During the period, realist modes carried with them a series of ideological assumptions that emphasized the political role of fiction. This understanding of the political duty of literary realism was a legacy from the s, but was still broadly assumed by writers on the left during the mids. As he wrote in Great realism.
Over and above that, it captures tendencies of devel- opment that only exist incipiently and so have not yet had the opportunity to unfold their entire human and social potential.
To discern and give shape to such underground trends is the great historical mission of the true literary avant-garde. In an interview, Selvon has described his narrative technique in terms usually associated with modernism: I think I can say without a trace of modesty that I was the first Caribbean writer to explore and employ dialect in a full-length novel where it was used in both narrative and dialogue.
I was boldfaced enough to write a complete chapter in a stream-of- consciousness style. Fabre 69 The use of stream of consciousness in a s novel would be in- terpreted as a modernist technique, and therefore would produce as- sociations with certain ideological assumptions about the kind of read- ership the novel anticipated.
Beyond this charge of elitism aimed at modernist writ- ing, it was thought that the representation of the isolated and alienated subject in modernist writing undercut any attempt to articulate a col- lective community from which a politically committed literature could form.
In The Lonely Londoners, the use of stream of consciousness, for example, has a dual function, one that indicates the alienation of the Caribbean immigrant in London, but at the same time functions to connect such an individual to a collective subcultural identity of similar immigrants.
The technique, 71 Nick Bentley therefore, would seem to reject the association of modernism to a spe- cific readership educated within a white, middle-class, Western culture. As Clement H. Wyke argues, for Selvon, the use of stream of consciousness style represents a liberat- ing and ultimately empowering technique for the representation of black identity The Lonely Londoners presents the reader with fragmented narratives of individuals such as Galahad as an expression of individual experience.
First, it represents the experi- ence of alienation as fragmented expression, and as indicative of the im- migrant experience in the metropolitan centre. The process of creating a collective narration or minority literature is, therefore, a process of political empowerment through the creation of representative and identity-forming narratives that simultaneously reject the cultural centrality of Englishness and proclaim the validity of mar- ginalized voices within the privileged site of the novel form.
This is represented structurally through the accumulation of different stories recording the experiences of several exiled Caribbean individuals in s London, such as Moses, Sir Galahad, Tolroy, Big City, the Cap and Bart.
The use of modernist techniques supports the progres- 73 Nick Bentley sive content of the novel and therefore undermines the argument that these techniques are restricted to the articulation of middle and upper- middle-class experience, appropriating the form for a marginalized sub- cultural group.
In effect, Selvon pro- duces a form that incorporates elements of both realism and modern- ism to produce a politically engaged writing that takes account of the postcolonial context of his position as a black Caribbean writer working in s Britain.
The Lonely Londoners is an example of what Andrzej Gasiorek identifies as a type of post-war British novel that problematizes the oppositional discourse between the modes of realism and experi- mentalism.
Manipulation of linguis- tic forms is an important means by which Caribbean writers, for ex- ample, proclaim their sense of place and displacement , and construct a distinct identity in terms of difference to a dominant construction of Englishness. Now Ashcroft et al.
Selvon, in particular, uses many of the language strategies that Ashcroft et al. As discussed in the previous section, Selvon claims that his novel op- erates in a realist context, and this is produced through the representa- tion of language. In narratological terms, the text presents us with a third-person extradiegetic Genette —68 narrative that adopts the idiosyncratic language styles of the characters it describes: And this sort of thing was happening at a time when the English people starting to make rab about how too much West Indians coming to the country: this was a time, when any corner you turn, is ten to one you bound to bounce up a spade.
But it is not only characters who speak in non-Standard English; the third-person extradiegetic narration also takes this form. Selvon has de- scribed his decision to use a form of Creolized expression for his narra- tive voice as a crucial and liberating stage in the writing of The Lonely Londoners: 75 Nick Bentley.
