Guyanese writer Sir Wilson Harris died yesterday in England, his family said in a statement. Harris, 96, wrote 26 novels, as well as publishing collections of poetry, essays and speeches.
Perhaps his best-known work was his first novel, Palace of the Peacock (1960), considered an important piece of early postcolonial writing and a canonical Caribbean text. It was the first of his Guyana Quartet of novels.
From 1945 to 1959 – when he migrated to England – Harris worked in Guyana as a land surveyor, primarily in the hinterland, where he interacted often with the country’s indigenous people, an experience said to be reflected in his writing. Harris won numerous prizes, including the Guyana Prize for Literature (1987 and 2002), the Premio Mondello dei Cinque Continenti award (1992), and the Ainsfeld-Wolf Book Award (2014). He was awarded honorary degrees from the University of the West Indies (1984) and the University of Liège in Belgium (2001). He was knighted by the queen in 2010.
Harris was the father of Prof Nigel Harris, chancellor of the University of Guyana and a former vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI). He had three other children.