Andrew Salkey (30 January 1928 – 28 April 1995) was a novelist, poet, children's books writer and journalist of Jamaican and Haitian origin. He was born in Panama but raised in Jamaica, moving to Britain in the 1950s to pursue university education. A prolific writer and editor, he was the author of more than 30 books in the course of his career, including novels for adults and for children, poetry collections, anthologies, travelogues and essays. He died in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he had been teaching since the 1970s, holding a lifetime position as Writer-In-Residence at Hampshire College.
He was born as Felix Andrew Alexander Salkey in Colón, Panama, to Jamaican parents, Andrew Alexander Salkey, a businessman, and Linda Marshall Salkey. When two years old, Salkey was sent to Jamaica, where he was raised by his grandmother and his mother, who worked there as a teacher, while his father continued to work in Panama.
Salkey was educated at St George's College, in Kingston, and at Munro College, in St. Elizabeth, before going to England in the early 1950s to attend the College of St Mark and St John. According to Stuart Hall, Salkey "quickly took his place at the centre of a small but outstanding circle of Caribbean writers and intellectuals. For a critical period he was the key figure, the main presenter and writer-in-residence in the Caribbean section of the BBC World Service at Bush House, London, and his programmes became a glittering showcase for a generation of writers, including Sam Selvon and George Lamming, who had made London their second home. Established and aspiring authors were chivvied, cajoled, gently chastised, inspired and schooled to produce new work for radio on the Caribbean Voices programme over which Andrew Salkey often presided." After reading V. S. Naipaul's first story Salkey encouraged him to continue writing.
Salkey was a part of the West Indian Students Union (WISU), which provided an effective forum for Caribbean students to express their ideas and provided voluntary support to the "harassed" working-class Caribbean immigrant community, during the 1960s, '70s and '80s. The association also included Gerry Burton, Arif Ali, Chris LeMaitre, John La Rose and Horace Lashley.
In the mid-1950s Salkey taught English at Walworth Secondary School (also known as Mina Road school), an early comprehensive just off the Old Kent Road in South-east London. His first novel, A Quality of Violence – set around 1900 in a remote area of Jamaica, and narrated in a Jamaican patois – was published in 1959, and his second, Escape to An Autumn Pavement, in 1960. That same year Salkey edited one of the first anthologies of Caribbean short stories, West Indian Stories, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in the field of folklore and popular culture. His novels that followed were The Late Emancipation of Jerry Stover (1968), The Adventures of Catullus Kelly (1969) and Come Home, Malcolm Heartland (1976). He was a prolific writer and subsequently published several books for children, poetry, travelogues, books that drew on folk traditions, including Anancy's Score (1973), as well as editing anthologies including Breaklight (1971).
In 1966 he co-founded with John La Rose and Kamau Brathwaite the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM), as a platform for Caribbean artists, writers, actors and musicians. Salkey gave an address at CAM's third and final conference, held at the West Indian Students' Centre, in which he talked about the importance of "Black awareness", and stated: "Our own Caribbean communities must become the new centres of which we first seek approval of the fruits of our imagination. Only then may we move from within our society outward with assurance."
Salkey was good friends with Austin Clarke, and the two had a long written correspondence, a great deal of which is available in Clarke's files at the McMaster University Archives in Hamilton, Ontario.
"I was headed nowhere like a hundred million others: I had escaped a malformed Jamaican middle class; I had attained my autumn pavement; I had done more than my fair share of hurting, rejecting, and condemning; and I had created another kind of failure, and this time, in another country." (From Escape To An Autumn Pavement)
Salkey was a director and constant supporter of the London-based publishing company Bogle-L'Ouverture founded by Guyanese-born Jessica Huntley, who (together with a committee comprising Louis James, John La Rose, Marc Matthews, Mervyn Morris, Jason Salkey, Anne Walmsley, Eliot Salkey and Ronald Warwick) organised on 19–20 June 1992 a two-day symposium and celebration called "Salkey's Score". Held at the Commonwealth Institute, it paid tribute to Salkey in respect of his work in London in the 1960s and 1970s with the Caribbean Artists Movement; his journalism on the BBC radio programme Caribbean Voices; his contributions to developing the teaching of Caribbean writing in schools; the importance he gave to the relationship of Africa to personal and communal Caribbean identity; his work in Cuba; and his prolific output of novels, poetry and other writings.
The Andrew Salkey Memorial Scholarship has been established at Hampshire College, as an "award for students who show exceptional writing promise".
- A Quality of Violence (novel; Hutchinson, 1959; New Beacon Books, 1978). ISBN 090124127X; ISBN 9780901241276.
