I recently got to attend the Trillium Book Award in Toronto which celebrates and awards outstanding achievements in Ontario literature each year.
The event exposed me to a ton of new novels in both French and English, as well as some books of poetry from Ontario authors.
One of those books of poetry was “Where The Sun Shines Best” by Toronto’s Austin Clarke, published by Guernica Editions.
Austin Clarke was born in St. James Barbados before moving to Canada in 1955 to attend the University of Toronto. He careered in journalism and broadcasting and has taught at the university level at prestigious schools such as Yale, Duke, and the University of Texas.
His accomplishments in the literary world have earned him many honours including the Toronto Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature, the Martin Luther King Junior Award for Excellence in Writing, The Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Harbourfront Festival Prize. He is also a member of the Order of Canada.
“Where The Sun Shines Best” earned him a nomination for the Trillium Book Award which is how I came to read it.
The 67 half-page book tells the story of the three young Canadian reservists who killed Paul Croutch, a homeless man, in Moss Park by beating him to death in his sleep. The book is narrated by a witness to the event who has a view of the park from his apartment window. Clarke himself lives beside the park but did not witness the event which took place in the middle of the night.
Clarke takes the reader through the events prior to, during, and after the crime. He often visits the views of race and class as well as touching on points of the immigrant third party in the beating, who received lesser charges due to his non-involvement in the actual beating. “The Third companion-witness made a wish that was a dream that he was not there that night to see and hear, as witness and fool, that he was still back in the Island, poor, black and hungry, wishing that luck and a smile from the immigration officer would land him in the other prison of Canada’s racialism.”
He also has a way with words that so quickly bring the reader to the understanding of people’s situations in life and the tragedies of the event and those that came before. For Paul Croutch he writes, “..the killing of a man nameless before someone dug up his past and found he was an editor, a man of words, silenced now, unable to write his own obituary.”.
He is also able to somehow so simply add a touch of humanity to the young men guilty of the heinous crime. “The Judge had pity on you. He looked into your mother’s face, counted the drops of tears, jewels in her eyes, read the plea he saw in them, her silent words that broke his heart.”
Cpl. Jeffrey Hall received 10 years and eight months for the crime, having been out on bail since his arrest. Pte. Brian Deganis received 6 years 5 months having been in jail since being arrested in 2005. Both were 24 years old and were found guilty of manslaughter in the case.
25-year-old Cpl. Mountaz Ibrahim, was sentenced to 10 months. He pleaded guilty to being an accessory after he helped the killers flee the scene.
Check out Austin Clarke’s “Where The Sun Shines Best” today!