An Independence Gift: Lal Balkaran’s Bibliography of Guyana and Guyanese Writers Preserving our literary heritage
by Petamber Persaud
Guyana Chronicle
April 29, 2007

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THE inclusion of two new sections namely “List of Publishers” and “Number of Books Published by Year” in the second edition of Lal Balkaran’s “Bibliography of Guyana and Guyanese Writers” adds greater stature to an already monumental scholarship on Guyanese literature.

The book itself is a welcomed addition to the growing interest and increasing scholarship in Guyanese literature. And its compiler is likened by Jan Carew to “other pioneers and unique researchers like Dr. Johnson who produced the first dictionary of the English language, …that great Spanish grammarian, Elio Antonio de Nebrija” and Richard Allsopp who produced the “Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage”.

An examination of the section marked “Number of Books Published by Year” will reveal a progressive increase in published Guyanese titles. This examination will also show an upsurge in writing especially by Guyanese from the period just prior to Independence, an upsurge which continued and expanded into the Post-Colonial period, reaching a high in 1988 – the year marking two important events in the history of Guyana namely the 150th anniversary of full emancipation and the 150th anniversary of the advent of Indians from India to Guyana.

Thereafter there was a slight dip then published books by Guyanese took off again in 1992 – the year marking the return of electoral reforms and democracy in Guyana. The year 1992 marked the return to political power of the People’s Progressive Party, out of office for almost three decades. Voices that were timid in the preceding period of governance became bolder and bolder in academic and fictional portrayal of various aspects of a volatile Guyanese society.

Professor Jan Carew who is among the first major Guyanese writers and better-known for his novel “Black Midas” in his foreword to the book declared that “the work is open-ended and will remain as a legacy for others to add to from time to time”.

Hence this second edition which came three years after the first impression and according to the compiler, Lal Balkaran, “many other titles have been uncovered and requests for a revised edition have been increasing…to include previously omitted titles as well a new ones and to make corrections to those listed in the first edition”. This second edition includes five new categories and three new appendices.

This book contains almost 1,800 titles and more than 1,000 writers.

This guide of books on Guyana by Guyanese and Non-Guyanese writers and on other subjects by Guyanese writers’ contains an alphabetical listing of writers, an index by book title and classification by category.

Categorising books is fraught with difficulties; overlapping issues can lead to burdensome repetition. The compiler of this book needs to be more careful with titles listed under the categories “novel” and “poetry”.

Of course, there will be further editions of this project and Mr. Balkaran admits there is much more to be done “in any work of this nature’ and ‘such a task becomes even more challenging”.

Some entries appear strange both in titles of book and authorships thereof but it would be useful to be reminded that the literature of this country was first written by pioneers, missionaries, explorers and administrators of various countries in Europe. This brings in question: what is Guyanese literature. The answered is any writing about Guyana by anyone or by a native Guyanese on or about any subject is Guyanese literature.

So it is easier now to understand the ambit of research conducted by Mr. Balkaran who named sources to include consulates, the British Library, National Library of Australia, National Library of Canada, Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institute and the National Library of Guyana. Mr. Balkaran acknowledges the contributions made by individuals including Prof. Jan Carew, Dr. Joy Gleason Carew, Dr. Ian McDonald, Sir Ronald Saunders and Petamber Persaud.

The “Bibliography of Guyana and Guyanese Writers” will further enhance and promote Guyanese literature and enrich the lives of litterateurs.

Responses to this author telephone (592) 226-0065 or email:

Literary happening

* Please contact Lal Balkaran at for further on ‘Bibliography of Guyana and Guyanese Writers’

* New books: ‘The Undiminished Link’ by Victor Waldron, Hansib 2007, ‘Cricket at Bourda’, and ‘Sportsmen & Sportsmanship’

* Books to be launched soon: ‘Selected Poems by Egbert Martin edited by David Dabydeen, a Derek Walcott book, and ‘An Anthology of Short Stories from Guyana’ edited by Petamber Persaud, published by Dido Press, UK.