Postwar London and the West Indian Novel
Publication Year: 2013
In Migrant Modernism, J. Dillon Brown examines the intersection between British literary modernism and the foundational West Indian novels that emerged in London after World War II. By emphasizing the location in which anglophone Caribbean writers such as George Lamming, V. S. Naipaul, and Samuel Selvon produced and published their work, Brown reveals a dynamic convergence between modernism and postcolonial literature that has often been ignored. Modernist techniques not only provided a way for these writers to mark their difference from the aggressively English, literalist aesthetic that dominated postwar literature in London but also served as a self-critical medium through which to treat themes of nationalism, cultural inheritance, and identity.
Published by: University of Virginia Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote
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At first glance, the central contention of this book might seem uncomplicated: that the Windrush novelists, West Indians living and publishing in London after World War II, emerged into prominence via an overt affiliation with literary modernism.1 Indeed, as this book hopes to show in the pages that follow, when these influential Anglophone Caribbean novels are read within the000
1. At the Scene of the Time: Postwar London
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Early in his 1960 volume of essays, The Pleasures of Exile, George Lamming fixes his sharply analytical eye on “an English critic, Mr. Kingsley Amis, discussing West Indian novelists in the Spectator” (28). The discussion in question, Amis’s 1958 “Fresh Winds from the West,” treats eight recently released books by Caribbean authors and stands as a testament to the high visibility...
2. “Child of Ferment”: Edgar Mittelholzer’s Contrary Tradition
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Guyanese author Edgar Mittelholzer is a largely overlooked figure in the contemporary annals of Anglophone Caribbean literature. Despite the fact that during his life he was identified as “the doyen of the new school of West Indian writers” (Rickards, “Tribute,” 98) and considered to be foremost among West Indian novelists (Amis, “Fresh Winds from the West,” 565), his literary output...
3. Engaging the Reader: The Difficulties of George Lamming
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Like Mittelholzer, the Barbadian author George Lamming was readily received in postwar literary London as an experimental “high-art” writer. In contrast to Mittelholzer’s eclectic habits of innovation tout court, however, Lamming’s experimentation was consistently understood as a recognizable species of self-consciously difficult writing in the tradition of Faulkner, Joyce, and Woolf. In...
4. A Commoner Cosmopolitanism: Sam Selvon’s Literary Forms
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Although both Mittelholzer and Lamming were readily associated with a serious, high intellectual tradition of experimental writing, the work of Samuel Selvon (who famously traveled to Britain in 1950 on the same boat as Lamming) is often understood in much different terms. Noted especially for its...
5. The Lyrical Enchantments of Roger Mais
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Jamaican novelist Roger Mais, although he arrived in London not long after Lamming, Mittelholzer, and Selvon, took a rather different path toward metropolitan literary success. Comparatively isolated from the eastern Caribbean cultural scene, and evidently disliked by Cedric and Gladys Lindo, the Jamaica-based editorial gatekeepers for Caribbean Voices, Mais was already well...
Coda: Kamau Brathwaite, Wilson Harris,and V. S. Naipaul’s Caribbean Voice
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The year 1962 can be seen as something of a watershed for the West Indian presence, both literary and actual, in Britain. Most important, the passage of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962 decisively restricted the entry of new migrants from the entire ex-empire. Though the flow of immigrants did not dry up immediately—mainly due to the continued ability of spouses...
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Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013