The Lonely Londoners is one of the most-read books by Sam Selvon, known in Britain as the father of black writing. I learned about the Windrush scandal thanks to the novel that tells the story of West Indians who migrated to Britain after World War II. As in every important book, I cursed humanity while reading this. What flawed creatures we are!
The Lonely Londoners does not have a plot and briefly describes the lives of many vivid characters. Therefore, you cannot get as close to the characters as you want. The author describes the events as if they did not matter much. And I think this adds more weight to the rather dark events experienced.
Unfortunately, the narrative style that the author chose to use had a significant impact on my reading experience. As with Faulkner, although the book’s subject aroused my interest, I didn’t enjoy reading because of the narrative. I had a hard time, especially in the section where he didn’t use punctuation marks. But I stubbornly read it because racism is something we should all read about. As we read, we will learn, and we can empathize, after all.
Thanks to this book, I decided that I had to read more migration stories. I hope we can all read more and stop being assholes. I recommend it to everyone. Enjoy!
The Lonely Londoners
Both devastating and funny, The Lonely Londoners is an unforgettable account of the immigrant experience – and one of the great twentieth-century London novels. This Penguin Modern Classics edition includes an introduction by Susheila Nasta.
At Waterloo Station, hopeful new arrivals from the West Indies step off the boat train, ready to start afresh in 1950s London. There, homesick Moses Aloetta, who has already lived in the city for years, meets Henry ‘Sir Galahad’ Oliver and shows him the ropes. In this strange, cold and foggy city where the natives can be less than friendly at the sight of a black face, has Galahad met his Waterloo? But the irrepressible newcomer cannot be cast down. He and all the other lonely new Londoners – from shiftless Cap to Tolroy, whose family has descended on him from Jamaica – must try to create a new life for themselves. As pessimistic ‘old veteran’ Moses watches their attempts, they gradually learn to survive and come to love the heady excitements of London.
Samuel “Sam” Selvon was a Trinidad-born writer, who moved to London, England, in the 1950s. His 1956 novel The Lonely Londoners is groundbreaking in its use of creolised English, or “nation language”, for narrative as well as dialogue.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: