St. Lucia, the place of my birth and growing up, is in the middle of celebrating Nobel Laureate Festival 2017.
Nobel Laureate Festival celebrates the achievements and successes of the two Nobel laureates of Saint Lucia – Sir William Arthur Lewis (January 23, 1915 – June 15, 1991) who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1979; and Sir Derek Walcott who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992.
By a strange little coincidence, the two laureates have the same January 23 birthday. Acclaimed writer Jamaica Kincaid was the star presenter of the celebration today, leading a discussion on Literature, the Writer and the Work. Tomorrow, January 24, she will give the annual Sir Derek Walcott Lecture, titled “Our Homer: Derek Walcott.”
I’ve shared some snippets of Walcott’s work here and there on this blog and I think he is a good read for both poets and readers/lovers of poetry. I am remembering to say a public happy birthday because I have a big regret over the other laureate, long passed.
I will share that story about the ridicule and rejection Arthur Lewis endured in his lifetime because his message was not a popular one. I was an undergraduate student of economics, he was an economics professor who had won a Nobel Prize in Economics, available in the flesh in the economics department where I was studying and I had no interest in anything he had written. Years later, when St. Lucia and St. Lucians and lots of others warmed to him, when I was teaching economics and had no choice but to read his works in order to effectively teach my courses, I began to feel deep shame. I have this story about me and a Nobel Laureate who happened to be my countryman, and all the disdain thrown at him, and how much I went, “oh” and “oh my god” and “you mean that’s what the man was saying all along” when I finally got into his writings for myself.