Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Saturday, August 30, 2003  

"[Sam] Selvon, a Trinidadian Indian like VS Naipaul, emerged from a region where blacks and Indians existed on opposite sides of a poisonous and often violent ethnic divide. In the context, there is something uncomfortable about the extent to which Selvon's humour is based on racist needling. Take one of the characters in Lonely Londoners, Fives, who gets his name when someone looks at him and remarks that he is as black as midnight, then looks again and says: 'No. You more like Five Past Twelve.' The innocence of the 'peasant writer' of [George] Lamming's imagination might have made the jibe excusable. For a writer of Selvon's acuteness it has a different meaning, and it's therefore no accident that the hallmarks of black identity in Selvon's work are foolishness, venality and a childlike gullibility. This 'affection', as Sandhu calls it, is not so different from Naipaul's open hostility."

-- Mike Phillips, taking a critical (and in my view, misguided) look at Sam Selvon (and VS Naipaul) in a review of Sukhdev Sandhu's London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City, in the UK Guardian Saturday Review.

posted by Jonathan | 1:19 AM 0 comments


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