Wilson Harris

Wilson Harris

Writer and poet from Guyana. He is also known as a formidable essayist. Harris’s literary style is the topic of endless debate, because he breaks all the usual boundaries. For many, the result is that his work is confusing and often breaks all the rules. Unquestionably, he is recognized for his broad Caribbean vision and for the abstract complexity of his style.

Wilson Harris was born on March 24, 1921, in New Amsterdam, in the former British Guyana. After studying at Queen’s College in Georgetown, Guyana, Harris worked for a long time as a surveyor for the government. This experience greatly influenced his way of understanding not only the nature of his country, but also the heterogeneous and pluralistic idiosyncrasies of the Caribbean. In 1959, at the age of 38, he moved to Great Britain.

In his writing, he let out all of the baggage he gained while working as a surveyor. His understanding of the plains and tropical jungles of his country, its geography, allowed him to discover new ways of expression in his works. Before dedicating himself to prose, Harris wrote poetry for a long time. He decided to devote himself fulltime to prose, however, especially to writing novels. His critical essays also earned him a strong reputation.

With the appearance of his novel Palace of the Peacock in 1960, Harris won unexpected acclaim, especially considering that it was published just one year after his arrival in England. Like much of Caribbean literature, which seeks to find its own roots, Harris did the same in this work. A white man embarks on a journey in search of an indigenous person who worked for him. The book represents the search by Guyanese society for the roots that unite it to the rest of its interior territory, a search for an encounter that reaffirms its cultural identity.

The novel Jonestown is one of his most outstanding works. It tells the story of the massacre of about a thousand followers by orders of cult leader Jim Jones. Earlier, after Palace of the Peacock, Harris wrote a collection of four novels that covered more or less the same topics and new narrative forms.

His novels depart from the Manichaeism that rules much of literature. They are inevitably shaped by the heterogeneity that makes up not only the Caribbean, but also the rest of the continent. His latest novel, The Ghost of Memory, was published in 2006. Harris has received various awards for his work, including several honorary doctoral degrees from the University of the West Indies in 1984 and the University of Liaja en 2001, among others. He also won the Guyana Literature Award twice.

Some of his work:


  • Palace of the Peacock, 1960
  • The Far Journey of Oudin, 1961
  • The Whole Armour, 1962
  • The Secret Ladder, 1963
  • Heartland, 1964
  • The Eye of the Scarecrow, 1965
  • The Waiting Room, 1967
  • Tumatumari, 1968
  • Ascent to Omai, 1970
  • Black Marsden: A Tabula Rasa Comedy, 1972
  • Enigma of Values: An Introduction, 1975
  • The Angel at the Gate, 1982
  • Guyana Quartet, 1985
  • The Infinite Rehearsal, 1987
  • The Dark Jester, 2001
  • The Mask of the Beggar, 2003
  • The Ghost of Memory, 2006

Short Stories

  • The Sleepers of Roraima, 1970
  • The Age of the Rainmakers, 1971

Author: Christian Ibarra
Published: May 09, 2012.

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