Published in 1956, The Lonely Londoners is Samuel Selvon’s third novel. Narrated in creolized English, the novel depicts the daily experiences of Moses Alloeta and his friends, migrants from Africa and the Caribbean. Although the novel is renowned for its humour, Moses’ anecdotal narrative shrewdly portrays the class and racial boundaries that the group faces as they strive to establish themselves in London.
Born in Trinidad and of East Indian descent, Selvon migrated to London in 1950 where he continued to write journalism, poetry and short stories. His first novel, A Brighter Sun, was published in 1952.
The Lonely Londoners is regarded as the first – and definitive – novel to represent the Black migrant experience in England (and, more specifically, in London). As such, it is a precursor to novels such as The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi and White Teeth by Zadie Smith.
- Full title:
- The Lonely Londoners
- 1956, London
- Allan Wingate
- Book / Illustration / Image
- Robin Adler [photographer]
- Usage terms
Samuel Selvon (front cover and text): © By permission of the Estate of Sam Selvon. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.
Photograph of Samuel Selvon by Robin Adler: © Robin Adler. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.
- Held by
- British Library
- Article by:
- Maria del Pilar Kaladeen
- Authors, artists and activists, Waves of history
Maria del Pilar Kaladeen's great-great-grandmother was one of thousands of migrants who left their homeland in India to work as indentured labourers on the sugar plantations of the Caribbean. Here, she explores the ‘hidden history’ of indenture and the lives of Caribbean people of Indian heritage who migrated to Britain in the Windrush era.
- Article by:
- Susheila Nasta
- Literature 1950–2000, Capturing and creating the modern, Exploring identity
The Lonely Londoners is an iconic chronicle of post-war Caribbean migration to Britain. Susheila Nasta explores how Samuel Selvon created a new means of describing the city by giving voice to the early migrant experience and capturing the romance and disenchantment of London for its new citizens.
- Article by:
- Zadie Smith
- Capturing and creating the modern, Art, music and popular culture, Literature 1950–2000, Exploring identity
When Zadie Smith encountered The Buddha of Suburbia as a teenager, she found in its description of multiracial South London suburbs an image of her own experience. Here she remembers her first reading of the novel and describes how, on rereading it as an adult, she continues to appreciate Hanif Kureishi's sense of mischief and his depictions of race and class.
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