Pauline Melville (born 1948) is a Guyanese-born writer and actress of mixed European and Amerindian ancestry, who is currently based in London, England. Among awards she has received for her writing are the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Award, and the Guyana Prize for Literature.
Melville was born in Guyana; her mother was English, and her father Guyanese.
A professional actor before she became a writer, Melville has appeared in films that include Mona Lisa (playing the part of Dawn), as Dora in The Long Good Friday. She also appeared in television programmes: as Vyvyans's mother in the BBC Television comedy series The Young Ones; as Yvonne in Girls On Top, among other roles.
Melville's first book, Shape-Shifter (1990), a collection of short stories, won the 1991 Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Overall Winner, Best First Book), and the Guardian Fiction Prize. A number of the stories deal with post-colonial life in the Caribbean, particularly in her native Guyana, as well as of some stories being set in London. Many of her characters, most of them displaced people from former colonies struggling to come to terms with a new life in Britain, attempt to find an identity, to reconcile their past and to escape from the restlessness hinted at in the title. Salman Rushdie described the collection as "notably sharp, funny, original...part Caribbean magic, part London grime, written in a slippery, chameleon language that is a frequent delight".
Her first novel, The Ventriloquist's Tale (1997), won the Whitbread First Novel Award, and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. In the book - which one reviewer has characterised as "a unique look at the conflicts of ancient and modern ways" - Melville explores the nature of fiction and storytelling and writes about the impact of European colonisers on Guyanese Amerindians through the story of a brother and sister.
Her 1998 collection, The Migration of Ghosts (1998), is a book of complex layered tales of physical and emotional displacement. According to one reviewer: "A magnificent sense of pacing is the first of Melville's skills that impresses the reader of this mesmerizing collection. The second is her gift for voices ... she has an amazing range, from West Indians in London celebrating carnival, to the self-conscious, resentful Macusi Indian brought by her literal-minded British husband to a wedding in London, to the irritable Canadian wife whose husband has been sent to Guyana for two years to serve as unofficial liar for a mining corporation. Magic realism is the label most readers and critics will paste on Melville's work ... it is an appropriate but incomplete description. The dozen stories spill over with musical chaos and sly humor.... The magic in Melville's eccentric tales is neither good nor bad, white nor black, but the magic of the teeming pluralness and the many possibilities of life."
In November 2012, Melville delivered a lecture entitled "Guyanese Literature, Magic Realism and the South American Connection" in the Edgar Mittelholzer Memorial Lecture series at the Umana Yana in Georgetown.
Melville now lives in London.
Prizes and awards 
- 1990 Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Overall Winner, Best First Book) for Shape-Shifter
- 1990 Guardian Fiction Prize for Shape-Shifter
- 1991 PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award for Shape-Shifter
- 1997 Whitbread First Novel Award for The Ventriloquist's Tale
- 1998 Orange Prize for Fiction (shortlist) for The Ventriloquist's Tale
- 1998 Guyana Prize for Literature for The Ventriloquist's Tale
- Shape-Shifter, London: Women's Press, 1990, ISBN 978-0-7043-5051-9; Pantheon Books, 1991, ISBN 978-0-679-40438-5
- The Ventriloquist's Tale, London: Bloomsbury, 1997, ISBN 978-0-7475-3150-0; Bloomsbury USA, 1999, ISBN 978-1-58234-026-5
- The Migration of Ghosts. London: Bloomsbury. 1998. ISBN 978-0-7475-3675-8.; Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2000, ISBN 978-1-58234-074-6
- Eating Air, London: Telegram, 2009, ISBN 978-1-84659-076-4
- Ulysses (1967)
- Far from the Madding Crowd (1967), as "Mrs. Tall"
- The Long Good Friday (1980), as "Dora"
- Boom Boom, Out Go the Lights (1981), as herself
- Britannia Hospital (1982), as "Clarissa"
- Scrubbers (1983), as "Crow"
- White City (1985), as "Woman in dole office"
- Mona Lisa (1986), as "Dawn"
- How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989), as "Mrs. Wailace"
- The House of Bernarda Alba (1991)(TV), as "Prudencia"
- Utz (1992), as "a Curator"
- Shadowlands (1993), as a "Committee Chairwoman"
- The Young Ones (1982), as "Vyyvan's mum" (in episodes "Sick" and "Boring") and "Woman on Bus" (in "Demolition")
- Girls On Top (1985) playing "Yvonne" (three episodes)
- Happy Families (1985) playing "Warder"
- Blackadder's Christmas Carol, (1988) as "Mrs. Scratchit"
- The Comic Strip Presents, (1988) as "Pauline Sneak" in episode "Didn't You Kill My Brother?"
- Alexei Sayle's Stuff (1988)
- Red Dwarf (1989) as "Barmaid" (uncredited)
- Alas Smith and Jones (1990) (two episodes)
- 2 Point 4 Children (1992) playing "Babs"
- Spender (1993) as "Judge"
- Ghostwriter (TV series) (1994) as "Wise Rita" (one episode)
- Geoff Sadler, Pauline Melville Biography.
- Pauline Melville at contemporary writers.com
- Pauline Melville–THE VENTRILOQUIST’S TALE, Seeing the World Through Books, Reviews by Mary Whipple, 17 January 2011.
- Publishers Weekly, 29 March 1999.
- Stevie Davis, "Eating Air, By Pauline Melville" (review), The Independent, 2 October 2009.
- (Video) Mittelholzer memorial lecture, Stabroek News, 30 November 2012.
Further reading 
- John Thieme, "Throwing One’s Voice? Narrative Agency in Pauline Melville’s The Ventriloquist’s Tale", Academia.edu
- Pauline Melville at the Internet Movie Database
- Pauline Melville, internationales literaturfestival berlin
- "Return and Leave and Return Again", Anthurian, Jordan Stouck
- "Pauline Melville". The Guardian. 2 January 2010.
- The literary talents of Pauline Melville, Stabroek News, November 30, 2010
- "One Minute With: Pauline Melville", The Independent, Boyd Tonkin, 4 September 2009.
- "Small Talk: Pauline Melville", interview by Anna Metcalfe, Financial Times, 12 July 2010.
- 100 Words: Pauline Melville “The Parrot and Descartes”, StoopidNoodle, 10 January 2013.
- Telesha Ramnarine, "Personality profile: A fiery advocate against social injustice and racism- the story of Guyanese writer Pauline Carol Melville", Guyana Chronicle Online, 1 December 2012.