The novel’s West Indian revolution

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In the 1940s West Indian fiction was virtually unknown to English and Caribbean readers alike. Writing in 1960, George Lamming could describe the West Indian novelist as someone “who had no existence twenty years ago.” A few isolated expatriates – Claude McKay, Jean Rhys, and Eric Walrond – had published important texts in the 1920s and 1930s, but their work had been absorbed into Anglo-American traditions, suggesting little vibrant, continuous literary culture in the region. In the 1950s, however, West Indian literature suddenly seemed ubiquitous, and exuberantly selfconscious. Between 1949 (with Vic Reid’s New Day) and 1960, over sixty novels by West Indian writers were released, nearly all of them in London. This led observers to predict a fundamental shift toward Commonwealth literature, as it was then known. As early as 1952 the Times Literary Supplement expresses hope that “the new generation of West Indian writers” might infuse parochial and inbred English literary culture with much needed fresh blood: “Perhaps in 10, certainly in 20 years from now, West Indian and African literature in the English language should be an accepted part of our, Commonwealth cultural scene.” By the end of the decade, West Indian writers were earning strong endorsements from London’s most influential literary people.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of the English Novel
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781139013796
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2012.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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