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"In the writings of Samuel Selvon, the colloquial idiom

which is associated with the speaking voice and oral literature, is

exploited more fully than in any other West Indian author."



Kenneth Ramchand, ed. West Indian Narrative: An Introductory Anthology.  Nelson Thornes Ltd; Rev Ed edition (June 1980)

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West Indian Narrative: An Introductory Anthology

Edited by Kenneth Ramchand

Part IV

Samuel Selvon--Born 1923 in Trinidad. Educated in Trinidad. Publications include novels A Brighter Sun (1952), An Island Is A World ((1955), The Lonely Londoners (1956), Turn Again Tiger (1958), I Hear Thunder (1965), The Housing Lark (1965),  and short stories Ways of Sunlight (1958).

Ways of Sunlight, a collection of short stories, the settings occur both in Trinidad (Part One) and in London (Part Two). In both sets the central characters are West Indian and speak that dialect.

"In the writings of Samuel Selvon, the colloquial idiom which is associated with the speaking voice and oral literature, is exploited more fully than in any other West Indian author."

Other Selvon Books

Highway in the Sun: A Collection of Plays (2007) / Moses Migrating (1992) / Foreday Morning (1990) /  I Heard Thunder (1963) 

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George Lamming -- Born in 1927 in Barbados. Educated in Barbados. Publications included novels - In the Castle of My Skin (1953), The Emigrants (1954), Of Age and Innocence (1958), Season of Adventure (1960), and essays - The Pleasure of Exile (1960).

In the Castle of My Skin  deals with childhood in the West Indies—a story of boyhood and growing up in a Barbados village in the 1930s and 1940s—partly autobiographical and partly a chronicle of change. This childhood is filled with naiveté, wonder and discovery and the adventure extracted by boys and girls from their surroundings. This novel of childhood also provides a portrait of the village and its adults. "By the end of the book, childhood has passed and the old way of life in the village has been disturbed."

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George Lamming—The depths of Lamming's understanding of social, political and historical issues are soon revealed in his first four novels:  In the Castle of My Skin (1953), The Emigrants (1954), Of Age and Innocence (1958) and Season of Adventure, (1960). In the Castle of My Skin presents the plantation as economic, social and psychic structure, locating the Barbadian village in its erased history of feudal serfdom, and recognizing the ambiguity of colonial education as an agency of both social emancipation and mental re-enslavement. Lamming's novels and essays for three decades afterwards would mercilessly scrutinize the new class of intellectual proprietors and overseers produced by that education.

As the idea of a West Indian Federation took shape in the mid-1950's, Lamming in 1955 dreamed up the concept of the "New World of the Caribbean", and who together with Martin Carter, Wilson Harris, Arthur Seymour and other writers, celebrated this concept of a new world in four epic radio programmes of readings, in which Caribbean journeys of discovery, migration, arrival, return and reconstruction are recognized as part of the same process of becoming. He then infused his next two novels with this spirit of regionalism, by creating in his imaginary nation of San Cristobal, a composite Caribbean state. In Season of Adventure, San Cristobal combines the cultural features of Trinidad, Haiti and Jamaica, while in Of Age and Innocence, San Cristobal is patterned on the histories and racially tinctured politics of Guyana and Trinidad, with their large African and Asian-ancestored populations. By means of these two novels Lamming holds out to the Caribbean alternative possibilities of redemption and catastrophe, cultural fusion and ethnic fission.

Lamming divined that true political liberation in fragmented multiethnic colonies needed to be based on open dialogue, shared experience and communion both between and within ethnic groups; a communion itself that required trust, absolute candour and honesty between the leadership and populace on the one hand, and between the contesting communities in an ethnically diverse society. Being both realist and dreamer, Lamming recognized that these qualities of openness, trust and candour had never been permitted existence in a colonial situation, and showed how secrecy and mistrust could generate social and political catastrophe. Lamming has since then remained a resolute, eloquent and probably sad prophet against racism in Caribbean politics; a warner, even in the face of past disasters and present disintegration.

