Barbadian novelist George Lamming, one of the leading writers of the Caribbean colonial experience, dies at 94 Global Voices Français

Barbadian George Lamming talks about his world famous novel, iIn The Castle of My Skin.’ Screenshot taken from a YouTube video Posted by NCF Barbados.

Renowned Barbadian novelist George Lamming passed away on Saturday, June 4, at the age of 94. He will be granted official funeral on his native island.

Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley said she had planned to visit the author on his 95th birthday, just four days away. She observed:

Wherever George Lamming went, he embodied that voice and spirit that screamed Barbados and the Caribbean. And although he wrote several novels and received numerous accolades, none of his works touches the Barbadian psyche like his first – In The Castle of My Skin, written in 1953, but which should still be required reading today. for every boy and girl in the Caribbean. daughter.

Barbados will be missed by George Lamming – his voice, his pen and of course his iconic hairstyle – but I pray that the awareness of who we are that he preached in everything he wrote will never fade from our lives. thoughts.

Born in Carrington Village, Barbados on June 8, 1927, Lamming attended Roebuck Boys’ School and later won a scholarship for the historic Combermere School. His teacher Frank Collymore (the “Barbados man of the arts” and editor of the literary journal BIM) framed him and his passion for reading began; he began to write poetry. He left for Trinidad in 1946, where he was a teacher for four years at El Collegio de Venezuela in Port of Spain. He then emigrated to England, where he worked in a factory for a short time. In 1951, he became a presenter for the BBC Colonial Service.

Lamming entered academia in 1967 as a writer-in-residence and lecturer at the Creative Arts Center and Department of Education at the University of the West Indies. He was later a visiting professor and writer-in-residence at the City University of New York, and a faculty member and lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Pennsylvania. He was also Distinguished Visiting Professor at Duke University and Visiting Professor of African Studies and Literary Arts at Brown University. Throughout his life he also taught or lectured at universities in Tanzania, Denmark and Australia.

Although he claims to be a “slow writer”, Lamming has written a total of six novels and four non-fiction books. His novels included “The Emigrants” (1954), “Of Age and Innocence” (1958), “Season of Adventure” (1960), and “Water with Berries” (1971). Included in his non-fiction works was a collection of essays titled “The Pleasures of Exile”which explores how culture, politics and individual identity were shaped by colonialism.

However, Lamming didn’t just write books. During the 1960s, he and several other writers collaborated on a radio series called “New World of the Caribbean”, which looked at the region’s place in the world. As a teacher and speaker, his voice has been heard (and listened to) across the Caribbean and beyond.

Trinidadian journalist Wesley Gibbings put it simply:

In truth, Lamming was well known and loved throughout the region. Her acclaimed first novel, “In the castle of my skin” (1953), written in England at the age of 23, was well known to Caribbean readers, many of whom studied it in high school. In an interviewLamming described his poignant coming-of-age novel as beyond a ‘Barbadian theme’, describing a childhood and adolescence shaped by ‘colonial imperial training’ that took place in the English-speaking Caribbean. and was “determined for it to transform you in this particular project.

Young Jamaican economist Keenan Falconer shared:

A Trinidadian writer observed that Lamming was not afraid to comment on regional politics:

Some authors have shunned politics and broadened their knowledge of the development context. George Lamming headed there, even warning the young revolutionaries of Granada. Hi 👑

— Amilcar Sanatan (@AmilcarSanatan) June 4, 2022

Jamaican social commentator and activist Carol Narcisse also paid tribute to Lamming’s influence:

A colossus has left us. Ululation. Tribute to George Lamming and his generation of Caribbean creators, thought leaders, identity shapers and truth speakers. Gratitude, respect and thanksgiving.

— Carol Narcissus (@CarolNarcissus) June 5, 2022

She included a link to Lamming’s Citation for the Order of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 2008, which concludes:

By conferring on George William Lamming the Order of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM honors fifty-five years of extraordinary commitment with the responsibility of illuminating Caribbean identities, healing the wounds of erasure and fragmentation, d to envision possibilities, to transcend inherited limitations. In recognizing this son and ancestor, CARICOM applauds the intellectual energy, constancy of vision and unwavering dedication to the ideals of freedom and sovereignty.

That same year, George Lamming Primary School in Barbados was named after him.

CARICOM Secretary General Carla Barnett shared:

The region has lost a literary icon and one of its most authentic voices. Rest in peace Hon. George Lamming, OCC#OrderOfTheCaribbeanCommunity #CARICOM

— CARICOM Secretary General (@SG_CARICOM) June 5, 2022

Writers and scholars have paid tribute to Lamming on social media. In a Facebook postGuyanese historian Richard Drayton shared a moving video from 2017, with the following message:

I just heard the sad news that George Lamming left us today to join the ancestors. George has been a part of my life since I was a child, and after my parents, I can’t think of anyone who has had a bigger impact on me. His contributions to Barbados, the Caribbean, the Caribbean diaspora in Britain and the world are beyond measure. He lived and struggled with such grace and generosity
Rest in power George
The ceremony of souls is never over

Trinidadian poet, playwright and cultural activist Eintou Pearl Springer, a former colleague of Lamming, published a sad tribute video on Facebook and poured him a libation:

Moments before my presentation tonight, I learned that my dear friend and mentor George Lamming had transitioned. Thank you to Jouvayfest Caribbean Heritage Month for giving me the time to pour a libation to this giant of the literary and revolutionary work of our region.

Interestingly, “In the Castle of My Skin” is included in the “Big Jubilee Read” 70 book reading list across the Commonwealth, created by BBC Arts and The Reading Agency to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee Year. The list was compiled by librarians, booksellers and literature experts based on recommendations from readers in 31 countries. It is one of five Caribbean novels representing the first decade of the Queen’s reign (1952-1961).

For a writer so intensely aware and sensitive to the multiple layers of the legacy of colonialism in the Caribbean that he examined through his writing and teaching, this may seem ironic. However, Lamming was an inspiration to future generations of the Caribbean in many ways. A young Saint Lucian writer tweeted a quote from “The West Indian People” from 1966, an inspiring challenge that still seems relevant:

The architecture of our future is not only unfinished; the scaffolding barely went up.

-George Lamming 🕊

— Rehani (@RehaniWrites) June 5, 2022