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:
- Zadie Smith
- Capturing and creating the modern, Exploring identity, Literature 1950–2000, Art, music and popular culture
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.
- Article by:
- Caryl Phillips
- Authors, artists and activists, The arrivants
Caryl Phillips introduces To Sir, With Love, E R Braithwaite's autobiographical novel about a Guyanese man who, shortly after the end of the Second World War, finds himself teaching in one of the worst schools in London's East End.
- Article by:
- Sukhdev Sandhu
- Literature 1950–2000, Exploring identity, Capturing and creating the modern
Hanif Kureishi's 1985 film My Beautiful Laundrette portrays a young British Asian man who runs a laundrette with his white schoolfriend, and the romantic relationship between the two. Sukhdev Sandhu explains how the film marked a radical departure from previous representations of British Asians in mainstream culture.
Related collection items
The Lonely Londoners (1956) overview Published in 1956, Samuel Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners is an iconic work ...
The Buddha of Suburbia (1990) is a bestselling novel by the British writer Hanif Kureishi. Its main protagonist is a ...