburn Books (US), accompanied by artwork by his dear friend, the artist Robert L. Douglas, and the work came out posthumously in 2015.
Two other concurrent projects were a new collection of poetry and the second volume of his memoirs. The poetry, Return to Streets of Eternity, was finished, but still needed a proper publishing home. The second volume of his memoirs, Episodes in My Life, which focused on his life once he left Guyana as a young man, was still unfinished. Jan and I discussed this possibility and I agreed to see them to completion. Having completed Episodes in My Life, I found a wonderful publisher in Peepal Tree Press. Peepal Tree had already published 50th anniversary editions of Jan’s seminal works, Black Midas and The Wild Coast. And, this fall, 2015, is bringing out volume two of Jan’s memoirs. The poetry found a good match, too, with Smokestack Books (UK) and is also scheduled to come out this fall 2015. A double book launch is in the planning for London in late November 2015.
All of these books (the first two mentioned above and the latter two) can be found through the publisher, on amazon.com., or by clicking on the links on this website. Other currently available Jan Carew books have live links as well.
We are, as Jan would say, ‘pressing on.’ Clearly, the wind was not finished with him as his legacy has its own momentum. The prolific writer that he was, Jan left a prodigious intellectual treasure trove, and we have committed ourselves to helping his writings see the light of day. The corporeal Jan Carew may not be with us anymore, but his writing is still very much present. We are in the process of sorting and cataloguing his papers, which are projected to be housed at the University of Louisville Ekstrom Library Special Collections and Archives. The wealth of materials will, no doubt, lead us to other projects. Please be sure to check this site for future announcements and programs.
Joy Gleason Carew