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LECTURE: Selvon

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Sam Knowles

on 17 January 2013

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Transcript of LECTURE: Selvon

Dr Sam Knowles
University of Lincoln
Dis-Locations 'There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack'
Sam Selvon's and 1950s London A sense of promise? Caribbeans in London Empire Windrush MV * June 1948
* 493 passengers
* former troop ship (hence the name)
* Kingston, Jamaica to Tilbury, Essex
* passengers known as 'Windrush generation' Home comfort? Music * calypsos
* contemporary events
* e.g. calypsonian Lord Kitchener (Trinidadian, Aldwyn Roberts) The Lonely Londoners ‘The start of the postwar Caribbean diaspora is usually associated with the arrival of the rather dilapidated troop-ship, the […] ,
which docked at Tilbury in June 1948. The ship had been sent to scour the Caribbean and bring back WWII volunteers who had been given temporary home leave to visit their families before returning to Britain to be demobbed. Three hundred servicemen and women from throughout the islands gathered in Jamaica for the return trip, and since the ship’s capacity was 600, the extra berths were offered to anyone who wanted to emigrate and could stump up the fare of £28. No papers or visas were required since these were the innocent days when all West Indians had right of entry as legitimate British passport holders.’—Stuart Hall, ‘Calypso Kings’, , June 28 2002. Empire Windrush The Guardian 'Calypso was the first popular music transported directly from the West Indies and, in the early days, migrants from the southern Caribbean would meet to listen nostalgically to the recording of that year's winning calypso or their favourite calypsonian […] The calypso, a topical song associated with [the Trinidad] Carnival, specially composed for the occasion, was much influenced by [the] carnivalesque tradition — a period of licensed expression, when for a time, the normal rules of everyday life are suspended, the world is turned upside-down, and the people of “the below” are granted the freedom both to revel in public and to comment on and satirise the actions and behaviour of those in authority. The calypsonian is free to comment ironically on any aspect or event of everyday life, to expose the sexual and political scandals of the politicians and the rich, to recount gossip and to scandalise the powerful without fear of redress.’—Hall, ‘Calypso Kings’ 'London is the Place for Me' (1948) ‘...Well believe me, I am speaking broad-mindedly,
I am glad to know my mother country;
I been travelling to countries years ago,
But this the place I wanted to know:
London, that’s the place for me...’ The Guardian ‘Tanty say excited, “I tell all of them who coming, ‘Why all you leaving the country to go to England? Over there it so cold that only white people does live there.’ But they say that it have more work in England, and better pay. And to tell you the truth, when I hear that Tolroy getting five pound a week, I had to agree.”’—Sam Selvon,
(London: Penguin, 2006 [1956]), pp. 10–11. The Lonely Londoners 1945 VE Day 1946 Canadian Citizenship Act 1947 Commonwealth Conference 1948 British Nationality Act Felix H. Man ‘pidgin’: ‘refer[s] to a language with a markedly reduced grammatical structure, lexicon, and stylistic range, compared with other languages, and which is the native language of no one.’ ‘creole’: ‘refer[s] to a pidgin language which has become the mother-tongue of a speech community, as is the case in Jamaica, Haiti, Dominica, and several other ex-colonial parts of the world.’ —David Crystal, ,
5th edn (Malden, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), pp. 354, 117 A Dictionary of Linguistics & Phonetics ‘The same way with the big clock they have in Piccadilly Tube Station, what does tell the time of places all over the world. The time when he had a date with Daisy [Galahad] tell her to meet him there.
‘“How you don’t know where it is?” he say when she tell him she don’t know where it is. “Is a place that everybody know, everybody does have dates there, is a meeting place.”’ ‘“What time it is now in Trinidad?” Galahad look at the big clock, watching for Trinidad; the island so damn small it only have a dot and the name. “That is where I come from,” he tell Daisy, “you see how far it is from England?”
‘“We’ll be late,” Daisy say.’ — , pp. 72, 80 The Lonely Londoners ‘“Mummy, look at that black man!” A little child, holding on to the mother hand, look up at Sir Galahad.
