On the passing of Mrs. Zelma “Zee” Edgell, nee Tucker, at the age of 80, all we Belizean writers have to express our respect. The early discourse of Zee’s death indicates that she wrote four novels and five short stories, amongst other things. She was a university professor for many years, both in Belize and abroad. Zee Edgell put in work.
In order for those of you who are not writers to appreciate the quality of her journey, I need, somewhat reluctantly, to tell you something of mine. In the world of writers, as the legendary Irish novelist, James Joyce, most notably spoke it, novelists are rated in a substantially higher category than journalists.
Zee Edgell, a graduate of St. Catherine Academy, was trained as a journalist in England in the early 1960s, I would say, but she graduated to the elite world of the novelist. As I understand it, her most famous work, Beka Lamb, achieved regional and international recognition. Again, I give respect. It’s very competitive out there beyond The Jewel’s borders.
When I went to the U.S.to study in 1965, my intention was to specialize in what is called “creative writing.” But there was no such major at the Ivy League University I attended, Dartmouth, so I settled for a major in English, although I confess that by my second term I was tempted to change my major to political science.
One of the three courses I took in my first term, the fall of 1965, was one called “Comparative Literature 24,” run by a Professor Peter Bien. I believe it was he who told our class that Joyce, whose iconic Ulysses novel was featured on the Bien curriculum reading list, that Joyce was very contemptuous of journalists. Evan A. Hyde, as a result, did not wish to become a journalist.
So then, the fact that I man, who early on aspired to the writing of serious novels, ended up as a journalist, has always been a source of some disappointment for I. That is why I am compelled to give public respect to the late Zee Edgell’s ascent from newspapers to novels.
How Zee made that serious upward move is for her children, relatives and biographers to detail. I know that personally I descended to a journalism destiny when I did mostly because of the peculiar nature of Belize’s socio-politics, which was focused on the Guatemalan claim and a complicated ethnic politics when I was sucked into public life on my return to Belize in 1968.
You are tired of hearing about me and my various travails over the years, dear readers, and this column is about Zee, but I had to make the contrast between us so that you can better appreciate Zee’s climb upward in the literacy world. So then, let it be Zee.
You know, she was one of the smoothest and most mature ladies I have ever met. She was so cool, so composed, so real, so special. Her older brother, Clive, Jr., was my classmate in the early years at Holy Redeemer Boys School, and her younger brother, Barry, was my schoolmate later at St. John’s College. (Zee was the oldest of her parents’ children.) So, I am personally acquainted with Zee’s family before she married the late Al Edgell and began her own family. Zee’s father was the multimillionaire Santiago Castillo’s Belize City right hand man in business, Mr. Clive Tucker, Sr., so Zee came out of a solid, stable family.
Again, the rest is for her children, her relatives, and her biographers to detail.
This newspaper expresses deep sympathy to Zee Edgell’s children, her relatives, and her friends. Zee was a credit to Belize and Belizean people, and she deserves great honor.