Ralph de Boissière

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Ralph Anthony Charles de Boissière (16 October 1907 – 16 February 2008) was an Trinidad-born Australian social realist novelist.


Ralph de Boissière was born in Port of Spain, the son of Armand de Boissière, a solicitor, and Maude Harper, an English woman who died three weeks later.[1] He attended Queen's Royal College and during this time discovered the Russian authors, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Gorky, Chekhov, Pushkin and Gogol, who were to remain a lasting influence:

Initially he wished to become a concert pianist but on leaving school took a job as a salesman, which enlightened him to the living and working conditions of ordinary Trinidadians.[2] He then became involved in left-wing and trade union politics and also wrote for Trinidad's first literary magazine, The Beacon which he helped establish and where he met among others the writer C. L. R. James.[1][3] In 1935 he married Ivy Alcantara (died 1984) and they had two daughters.[1] But in 1947, having lost his job and unable to find another one because of his political activities, he and his family left the country for Chicago, afterwards moving to the Australian city of Melbourne in 1948. He found work in Australia as salesman and a factory-hand. Aged 42, de Boissière settled into a clerical job from which he retired in 1980.[2]

In Australia he joined the Communist Party and had his first novel, Crown Jewel published in 1952 by the leftist Australasian Book Society. Like all his work this depicts the struggles of the working class with realistic sympathy, culminating with a portrayal of a 1937 strike in Trinidad brutally put down by police shooting. Since then he has written four more novels and been translated into Polish, German, Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Czech and Chinese.[1] His work has been described by one critic as "combin[ing] social realism and political commitment with a concern for the culture of the feeling within the individual in a way that is unique not only among West Indian writers but among writers with a social conscience anywhere in the world."

Personal life[edit]

In 2007, his centenary year, Ralph de Boissière married his longtime companion, Dr. Annie Greet, his fourth novel, Call of the Rainbow, was published in Melbourne, and in November, he received an honorary Doctor of Literature from the University of Trinidad and Tobago. His autobiography, Life on the Edge, was posthumously published (edited by Kenneth Ramchand) in 2010.


De Boissière died in Melbourne on 16 February 2008.[4]



  • Crown Jewel (Australasian Book Society, 1952; Allison and Busby, 1981)
  • Rum and Coca-Cola (Australasian Book Society, 1956; Allison and Busby, 1984)
  • No Saddles for Kangaroos (Australasian Book Society, 1964)
  • Call of the Rainbow (L.A. Browne, Melbourne, 2007)


  • Homeless in Paradise


  • The Autobiography of Ralph de Boissière: Life on the Edge (Caroni, Trinidad: Lexicon, 2010)


  1. ^ a b c d Milne, Anthony (n.d.). "De Boissière: The Lion in Winter". Gowanus Books. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  2. ^ a b Flanagan, Martin (26 April 2004). "Political author with heart". The Age. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  3. ^ Greet, Annie (2 March 2007). "Ralph De Boissière (1907–)". The Literary Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  4. ^ "R.I.P. Ralph de Boissiere, 6 October 1907–16 February 2008". Caribbean Review of Books. 2 March 2007. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 

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