Earl Lovelace, born 13 July 1935, is an award-winning Trinidadian novelist, journalist, playwright, and short story writer. Lovelace is unusual among celebrated Caribbean writers in that he has always lived in his homeland, Trinidad.
Earl Lovelace was born in Toco, Trinidad in 1935 but was sent to live with his grandparents in Tobago at a very young age. He went back to live with his family in Toco when he was 11 years old. His family later moved to Belmont, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and then Morvant. Lovelace attended Scarborough Methodist Primary School, Scarborough, Tobago (1940–47), Nelson Street Boys, R.C., Port of Spain (1948), and Ideal High School, Port of Spain (1948–53, where he sat the Cambridge School Certificate). He worked at the Trinidad Guardian as a proofreader from 1953 to 1954, and then for the Department of Forestry (1954-56) and the Ministry of Agriculture (1956–66).
He began writing while stationed in the village of Valencia as a forest ranger. In 1962 his first novel, While Gods Are Falling, won the Trinidad and Tobago Independence literary competition sponsored by British Petroleum (BP). The novel was published in 1965.
He studied in the United States at Howard University, Washington (1966-7) and received his MA in English from Johns Hopkins University in 1974. In 1980 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and spent that year at the University of Iowa. After teaching at a number of other American universities, Lovelace returned to Trinidad in 1982, where he now lives and writes, teaching at the University of the West Indies. A collection of his plays, Jestina’s Calypso and Other Plays, was published in 1984.
His second novel, The Schoolmaster (1968), was about the impact of the arrival of a new teacher in a remote community. His third novel, The Dragon Can’t Dance (1979), regarded by many critics as his best work, describes the rejuvenating effects of carnival on the inhabitants of a slum on the outskirts of Port of Spain. In The Wine of Astonishment (1982) he examines popular religion through the story of a member of the Baptist Church in a rural village. His novel, Salt, was published in 1996 and won the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book) in 1997. Set in Trinidad, the book explores the legacy of colonialism and slavery and the problems still faced by the country through the story of Alford George, a teacher turned politician. His artist son Che Lovelace illustrated the jacket of the 1997 US edition of Salt. He has also collaborated with his filmmaker daughter Asha Lovelace on writing the film Joebell and America, based on his short story of the same title. His most recent novel, Is Just a Movie was the winner of 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.
Lovelace was Trinidad and Tobago’s artistic director for Carifesta, held in the country in 1992, 1995 and 2006. He is a columnist for the Trinidad Express, and has contributed to a number of periodicals, including Voices, South, and Wasafiri. Based in Trinidad, while teaching and touring various countries, he was appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Trinidad and Tobago in 2005, the year his 70th birthday was honoured with a conference and celebrations at the University of the West Indies. He is the president of the Association of Caribbean Writers.
Lovelace is the subject of a 2014 documentary film by Funso Aiyejina entitled A Writer In His Place.