Neil Devindra Bissoondath, novelist, short-story writer, essayist (b at Arima, Trinidad and Tobago 19 Apr 1955). He attended St Mary's College in Port of Spain before emigrating to Canada in 1973, when he became a student at York University (BA 1977).
Neil Devindra Bissoondath, novelist, short-story writer, essayist (b at Arima, Trinidad and Tobago 19 Apr 1955). He attended St Mary's College in Port of Spain before emigrating to Canada in 1973, when he became a student at York University (BA 1977). After graduating, he began teaching English as a second language and French in Toronto. Bissoondath began writing short stories in the late seventies, and attended the Banff School of Fine Arts in 1983. He credits his uncle, author V.S. Naipaul, for providing inspiration. Bissoondath's first book, a collection of short stories called Digging Up the Mountains (1985), deals with feelings of cultural alienation, exile and domestic upheaval - themes he has continued to explore in his other writings. The book was a commercial and critical success, enabling Bissoondath to leave teaching for a number of years and devote himself to writing full-time. In 1995 he relocated to Québec City, where he teaches Creative Writing at Université Laval.
Bissoondath published a second collection of short stories, On the Eve of Uncertain Tomorrows, in 1990. Most of his fiction has taken the form of novels, beginning with A Casual Brutality (1988), set in the fictional Caribbean republic of Casaquemada. The Innocence of Age (1993) is the story of intergenerational tensions in an increasingly racist Toronto. Bissoondath's novels often focus on characters confronting their respective pasts. The protagonist in Governor General's Award nominee The Worlds Within Her (1998) returns to her Caribbean birthplace in order to deliver her mother's ashes. In Doing the Heart Good (2002), an elderly anglophone Montrealer reevaluates his life after losing his possessions to an arsonist. The Unyielding Clamour of the Night (2005) deals with a young schoolteacher who leaves a privileged upbringing to encounter political, religious, and racial unrest in a fictional island state modelled on Sri Lanka.
Bissoondath's most controversial and best-selling book is Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada (1994, rev. 2002). In this nonfiction work, Bissoondath criticizes the 1971 multiculturalism Act for emphasizing differences rather than similarities amongst the country's various ethnic groups. He argues that the country's multicultural policies, though well-intentioned, have only encouraged the isolation and stereotyping of cultural groups.