The Lonely Londoners - Sam Selvon (Longman)

Alex Roest picks up a classic. He finds it humerous, enjoyable and slightly depressing at the same time.

The Lonely Londoners - Sam Selvon (Longman)Sam Selvon's "The Lonely Londoners" first came to my attention when I read about it having been the source of inspiration for Colin MacInnes' "Absolute beginners".

As far as similarities go there's the obvious 1950s London setting as well as a certain liberation factor. By this I mean a different view of life, brilliantly portrayed through various characters.

Selvon's book deals with the circumstances the first West Indian immigrants found themselves to be under in the UK. Those weren't exactly welcoming to say the least, yet they learned how to survive, mostly the hard way.

The main character, Moses Aloetta, has been in Britain for several years and is reluctantly helping out his newly arrived countrymen to find their way as for housing and jobs, offering ( uncalled for ) advice. As the story unravels the reader gets a strikingly clear picture of the hostile and bitter cold city the West Indians were now to call home. The effect it had on me was I found it humerous, enjoyable and slightly depressing at the same time. The book is written not in 'proper' English but in Jamaican patois, adding a great deal to the atmosphere.

I'd hate to go all academic on you, others have done that before me and I doubt you'd be interested in the philosophical side anyway. There is however plenty of food for thought to be found within the struggle of everyday life, which is after all the main ingredient of "The Lonely Londoners".

So it's definitely a must read for every self-respecting Internationalist, as there's an element underneath throughout the story which in itself is hard to define, but would be an integral part of the early Modernists' attitude all the same.

Of course some of the younger Jamaicans 'Rude Boy' style would be picked up by their style obsessed white counterparts at clubs such as The Roaring Twenties. These young Mods were also developing a taste for the reggae sounds spun there, adding to the already existing predilection for jazz, R'n'B and soul.

Finally "The Lonely Londoners" may not have been what the average Mod of the day read and I'd say "Absolute Beginners" takes more than one step further as for Mod appeal. The book is also essential for those that have a serious interest in finding out about the origins of Modernism.

© Alex Roest 2004 - 2015
[Published 13 October 2004]
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About the author

Forward thinking 'style traveller' Alex Roest seems to have finally found a bit of a home within the Internationalist community.

Religiously he treats Modernism as a mere concept, forever striving to translate the early Stylist attitude into the very present....

Pic by Topaze The Hague

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casino onlinejan 5 2015 4:41AM
I'm not saying The Lonely Londoners doesn't have merit. But I just can't take it seriously as an account of black Britons if it's not actually written by a black Briton. I hope this doesn't come off as inflammatory. Hey, White Teeth is a good book.
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Aneshia Beachmar 11 2009 1:34PM
the book is truly enjoyable but this review is inaccurate. the book is not written in Jamaican patois but Trinidad Creole. it's so sad that those of the metropole still cannot distinguish one caribbean country from the other and just assumes all are Jamaicans. Selvon is a Trinidadian author.
LISAnov 25 2004 8:07PM
I enjoyed reading The Lonely Londoners. I came across it as it's one of the post colonial books on our syllabus at school.

Anyway, I enjoyed the way that the author manages to combine humour to get a his strong messages across.
Alex Roestnov 6 2004 6:10AM
Hi Damon,

Thanks a lot for the comments, they're certainly justified IMO and to be honest it shows my lack of serious research really. Must say I'm almost never that interested in authors as such although I probably should be :-)
I've looked up some info on "White Teeth" as I hadn't heard about it before and it looks an interesting read. So thanks for the tip also ! All the best,

Damonnov 5 2004 2:14PM
I've read The Lonely Londoners and sort of enjoyed it. Still, because Selvon was not a Trinidadian of African descent, I find his fictional account of Windrush-era black London a bit suspect. I'm not saying The Lonely Londoners doesn't have merit. But I just can't take it seriously as an account of black Britons if it's not actually written by a black Briton. I hope this doesn't come off as inflammatory. Hey, White Teeth is a good book.

Alex Roestokt 14 2004 10:51AM
Hi JM,

I couldn't say as I haven't read "City of Spades" as yet. I've been meaning to buy the other 2 books of the so-called trilogy by Mc Innes for some time now though. So I should really as it would make for a nice follow up to this review methinks.....
JMokt 14 2004 9:00AM

Sounds interesting ... One to get surely ! Is it a bit like 'City of Spades' ?
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