It oc- curred to me that perhaps I should try to do both the narrative and the dialogue in this form [Trinidadian form of the lan- guage] I started to experiment with it and the book just went very rapidly along. With this particular book I just felt that the language that I used worked and expressed exactly what I wanted it to express. Although Ashcroft et al. The way we identify each of these processes depends more upon the perspective we bring to the text, and this issue interacts with the concept of a dual addressivity.
For an addressee that corresponds to the sub- cultural group of black settlers to Britain in the s, the process of appropriation functions more as an empowering strategy by establish- ing a specific subcultural identity, and by taking control and subverting the colonial language. This symbolically represents the appropriation of the colonial space through a subversion of the language, the empowering of the marginalized black subject, and the re-colonizing of this post colonial space.
The processes of centralization and decentralization, of unification and disunification, intersect in the utterance; the utterance not only answers the requirements of its own lan- guage as an individualized embodiment of a speech act, but it answers the requirements of heteroglossia as well; it is in fact an active participant in such speech diversity.
The use of this kind of utterance, therefore, carries within it the negotiation of a connection with, and distance from, the language of the centre, and subsequently acts as an expression of opposition to the cultural and ideological frameworks of that central culture. This gives the narrative a recognisable oral dimension that, in drawing on a non-Western and non-literary source, reinforces the challenge to conventions of literary language and form posed by the use of a modified Caribbean dialect, and facilitates the articulation of a voice — that of the black working-class immigrant — that had hitherto been largely denied recognition in literary fiction.
The connection here with oral literature reflects a challenge to traditional conceptions of the literary that gives primacy to the printed over the spoken word. To read it is to undergo a series of jolts and tumbles as characters flit in and out of view; comic vignette rubs up against mordant reportage.
The effect is rather akin to that of a whitewashed wall that, over time, has become a messy riot of colour as fly-posters, graffiti art and community news-sheets vie with each other to adorn it with newer and ever louder information. Sandhu, , p. As we shall see later, the novel also engages in subversive interactions with canonical models and references. The critical perspectives outlined above may differ in emphasis, but the common thread that links them is the close relationship between form and language, subject matter and themes.
The Lonely Londoners has a relatively large cast of characters, but there is not space here to discuss them all. Henry Oliver is wearing clothes that are too light for English weather. Moses dubs him Sir Galahad; this name will stick with him for the rest of the novel. Moses takes Galahad to his tiny room in Bayswater. Moses prepares some food and tells Galahad that he should quickly find a job and his own place. Moses warns Galahad that everyone is on their own in London — there is little solidarity between West Indians.
Then, Galahad tells anecdotes from back home. In the morning, Moses offers his help with finding a job for Galahad, but the latter refuses. When he watches people going about their business, he suddenly becomes terrified, as he realises that he has no safety net here. A policeman instructs Galahad how to get to the employment exchange office.
Galahad is still in a panic when he sees Moses coming towards him to help him. Moses and Galahad arrive at the Ministry of Labour. Galahad tells the clerk that he is an electrician. The clerk says that they have no electrician jobs at the moment and that Galahad should register for his insurance card in the next building. Galahad gets his unemployment card. There was one Nigerian, Captain Cap , who wasted all the money that his parents had given him for studying.
Cap has only one outfit, which he washes daily. Cap uses his gentlemanly manners and an air of innocence to wangle food, accommodation, and money out of people.
Cap never stays long in any job he can get. If he ever has any money, it passes through his hands extremely quickly mainly on women. He goes to a different hostel, lying that his student allowance should arrive any day. After two weeks, Cap needs to vacate the room again.
Cap has done the same thing over and over again in virtually every hotel in the Water Bayswater and even beyond. Cap goes out with an Austrian girl, who tries to convince him to find a stable job. One day, Cap wants to take up storekeeping work at a railway station. But when he arrives, it turns out that the pay is lower than promised, and the job consists in heavy physical work.
