Rabindranath Maharaj | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Rabindranath Maharaj

Rabindranath Maharaj, novelist and short-story writer (born at George Village, Trinidad and Tobago 1955).
Rabindranath Maharaj
Canadian author Rabindranath Maharaj. Photo by Glenn Lawson.

Rabindranath Maharaj, novelist and short-story writer (born at George Village, Trinidad and Tobago 1955). Maharaj completed a BA (English and History, 1979), MA (English, 1989) and Diploma of Education (1991) at the University of the West Indies in Saint Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago (SeeCaribbean People). He worked as a high school teacher and columnist for the Sunday Guardian before moving to Canada in 1992. He chose Canada partly due to his exposure to Canadian literature, and settled in Fredericton, where he completed a second MA, in creative writing, at the University of New Brunswick (1993). The stories he wrote during this time became his first book, published in 1995 as The Interloper. The collection was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Best New Book. Soon after completing his MA in creative writing, Maharaj moved to Ajax, Ontario, where he once again taught high school. While many of his novels and short fiction collections fall within the genre of the immigrant story, critics have also noted his particular use of humour to portray both the hope and uncertainty of the experience of immigration.

Upon his arrival in Ajax, Maharaj began working in a factory with many other over- skilled migrants. This experience became the basis of his first novel, Homer in Flight (1997), about a discontented Trinidadian immigrant who dreams of becoming a writer. The novel was short-listed for the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award. In 1998, he and fellow Durham region writers founded and co-edited the Lichen Literary Journal to showcase the talents of regional artists. He worked as an editor for the journal until 2001. Drawing on childhood memories, Trinidadian culture and folklore, as well as the diversity of island English, his next novels, The Lagahoo's Apprentice (2000) and A Perfect Pledge (2005), were both set in Trinidad. The latter was a finalist for both the Commonwealth Writer's Prize and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize in 2005. With his fifth novel, The Amazing Absorbing Boy (2010), Maharaj returned to the theme of immigration. The novel follows a Trinidadian teen attempting to navigate modern-day Toronto, armed with his knowledge of comic book superheroes and villains. The novel won both the Trillium Book Award and a Toronto Book Award.

While he no longer teaches high school students, since 2006 Rabindranath Maharaj has taught and mentored young writers through the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, the Toronto Reference Library, Humber College School for Writers, and Diaspora Dialogues, while also holding numerous seminars and workshops. He has contributed to numerous literary magazines and anthologies, has co-written a screenplay, and also written a play for CBC radio. Maharaj resides in Ajax, where he continues to write fiction and mentor young writers.

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