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Sam Selvon’s ‘The Lonely Londoners’

After spendinga longtime intheUK’scapital, it cannot escape one’s notice that the city’s every corner is home to different religions and races. The city is bright with different cultures and more than 300 languagesare spoken within its limits. With every turn, I find something unfamiliar, something new, something British. That is London’s charm; it is as ifa small world lives within the city’s boundaries.It containsin it people of different backgrounds who have brought their origins with them, after which‘white British London’has become‘multiculturalBritish London’.

This ‘multicultural London’is present today, but one has to wonder where it all began. When did London welcome its firstimmigrants?In truth, it is difficult to say for certain. Yes, there have been some periods of time where there was an influx of immigrants; postWorld WarIIbeing the most well-known. Most authors focus on this period of immigration;they write about it, expressing to the world the migrants’ views about moving to a new country and how they were treated.

The novel was written in 1956, but can still be applied to society today. (Photographer: Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah; Flickr)

The novel was written in 1956, but can still be applied to society today. (Photographer: Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah; Flickr)

One of the novels I studiedthis yearwasThe Lonely Londonersby SamSelvon. The modulewas called ‘Post-war to Post-modern,’so I wasn’t surprisedthat the book was a challengingbut enjoyable read.The postmodern period is known to be a struggle to read, as writers experimented with form and language, presenting texts in new ways which take a while to grasp. It focused on something the world still talks about today: migration.SamSelvonwrites in a strikingly uniqueway; his narrator speaks in creolised English just as the characters in the novel do. The book’s theme, aswell asSelvon’snarrative voice, emphasise the changes within London society.   

The novel deals with the arrival of theWindrushgeneration’and describes the everyday lives of a limited number of members from this community.TheWindrushgeneration’ is the term for the Caribbean migrants who arrived in the UKaboard the SS EmpireWindrushinJune1948.The arrival of theship marked the beginning of post-war mass migration. The Lonely Londoners spans over three years and focuses on the life of a Trinidadian named Moses. He is described as having lived in London for ten years, however has achieved little, which causes him to miss his life in Trinidad.His life and the lives of the otherimmigrants, most ofwhomare young, consist of work and petty pleasures as they try to feel ‘at home’ in this new country. 

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