Guyana mourns passing of Sir Theodore Wilson Harris
Guyana’s Head of State David Granger has expressed condolences to the friends and family of Sir Theodore Wilson Harris, an eminent Guyanese writer who passed away on Wednesday.
Wilson Harris was an author, poet and essayist who died at the age of 97 in Chelmsford, England.
Wilson Harris was born in New Amsterdam, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne). He attended Queen’s College from 1932-1937. From 1945 to 1959, he worked as a government surveyor, before taking up a career as lecturer and writer. The knowledge of the savannahs and rainforests he gained during his time as a surveyor formed the setting for many of his books, with the Guyanese landscape dominating his fiction.
Wilson Harris travelled to England in 1959 and published his first novel Palace of the Peacock in 1960. This became the first of a quartet of novels, The Guyana Quartet, which includes The Far Journey of Oudin (1961), The Whole Armour (1962), and The Secret Ladder (1963). He subsequently wrote the Carnival trilogy: Carnival (1985), The Infinite Rehearsal (1987) and The Four Banks of the River of Space (1990).
Wilson Harris’s most recent novels included Jonestown (1996), which tells of the mass-suicide of followers of cult leader Jim Jones, The Dark Jester (2001), his latest semi-autobiographical novel, The Mask of the Beggar (2003), and The Ghost of Memory (2006).
Wilson Harris also wrote non-fiction and critical essays and was awarded honorary doctorates by several universities, including the University of the West Indies in 1984 and the University of Liège in 2001. He was the winner of the Guyana Prize for Literature on two occasions (1987 and 2002).
For his services to literature, Wilson Harris was knighted By Queen Elizabeth II in June 2010. In 2014, Sir Wilson Harris won a Lifetime Achievement Prize from the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.
Over the period of 50 years, the celebrated author has written 26 novels, numerous works of essays, poetry and speeches. His writing is sometimes described as complex.
Sir Wilson was predeceased in 2010 by his wife of 50 years, Margaret Harris. He is survived by four children, six grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.
Wilson Harris was the father of University of Guyana Chancellor, Professor E Nigel Harris.