Lamming has always written and spoken with a sense of mission. Speaking in 1970 on "The Social Role of Writers" he declared that:

The writer or artist is, in fact, a citizen and a worker; and his social role should be contained in the process of that work. The novelist or poet in such a society would be performing a social role of the greatest importance by writing the novels and poems which he feels he has to write and which bear witness to the experiences of that society at any or all of its levels. A social function has truly been fulfilled if such work helps to create an awareness of society which did not exist before; or to inform and enrich an awareness which was not yet deeply felt.

Speaking of his own sense of mission, Lamming defines himself in the same terms that he once used to define CLR James, as "a kind of evangelist. I’m a preacher of some kind. I am a man bringing a message…. I don't know what you would make of it." The novel, the essay, the interview, the conversation, the lecture, the great orationthese are simply the different structures through which Lamming brings his messages, be they affirmations or admonitions.—Caricom

Other Books by Lamming

Conversations II: Western Education and the Caribbean Intellectual  (2000)  /  Black World (March 1973)  /  Canon Shot and Glass Beads (1974)

The History of the Guyanese Working People, 1881-1905 (1981)  / Natives of My Person (1972)  / Water with Berries  (1972)

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I think I have only two more points to bring to you, and they are both from a Caribbean writer, George Lamming. And it is very fitting that I end with a Caribbean writer because, as you know, the Caribbean people have done as much as anyone else to advance the cause of African emancipation. I am going to give you two examples from the writings of that distinguished writer George Lamming of the kind of mentality which we should bring to the Seventh Pan-African Congress, and the discussion that I hope would begin at once, immediately after these ideas get a start.

Lamming is writing about a West Indian rank-and-filer, Powell. He is a thief, he is a murderer, he is a rapist. And Lamming writes in Season of Adventure:

Until the age of ten, Powell and I had lived together, equal in the affection of two mothers. Powell had made my dreams and I lived his passions. Identical in years and stage by stage, Powell and I were taught in the same primary school. And then the division came. I got a public scholarship which started my migration into another world, the world of the educated, the world of the elite. A world whose roots were the same, but whose style of living was entirely different from what my childhood knew. It earned me a privilege which now shut Powell and the whole village right out of my future.

I have lived as near to Powell as my skin to the hand it darkens, and yet I forgot the village as men forget a war, and attached myself to that new world which was so recent, and so slight, beside the weight of what had gone before. Instinctively, 1 attached myself to that new privilege and to this day despite all my efforts, I am not free from its embrace.

In other words, he left the ordinary society, and by means of the scholarship, he went up among the elite. I believe deep in my bones, that the mad impulse which drove Powell to his criminal defeat was largely my doing. I would not have this explained away by talk about environment, nor can I allow my own moral infirmity to be transferred to a foreign conscience labelled imperialism. I shall go beyond my grave, in the knowledge that I am responsible for what happened to my brothers.

We, the educated, are responsible for what happens to the people below. He goes on:

Powell still resides somewhere in my heart, with a dubious love, some strange nameless shadow of regret, and yet with the deepest, deepest nostalgia, for I have never felt myself to be an honest part of anything since the world of his childhood deserted me.

I don't know anywhere, where any intellectual, any member of the intellectual elite, has taken upon himself the complete responsibility for what has happened to the people he has left behind him. The people will make their way. We who have had the advantages must recognize our responsibility. That is a Caribbean pronouncement and I am very proud of it. I know Lamming very well, and there are not many intellectuals who realise what they are doing and the social crimes they commit, who say: "I won a scholarship, I joined the elite and left my people behind, and I feel that that action on my part is responsible for what is happening to them."

Now I must end in about five or six lines. Lamming has written a book called Natives of My Person , and it has two interesting passages. The longest part of the book is called the Middle Passage, and when you hear talk about the Middle Passage you at once think about Blacks being transported. In Lamming's pages about the Middle Passage there isn't one Black man. What Lamming is doing is analysing the white men who made the Middle Passage, and the critics, white and black, are very confused about it. They can say what they like, but for me this is one of the finest contemporary books I have read.

This Black writer is examining those who made the Middle Passage—we have enough of Black suffering and how they were treated on the trip, etc. Lamming says: "What about those men who were doing it?" And he gives examples of who and what they were, and why. Then at the end of the book, he describes a discussion among the wives of these men. The wives went out to meet them: they were the surgeon's wife, the steward's wife, the woman who was the leader.

