Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1290
George Lamming 1927-
(Full name George William Lamming) Barbadian novelist, essayist, poet, short story writer, and editor.
The following entry provides an overview of Lamming's career through 1997. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volumes 2, 4, and 66.
Lamming is one of the most highly regarded contemporary Caribbean writers. His works about the decolonization and reconstruction of the West Indies following the end of British colonial rule are commended for their nationalistic spirit and poetic prose style. Lamming's writing focuses on finding new political and social identity and the long-lasting effects of early colonialism on the minds and actions of the Caribbean people. His use of allegory and metaphor give deeper political meaning to stories of people newly freed from the oppression of colonial rule. Lamming's writing style is experimental, often containing circular plot structures and abrupt shifts in narrative. Through his direct confrontation of old colonial rule and his inventive writing style, Lamming has become a groundbreaking writer who has paved the way for younger Caribbean authors.
Lamming was born in Barbados in 1927, and has witnessed and participated in much of the social and political upheaval that has taken place in the West Indies during his lifetime. Throughout the 1930s, rapid population growth, widespread economic depression, and the shift from a primarily agrarian economy to an industrial one profoundly altered traditional Barbadian village life. Trade unions became an effective political force and organized labor led the drive for political reform, ultimately resulting in the Barbadian independence movement. All of these factors had an impact on Lamming's life and are reflected in his works. As a child, Lamming attended Roebuck Boys School and earned a rare scholarship to Combermere High School. In 1946, he left Barbados and traveled to Trinidad, where he worked at El Collegio de Venezuela as a teacher. During this time, he met several important Trinidadian writers including Clifford Sealy and Cecil Herbert and published poetry in literary magazines. In 1950, Lamming moved to England where he worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation and as a journalist while pursuing his own literary career. He quickly established himself as a writer and an intellectual. His first two novels, In the Castle of My Skin (1953) and The Emigrants (1954), were successful and well received. In 1955, Lamming visited the United States on a Guggenheim Fellowship, serving as a writer-in-residence at the University of Texas. In 1956, he was a participant in the first international Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris. In 1957, In the Castle of My Skin received the Somerset Maugham Award for Literature. Lamming returned to the Caribbean and became involved in various political causes, including the movement for Barbadian independence, which was achieved in 1966. He published two novels, Of Age and Innocence (1958) and Season of Adventure (1960), and a book of essays, The Pleasures of Exile (1960), in rapid succession. In 1962, he received a Canada Council Fellowship; in 1967 he was a writer-in-residence at the Mona, Jamaica, campus of the University of the West Indies. After a twelve-year hiatus, he published two more novels, Natives of My Person (1972) and Water with Berries (1972). In 1975, Lamming was a writer-in-residence at the University of Dar-es-Salaam and the University of Nairobi. In 1976, he was awarded a British Commonwealth Foundation grant, a traveling fellowship that took him to major universities in India and Australia. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Connecticut, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, and the University of North Carolina....
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