BARBADIAN novelist, essayist, and poet George Lamming passed away on Saturday, June 4, 2022.
George Lamming was born on June 8, 1927, in Barbados and started his career as a teacher before emigrating to England and finding work as a broadcaster for the BBC Colonial Service.
His debut novel In the Castle of My Skin (1953) won him the Somerset Maugham Award and further critical acclaim allowing him to move from broadcasting and become a professional writer. He went on to write the novels The Emigrants (1954), Of Age and Innocence (1958), Season of Adventure (1960), Water with Berries (1971), and Natives of My Person (1972).
He also wrote the essay collections The Pleasures of Exile (1960) and Coming, Coming Home: Conversations II – Western Education and the Caribbean Intellectual (1995), Sovereignty of the Imagination: Conversations III – Language and the Politics of Ethnicity (2009), and Caribbean Reasonings – The George Lamming Reader: The Aesthetics of Decolonisation (2010). He also contributed many short stories and essays to many publications.
Some of the accolades he was conferred for his work were the Companion of Honour of Barbados, Langston Hughes Medal, Order of the Caribbean Community, The President’s Award (St. Martin Book Fair), Caribbean Hibiscus Prize from UNEAC, and the ALBA Cultural Award.
He started his journey in academia when he was a writer-in-residence and lecturer in the Creative Arts Centre and Department of Education at the University of the West Indies, Kingston (1967–68). Later, he was a visiting professor in the United States at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Connecticut, Brown University, Cornell University, and Duke University and a lecturer in Denmark, Tanzania, and Australia. Lamming also directed the University of Miami’s Summer Institute for Caribbean Creative Writing.
He passed away on June 4, 2022, four days before he turned 95 years. There has been an outpouring of grief in the writing communities across the African writing ecosystem. Here are a few reactions;
George Lamming 8 June 1927 – 4 June 2022
We mourn the extinguishing of a great light of Caribbean letters. Lamming’s work has been essential for so many of us in trying to untangle the central questions of Caribbean cultural and political sovereignty. He helped us to understand how we struggle “slowly and painfully to resolve the contradiction of being at once independent and neocolonial.” Political independence of course is a goal yet to be achieved by many Caribbean countries and other forms are equally elusive. So we continue to feel deeply his dictum that “Our Caribbeanness is thus an unending project”, that solidarity has to be taught or learned, not assumed. We continue to be guided by his faith in our ability to approach cultural sovereignty & his belief that our “diversity has been an abundant blessing for cultural workers in all the arts in the Caribbean.” He argued that it is the writer who must aid the politician in creating new visions for our societies. Rest well, our cherished elder, from your fruitful labors. — Dr. Lisa Outar, Caribbean literary scholar. Acting Editor in Chief, Journal of West Indian Literature.
Samuel Selvon has long been recognised as a leading writer of the Windrush generation, but so too was #GeorgeLamming #GeorgeLamming, with his seminal NOVEL IN THE CASTLE OF MY SKIN (1953), yet I can’t find any obits outside of the Caribbean, sadly.
For those who read “In the Castle of My Skin” and still remember the page one downpour added “botheration” to their lexica, and in the story found seeds of interpreting Afro-being in this odd world, its dear author, George Lamming has crossed That Threshold. Gratitude — Yvonne Adhiambo Owour
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