The Lonely Londoners

by Samuel Selvon

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Samuel Selvon's novel The Lonely Londoners depicts the lives of a group of immigrants from the West Indies in London after the Second World War.

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Samuel Selvon's 1956 novel, The Lonely Londoners, describes the lives of Caribbean immigrants in London after World War II. Many of these people had come to London with high expectations, thinking of it as the greatest city in the world and themselves as British citizens who could be sure of a welcome there. The characters in the novel discover that London is a great city but that it is also bewildering and often hostile.

The novel's central character is Moses Aloetta, an immigrant from Trinidad who has been in London for more than ten years. He is asked to look after a new arrival from Trinidad called Galahad. These two names are clearly significant: Moses is the wise old prophet; Galahad is the young knight on a quest. Galahad's naivety and optimism act as a foil for Moses's world-weary attitude after ten years of coping with indignity, poverty, and racism.

The characters in the novel represent a variety of ways of coping with immigrant life in London. Moses has had to be flexible but has maintained his standards and has not resorted to living off others, or the state. This is an ideal that he and Galahad share. Another character called "Cap" or "Captain," however, lives exclusively by borrowing from friends and exploiting the women with whom he forms relationships, often two or more at a time.

Towards the end of the novel, Selvon spends much of his time discussing the interactions between Black and white people in London, focusing particularly on their romantic and sexual relationships. These are not all exploitative, as Cap's relationships are, but they can never be straightforward and avoid questions of race either.

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