‘“You mustn’t say that, dear!” The mother chide the child.
[…]
‘But the mother child uneasy as they stand up there on the pavement with so many white people around: if they was alone she might have talked a little, and ask Galahad what part of the world he come from, but instead she pull the child along and she look at Galahad and give a sickly sort of smile, and the old Galahad, knowing how it is, smile back and walk on.’ — , p. 76 The Lonely Londoners ‘“Look, a Negro!” It was an external stimulus that flicked over me as I passed by. I made a tight smile.
[…]
‘“Mama, see the Negro! I’m frightened!” Frightened! Frightened! Now they were beginning to be afraid of me. I made up my mind to laugh myself to tears, but laughter had become impossible.’ —Frantz Fanon, , , trans. by Charles Lam Markmann (London: Pluto Press, 1986; originally publ., as , 1952), pp. 111–12 Black Skin, White Masks Peau noire, masques blancs ‘[W]hen newspapers say that the West Indians think that the streets of London paved with gold a Jamaican fellar went to the income tax office to find out something and first thing the clerk tell him is, “You people think the streets of London are paved with gold?”’— , p. 2 The Lonely Londoners ‘“So don’t expect that they will treat you like anybody special — to them you will just be another one of them black Jamaicans who coming to London thinking that the streets paved with gold.”’— , p. 22 The Lonely Londoners ‘all them girls think like the newspapers say about the Jamaicans that the streets of London paved with gold so they coming by the boatload’— , p. 93 The Lonely Londoners ‘And they would start big oldtalk with the travellers, finding out what happening in Trinidad, in Grenada, in Barbados, in Jamaica and Antigua, what is the latest calypso number, if anybody dead, and so on.’— , p. 4 The Lonely Londoners ‘Meanwhile a African fellar would be playing the piano — he would give you a classic by Chopin, then a calypso, then one of them funny African tune.’— , p. 30 The Lonely Londoners ‘“You too smart, when the next set come I wouldn’t find you,” Tanty say, taking a firm hold of Harris. “Tell this girl to unlace you: you know what they playing? ‘Fan Me Saga Boy Fan Me’, and that is my favourite calypso.”’— , pp. 110–11 The Lonely Londoners ‘Oh what a time it is when summer come to the city […] what a time summer is […] but it different too bad when is summer for then the sun shine for true […] when summer come is fire in the town big times fete like stupidness […] they sit down on the grass and talk about how lovely the city is in the summer […] what a gambol does go on in the park on them summer nights […] summer does really be hearts […] in the blazing summer under the trees in the park on the grass with the daffodils and tulips in full bloom and a sky of blue oh it does really be beautiful’— , pp. 92–101 The Lonely Londoners ‘The Lonely Londoners turn[s] frequently to calypso for the resources which influence a vision of London as something other than the terrifying experience of objectification, economic hardship, racism and loneliness. […] The narratorial voice often used in Selvon’s work is indebted to Trinidad Creole English […] which, for Selvon at least, enshrined the creative and popular spirit of calypso.’—John McLeod,
(Abingdon and NY: Routledge, 2004), pp. 27, 31 Postcolonial London: Rewriting the Metropolis Calypso in Selvon ‘“Look what happen to that Indian fellar what married a German girl and went back after he study. He kill the girl, cut she up and put she in a sack and throw she in the sea. You don’t know about that case?”
‘“I hear about it.”
‘“That was a big thing, man. They even send detective to London to check up fingerprint and thing. You should know in the end they hang the test, and the boys make a big calypso out of it.”’
— , p. 129 The Lonely Londoners Moses Pondering ‘When [Moses] get to Waterloo he hop off and went in the station, and right away in that big station he had a feeling of homesickness that he never felt in the nine-ten years he in this country.’— , p. 4 The Lonely Londoners ‘Every year [Tolroy] vowing to go back to Trinidad, but after the winter gone […] is as if life start all over again, as if it still have time, as if it still have another chance. I will wait until after the summer, the summer does really be hearts.’— , p. 137 The Lonely Londoners ‘[T]hough he ain’t getting no happiness out of the cogitations he still pondering...’— , p. 139 The Lonely Londoners
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