- Escape to an Autumn Pavement (novel; Hutchinson, 1960; Leeds: Peepal Tree Press Modern Caribbean Classics, 2009)
- West Indian Stories (editor; Faber and Faber, 1960, 1968). ISBN 0571086306
- Hurricane (children's novel; Oxford University Press, 1964; 1979. Harmondsworth: Puffin Books, 1977. New York: Penguin, 1977) (winner of the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis)
- Earthquake (children's novel; Oxford University Press, 1965)
- Stories from the Caribbean (editor; Paul Elek Books, 1965)
- Commonwealth Poetry (editor of West Indian section; 1965)
- The Shark Hunters (Nelson, 1966)
- Drought (Oxford University Press, 1966)
- Riot (Oxford University Press, 1967)
- Caribbean Prose: an anthology for secondary schools (editor; Evans, 1967)
- The Late Emancipation of Jerry Stover (novel; Hutchinson, 1968). ISBN 0-09-085530-2
- The Adventures of Catullus Kelly (Hutchinson, 1969) ISBN 0-09-095140-9
- Island Voices: Stories from the West Indies (compiler; Liveright, 1970). ISBN 0-87140-504-0
- Jonah Simpson (Oxford University Press, 1970)
- Breaklight: an anthology of Caribbean poetry, chosen, edited and introduced by Andrew Salkey (Hamish Hamilton, 1971). ISBN 0-241-01962-1
- Havana Journal (Penguin Books, 1971) ISBN 0-14-021303-1
- Georgetown Journal: a Caribbean writer’s journey from London via Port of Spain to Georgetown, Guyana, 1970 (New Beacon Books, 1972). ISBN 0-901241-13-X
- Caribbean Essays: an anthology; edited and introduced by Andrew Salkey (Evans, 1973). ISBN 0-237-28943-1
- Jamaica (poems; Hutchinson, 1973; Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications, 1983). ISBN 0-09-115741-2
- Anancy’s Score (Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications, 1973) ISBN 0-9501546-7-9. ISBN 0-9501546-8-7
- Joey Tyson (Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications, 1974). ISBN 0-9501546-9-5, ISBN 0-904521-00-1
- Come Home, Malcolm Heartland (novel; Hutchinson, 1976)
- Writing in Cuba since the Revolution: an anthology of poems, short stories, and essays (editor; Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications, 1977). ISBN 0-904521-05-2, ISBN 0-904521-04-4 (pbk)
- In the Hills Where Her Dreams Live: Poems for Chile, 1973–1978 (Casa de las Americas, 1979)
- The River that Disappeared (Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications, 1979)
- Land (Black Scholar Press, 1979)
- Danny Jones (Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications, 1980)
- Riot (Oxford University Press, 1980). ISBN 0-19-277105-1
- Away (poems; Allison & Busby, 1980). ISBN 0-85031-337-6, ISBN 0-85031-338-4 (pbk)
- The One: the story of how the people of Guyana avenge the murder of their Pasero with help from Brother Anancy and Sister Buxton (Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications, 1985)
- Brother Anancy and other stories (Longman, 1993). ISBN 0-582-22581-7
- In the Border Country and other stories (Bogle-l'Ouverture Press, 1998). ISBN 0-904521-94-X
- "Jamaica Symphony" (long poem, unpublished, winner of Thomas Helmore Poetry Prize, 1955).
Peter Nazareth. In the Trickster Tradition: The Novels of Andrew Salkey, Francis Ebejar and Ishmael Reed. Bogle L'Ouverture Press, 1994.
- Rhonda Cobham-Sander, "Going with the flow", Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, Vol. 10, Issue 2 , Art. 14; p. 6.
- Andrew Salkey biography. Encyclopedia of AfroEuropean Studies.
- Stuart Hall, "Obituary: Andrew Salkey", The Independent, 16 May 1995.
- Hilary Mantel, "Naipaul's Book of the World" (review of The Writer and the World), New York Review of Books, 24 October 2002.
- Stephen Bourne (19 July 2005). Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in British Film and Television. Continuum. pp. 117–118. ISBN 978-0-8264-7898-6.
- Hendy, David (2007). Life on Air: A History of Radio Four. Oxford University Press. p. 39. ISBN 9780199248810.
- "Andrew Salkey", Encyclopædia Britannica.
- Quoted in Rob Waters, "Henry Swanzy, Sartre's zombie? Black Power and the transformation of the Caribbean Artists Movement", in Claire Wintle and Ruth Craggs (eds), Cultures of Decolonisation: Transnational Productions and Practices, 1945-70, Manchester University Press, 2016, p. 79.
- Aim25, Archives in London and the M25 Area, "Salkey Score Committee", held at London Metropolitan Archives.
- "Andrew Salkey Memorial Scholarship", Hampshire College Scholarships.
- "Hampshire College Celebrates the Life and Work of Andrew Salkey", The Harold, 19 March 2013.
- Jonathan Ali, "Lonely Londoner", The Caribbean Review of Books, July 2010.