After spending a long time in the UK’s capital, 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 languages are spoken within its limits. With every turn, I find something unfamiliar, something new, something British. That is London’s charm; it is as if a small world lives within the city’s boundaries. It contains in it people of different backgrounds who have brought their origins with them, after which ‘white British London’ has become ‘multicultural British London’.
This ‘multicultural London’ is present today, but one has to wonder where it all began. When did London welcome its first immigrants? In truth, it is difficult to say for certain. Yes, there have been some periods of time where there was an influx of immigrants; post–World War II being 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)
One of the novels I studied this year was The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon. The module was called ‘Post-war to Post-modern,’ so I wasn’t surprised that the book was a challenging but 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. Sam Selvon writes in a strikingly unique way; his narrator speaks in creolised English just as the characters in the novel do. The book’s theme, as well as Selvon’s narrative voice, emphasise the changes within London society.
The novel deals with the arrival of the ‘Windrush generation’ and describes the everyday lives of a limited number of members from this community. The ‘Windrush generation’ is the term for the Caribbean migrants who arrived in the UK aboard the SS Empire Windrush in June 1948. The arrival of the ship 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 other immigrants, most of whom are young, consist of work and petty pleasures as they try to feel ‘at home’ in this new country.