The surgeon's wife asks: "Why did we follow them here? These men are no good and yet we have followed them out here, why did we do that?" The steward's wife says: "Yes, why follow them here?" And the lady of the house, who was in charge, says: "Because we are a future."  Because women are a future. . . .  Today, Lamming says, today women represent something, are something, they are a future that men must know something about. In other words, what he is saying here is what he has been saying in all his books: that men constitute an elite in relation to women, and women have got a capacity, which men have got to learn.—C.L.R. Kames “Toward the 7th PAC

George Lamming—born 8 June 1927 Carrington Village, Barbados  of mixed African and English parentage—is a novelist and poet. After his mother married his stepfather, Lamming split his time between this birthplace and his stepfather's home in St David's Village. Lamming attended Roebuck Boys' School and Combermere School on a scholarship. Encouraged by his teacher, Frank Collymore, Lamming found the world of books and started to write.

Before moving to England, he worked from 1946 to 1950 as a teacher at El Colegio de Venezuela, a boarding school for boys in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He then emigrated to England where, for a short time, he worked in a factory. In 1951 he became a broadcaster for the BBC Colonial Service. His writings were published in the Barbadian magazine Bim, edited by his teacher Frank Collymore, and the BBC's Caribbean Voices radio series broadcast his poems and short prose. Lamming himself read poems on Caribbean Voices, including some by the young Derek Walcott.

He entered academia in 1967 as a writer-in-residence and lecturer in the Creative Arts Centre and Department of Education at the University of the West Indies, Kingston (1967–68). Since then, he has been a visiting professor in the USA at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Pennsylvania, and Brown University, and a lecturer in Denmark, Tanzania, and Australia.

In May 2011 the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) awarded him the first Caribbean Hibiscus Award in acknowledgement of his lifetime's work. In April 2012, he was chair of the judges for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. He teaches at Brown University.—wikipedia

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Geoffrey Drayton -- Born 1924 in Barbados. Educated in Barbados and Cambridge University. Publications include Three Meridians (poems, 1951), Christopher (a novel, 1959), and Zohara (a novel, 1961).

Christopher, a sad book, consists of a series of childhood experiences of the son of an unhappy sugar planter. When the books ends, Christopher's childhood is over and it is marked by the death of his black nurse Gip who had provided him affection and comfort which he was unable to receive from his parents. "The book may be compared to a film without a narrator, and without dialogue. We are spectators of the silent drama of a sensitive boy's reactions to the events and objects of the caged world which his parents have made for him.

Andrew Salkey -- Born 1928 in Panama. Educated in Jamaica and London University. Publications include A Quality of Violence (novel, 1959), Escape to an Autumn Pavement (novel, 1960), West Indian Stories (editor, 1960), Hurricane (children's novel, 1964), Earthquake (children's novel, 1965), Stories from the Caribbean (editor, 1965), Commonwealth Poetry (editor West Indian section, 1965); and "Jamaica Symphony" (long poem unpublished, winning Thomas Helmore Poetry Prize, 1955).

Hurricane, fiction aimed at children, is a story of the development and explosion of a hurricane. No symbolism here, Salkey deals with a hurricane as hurricane from a boy's eye view

"Joe, his sister Mary, and their parents are sitting right in their home, waiting for the hurricane to strike and then move away. . . . Joe drops asleep. . . . wakes up to find the hurricane raging. there is precise meteorological detail and realistic description. the boy's attempt to explaim what is happening, the mother reading Psalm 91, and the just avoided explosion of bad temper are other means by which the hurricane is conveyed to our senses" (Ramchand, 129)

Other Salkey Books

In the Border Country and Other Stories (1999)  / Island Voices: Stories from the West Indies (1965)

In the Hills Where Her Dreams Live (1979)  /  Anancy's Score (1973) /  Anancy, Traveler (1998)

Breaklight: An Anthology of Caribbean Poetry (1971)  / Caribbean Essays: An Anthology (1973)

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Michael Anthony -- Born 1932 in Trinidad. Educated in Trinidad. Publications include The Games Were Coming (a novel, 1963) and The Year in San Fernando (a novel, 1965).