The Austrian girl suggests that Cap work at the same factory as Moses. Cap lies that he got the job, but instead he has affairs with other women. After some time, Cap tells the Austrian that he quit the job, because it was too hard.
Although Cap treats the Austrian girl badly, she stays with him, even pawning her personal belongings to get some money when things are tight. One time, Cap is with two women at once. He borrows eight pounds from the German one and disappears. She sends the police after Cap, and since then, Cap is terrified of law enforcement. Cap pawns the wristwatch of the other woman English to pay off his debts with the first woman. The English woman starts going out with Daniel and tells him all about the wristwatch.
Daniel manages to catch Cap, but the latter somehow weasels out of paying for the watch. Cap marries a French girl. He tells her that he is going to get a position in the Nigerian government.
The girl agrees to marry Cap, convinced that they are about to go to Nigeria. Daniel leaves her to find Cap, who is sitting in a cafe he visits regularly. Cap goes back with Daniel to his. Cap borrows some money from Daniel, giving him to understand that he could have the French girl from time to time. Then, Cap takes the French girl to an expensive hotel room. They live on money that the French girl is getting from France. Cap goes on living as if he was still a bachelor has affairs with other women.
He has light skin, and so he sometimes says that he is from South America. Bart hates lending money and he always says upfront that he is broke. No-one ever tries to borrow money from him apart from Cap in the early days. This is the first and last time that Bart has even lent money to anyone. Bart gets a clerical job, which is extremely rare for black immigrants.
He lives between the white and black world; although he has a better position than his countrymen, he also meets with racism. Like Cap, Bart constantly moves from place to place although he does pay rent.
One time, Bart falls seriously ill. Moses visits him. But although Bart is convinced that he is dying, he recovers in a short time. Through his encounter with London, it became possible to move towards a more fully realised picture of the world back home whilst defining a Caribbean consciousness within a British context.
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Although the majority of colonial citizens held British passports and equal rights of residence, by racial disturbances had begun to erupt. Selvon frequently draws our attention to this volatile atmosphere, as the room-based existence which his characters lead becomes a powerful metaphor for their in-between existence both inside and outside English culture.Selvon turned his back on England in and settled in Calgary, Canada. They drink tea and have sex. In the epigraph the description of Cap shows his aversion to work, while the others struggle to settle in London and try to find a regular job. Tolroy starts arguing with them. A Jamaican who lives a street of houses in Brixton often feel to Waterloo to specify rooms at extortionate prices to his best expats. Michigan: University of Gujarat Press, Daniel — one of the opinions, he always buy women drinks. One day, Eric sees Beatrice talk to some guy in the town. Harney, Stefano. U of the Otherwise Indies, Whereas in India racism is obvious, in Burma it is hidden but no less harmful. Seizing the moment essays for scholarships that put the candidates in the know right away, you see. After they arrive there, they do a distinctive reality.
Galahad tells the clerk that he is an electrician. The two talk until the boat-train arrives. The novel is, in this sense, also a social realist text, and yet it is not. It riffs on the earlier Londoners of Dickens, Woolf or Eliot Looker , 75 ; yet its antiphonic and collective narrative form, its tragic-comic spirit, its carnivalesque humour and profanations, and not least its decolonial politics are inspired by Caribbean orature and the Calypsonian tradition. Activity 2 When you have completed your first reading, think about the following questions: How would you describe the structure of the novel?
Tolroy with his family also turn up. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation. This literature tends to develop a voice that represents a collective expression of marginalized communal identity.
Selvon has de- scribed his decision to use a form of Creolized expression for his narra- tive voice as a crucial and liberating stage in the writing of The Lonely Londoners: 75 Nick Bentley. Looker, Mark. The grocery shop has many West Indian supplies. One time, Cap is with two women at once.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,
James Close Readings Agamben, Giorgio.
Moses gets rid of her. Critical Practice. In the morning, Moses offers his help with finding a job for Galahad, but the latter refuses.