CanLit Rewind: Where the Sun Shines Best by Austin Clarke

October 9, 2015

Published in early 2013, Where the Sun Shines Best by Austin Clarke is just as relevant today as it was the day it hit bookshelves. From Kandahar to Bridgetown to Mississauga, Ontario, Where the Sun Shines Best encompasses a tragedy of epic scope: based on a true-life act of violence, three Canadian soldiers awaiting deployment to Afghanistan beat a homeless man to death on the steps of their armoury after a night of heavy drinking. Nominated for both the Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry and the Trillium Book Award, Clarke's lyrical meditation follows this event from the crime itself through the subsequent trial. Guernica Editions shares with us why publishing this title was so important to their press and the broader implications.

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This year marks forty years of supporting and celebrating some of Canada's finest literary presses for our parent organization, the Literary Press Group of Canada. To help celebrate, for the entire month of October All Lit Up will be highlighting books from our publishers that either helped launch a new voice in CanLit or made an impact at the press it was published with. Go on a CanLit Rewind with us to rediscover some backlist gems!

 

Published in early 2013, Where the Sun Shines Best by Austin Clarke is just as relevant today as it was the day it hit bookshelves. From Kandahar to Bridgetown to Mississauga, Ontario, Where the Sun Shines Best encompasses a tragedy of epic scope: based on a true-life act of violence, three Canadian soldiers awaiting deployment to Afghanistan beat a homeless man to death on the steps of their armoury after a night of heavy drinking. Nominated for both the Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry and the Trillium Book Award, Clarke's lyrical meditation follows this event from the crime itself through the subsequent trial. Guernica Editions shares with us why publishing this title was so important to their press and the broader implications.

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In his first work of poetry—after a long and internationally successful career as a fiction and non-fiction writer—Clarke uses long-form narrative poetry to discuss a very difficult topic without scaring off readers. Where the Sun Shines Best manages to tackle not one but three major issues—war, poverty, and racism—in a way that both reveals objective facts and circumstances, and brings to light the subtleties of humanity and its capacity for compassion and love. Quill & Quire claims, " Where the Sun Shines Best succeeds as a testimony of a shared experience, sensitively binding a single moment of brutality to a global history of oppression." It was an honour for Guernica Editions to publish such an important work.

Not only was it an honour to publish Where the Sun Shines Best in particular, but its publication reaffirmed for Guernica, in general, what essential work they were doing and their place among other Canadian publishers. Austin Clarke is a pivotal figure in CanLit with many major awards and award nominations under his belt; to be working with someone of his stature was an experience to remember for Guernica [and something they got to do again, with Clarke's latest poetry collection, In Your Crib, which was published this past spring].

Where the Sun Shines Best also paved the way to Guernica’s new mandate “No Borders, No Limits” and its mission—to publish texts that make the world a better and more peaceful place. In this collection, Clarke focuses in on values that are inherent to Canada—multiculturalism and nationalism, among others—and exposes the attitudes which can turn these very values into tragic social issues. In this way, it is a pivotal text in CanLit as it traces the thin line between moments worthy of national pride and those that are shameful and tragic. Clarke brings up crucial social issues that are affecting our society and breaks down shallow assumptions. The groups that we lift up onto a pedestal do commit offences against humanity, while those we distrust and belittle often act with kindness and integrity.

Watch Michael Fraser from Guernica Editions read an excerpt from Where the Sun Shines Best on behalf of Austin Clarke in honour of its Trillium Book Award nomination.

 

 

 

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Where the Sun Shines Best is definitely worthy of a revisit, especially given some of the discussions happening in Canada right now. It is the fifth title in our CanLit Rewind; if you've missed any of our previous titles, you can get caught up here.


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