In The Games, Leon, the main character, wins the fifteen-mile Blue Riband cycle event. The action primarily deals with events previous to the race. His father and his brother Dolphus are involved. His girl-friend Sylvia, involved with another man, makes Leon promise to marry her if he wins. Thus the story is "not simply" about the winning of a race but rather "about love and about the inter-involvement of people in a small community.

Source: Kenneth Ramchand, West Indian Narrative: An Introductory Anthology. London, 1966

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The Flowering Rock Collected Poems, 1938-1974

By Eric Merton Roach

Black Yeats

Eric Roach and the Politics of Caribbean Poetry

By Laurence A. Breiner

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Natives of My Person

By George Lamming

Natives of My Person focuses on slave traders of the sixteenth century. The novel reconstructs the voyage of the ship Reconnaissance, which is led by a character known as the Commandant. To atone for his past cruelties and barbarism, the Commandant plans to establish a Utopian society on the island of San Cristobal. The enterprise fails for many reasons: fighting amongst the crew, loss of interest, greed, and an inability to erase the past. The novel argues that an ideal society cannot be built by those who have committed moral atrocities and unnecessary bloodshed in their past. . . . Although Natives of My Person has a historical setting and deals with the voyage of the Reconnaissance, a vessel ostensibly engaged in the slave trade, a specific historical phenomenon, it is only partly accurate to describe it as a work of historical realism. Its realist component is not to be found in its fidelity to period costume, living conditions, or similar revealing detail. Instead of the veneer of verisimilitude that such usages provide, the novel locates its realism in the way in which it elaborately recapitulates an outlook.

George Lamming: Contemporary Criticism

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Season of Adventure

By George Lamming

First published in 1960, Season of Adventure details the story of Fola, a light-skinned middle-class girl who has been tipped out of her easy hammock of social privilege into the complex political and cultural world of her recently independent homeland, the Caribbean island of San Cristobal. After attending a ceremony of the souls to raise the dead, she is carried off by the unrelenting accompaniment of steel drums onto a mysterious journey in search of her past and of her identity. Gradually, she is caught in the crossfire of a struggle between people who have "pawned their future to possessions" and those "condemned by lack of learning to a deeper truth." The music of the drums sounds throughout the novel, "loud as gospel to a believer's ears," and at the end stands alone as witness to the tradition which is slowly being destroyed in the name of European values. Whether through literary production or public pronouncements, George Lamming has explored the phenomena of colonialism and imperialism and their impact on the psyche of Caribbean people.

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel.

Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong.Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)

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With Liberty and Justice for Some

How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful

By Glenn Greenwald

From "the most important voice to have entered the political discourse in years" (Bill Moyers), a scathing critique of the two-tiered system of justice that has emerged in America. From the nation's beginnings, the law was to be the great equalizer in American life, the guarantor of a common set of rules for all. But over the past four decades, the principle of equality before the law has been effectively abolished. Instead, a two-tiered system of justice ensures that the country's political and financial class is virtually immune from prosecution, licensed to act without restraint, while the politically powerless are imprisoned with greater ease and in greater numbers than in any other country in the world. Starting with Watergate, continuing on through the Iran-Contra scandal, and culminating with Obama's shielding of Bush-era officials from prosecution,

Glenn Greenwald lays bare the mechanisms that have come to shield the elite from accountability. He shows how the media, both political parties, and the courts have abetted a process that has produced torture, war crimes, domestic spying, and financial fraud. Cogent, sharp, and urgent, this is a no-holds-barred indictment of a profoundly un-American system that sanctions immunity at the top.

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.”

Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits.

Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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update 1 August 2012




Home Inside the Caribbean   Toussaint Table

Related files: MAWA 2003  West Indian Narrative-- Part One  Part Two   Part Three  Part Four  Experiment in Haiti    West Indian Narrative   Jan Carew

George Lamming and New World Imagination  Eric Roach and Flowering Rock  Kam Williams Interviews Colin Roach   Shake Keane  Filmmaker Molefi K. Asante, Jr.

Toward the Seventh PAC