George Lamming

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George Lamming
Photo of George Lamming by Carl Van Vechten, 1955
Photo of George Lamming by Carl Van Vechten, 1955
BornGeorge William Lamming
(1927-06-08) 8 June 1927 (age 94)
Carrington Village, Barbados
  • Novelist
  • essayist
  • poet
  • academic
NationalityBajan (Barbadian)
Notable works

George Lamming (born 8 June 1927) is a Bajan novelist, essayist and poet[1] and an important figure in Caribbean literature, who first won critical acclaim with his debut novel, In the Castle of My Skin (1953).[2] He has held academic posts including as a distinguished visiting professor at Duke University and a visiting professor in the Africana Studies Department of Brown University,[3] and has lectured extensively worldwide.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

George William Lamming was born on 8 June 1927 in Carrington Village, Barbados, of mixed African and English parentage. After his mother married his stepfather, Lamming split his time between this birthplace and his stepfather's home in St David's Village. Lamming attended Roebuck Boys' School and Combermere School on a scholarship. Encouraged by his teacher, Frank Collymore, Lamming found the world of books and started to write.


Lamming left Barbados to work as a teacher from 1946 to 1950 in Port of Spain, Trinidad,[5] at El Colegio de Venezuela, a boarding school for boys. He then emigrated to England where, for a short time, he worked in a factory. As he later wrote:

"Migration was not a word I would have used to describe what I was doing when I sailed with other West Indians to England in 1950. We simply thought we were going to an England that had been painted in our childhood consciousness as a heritage and a place of welcome. It is the measure of our innocence that neither the claim of heritage nor the expectation of welcome would have been seriously doubted. England was not for us a country with classes and conflicts of interest like the islands we left. It was the name of a responsibility whose origin may have coincided with the beginning of time. ...
"The emigrants were largely men in search of work. My friend and fellow traveller, the late Samuel Selvon of Trinidad, was a poet and short-story writer then halfway through his first novel, A Brighter Sun. Sam and I had left home for the same reason - to make a career as a writer. This was a journey to an expectation, and between 1948 and 1960 every West Indian novelist of significance within their region made a similar journey: Wilson Harris, Edgar Mittleholzer, Ian Carew of Guyana, Roger Mais, Andrew Salkey and John Hearne of Jamaica.[6]

In 1951 Lamming became a broadcaster for the BBC Colonial Service. His writings were published in the Barbadian magazine Bim, edited by his teacher Frank Collymore, and the BBC's Caribbean Voices radio series broadcast his poems and short prose. Lamming himself read poems on Caribbean Voices, including some by the young Derek Walcott.[7]

Lamming's first novel, In the Castle of My Skin, was published in London in 1953. It won a Somerset Maugham Award and was championed by eminent figures the like of Jean-Paul Sartre and Richard Wright,[8] the latter writing an introduction to the book's US edition.[9] Lamming was subsequently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and became a professional writer. He began to travel widely, going to the United States in 1955, the West Indies in 1956 and West Africa in 1958.[10] His second novel, The Emigrants, (1954), which focuses on the migrants' journey and the process of resettlement, was described by Quarterly Black Review as "very thought-provoking. It shows how adrift black people can be as they search for a political, economic and social context. It should also be read as an example of how black people have tried to use the novel to tell their own unique story in a unique way."[11]

He entered academia in 1967 as 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).[12] Since then, he has been 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.[13]

George Lamming in 1988

In April 2012, he was chair of the judges for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature,[14] and served as chief judge for the inaugural Walter Rodney Awards for Creative Writing 2014.[4]


Lamming is the author of six novels: In the Castle of My Skin (1953), The Emigrants (1954), Of Age and Innocence (1958), Season of Adventure (1960), Water with Berries (1971) and Natives of My Person (1972). His much acclaimed first novel, In the Castle of My Skin, featuring an autobiographical character named G., can be read as both a coming-of-age story as well as the story of the Caribbean.[15]

His 1960 collection of essays, The Pleasures of Exile, is a pioneering work that attempts to define the place of the West Indian in the post-colonial world, re-interpreting Shakespeare's The Tempest and the characters of Prospero and Caliban in terms of personal identity and the history of the Caribbean.[16]

A more recent (1995) collection of essays is Coming, Coming Home: Conversations II – Western Education and the Caribbean Intellectual.[17]

Honours and recognition[edit]

Brown University held a two-day series of events celebrating Lamming, 8–9 March 2011.[18]

In May 2011 the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC)[19] awarded Lamming the first Caribbean Hibiscus Award in acknowledgement of his lifetime's work.[20] In 2014, he won a Lifetime Achievement Prize from the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.[21]

George Lamming Primary School, located at Flint Hall, St Michael, was named in his honour and opened on 2 September 2008.[3][22][23]

His work is celebrated through the George Lamming Pedagogical Centre, housed at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination (EBCCI),[24] with annual distinguished lecture series held annually in June, the month of Lamming's birth.[4] His personal literary collection is housed at the Sidney Martin Library, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados.[4]

Published works[edit]


  • In the Castle of My Skin (London: Michael Joseph; New York: McGraw-Hill, 1953)
  • The Emigrants (London: Michael Joseph; New York: McGraw Hill, 1954. London: Allison & Busby, 1980)
  • Of Age and Innocence (London: Michael Joseph, 1958; London: Allison & Busby, 1981)
  • Season of Adventure (London: Michael Joseph, 1960; Allison & Busby, 1979; Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999)
  • Water with Berries (London: Longman, 1971; New York: Holt Rinehart, 1972)
  • Natives of my Person (London: Longman; New York: Holt Rinehart, 1972. London: Allison & Busby, 1986)


  • The Pleasures of Exile (London: Michael Joseph, 1960; Allison & Busby, 1981; Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992)
  • Coming, Coming Home: Conversations II – Western Education and the Caribbean Intellectual (Philipsburg, St. Martin: House of Nehesi, 1995, ISBN 978-0913441480; in Spanish as Regreso, regreso al hogar: Conversaciones II, 2000)[17]
  • Sovereignty of the Imagination: Conversations III – Language and the Politics of Ethnicity (House of Nehesi, 2009, ISBN 978-0913441466)[25]
  • Caribbean Reasonings – The George Lamming Reader: The Aesthetics of Decolonisation (edited by Anthony Bogues), Ian Randle Publishers, 2010, ISBN 978-0913441480.


  • Editor, Cannon Shot and Glass Beads: Modern Black Writing (London: Pan, 1974).
  • Editor, On the Canvas of the World (Port of Spain: Trinidad & Tobago Institute of the West Indies, 1999.

Uncollected short stories[edit]

  • "David's Walk", in Life and Letters (London), November 1948.
  • "Of Thorns and Thistles" and "A Wedding in Spring", in West Indian Stories, ed. Andrew Salkey. London: Faber, 1960.
  • "Birds of a Feather", in Stories from the Caribbean, ed. Andrew Salkey. London: Elek, 1965; as Island Voices, New York: Liveright, 1970.
  • "Birthday Weather", in Caribbean Literature, ed. G. R. Coulthard. London: University of London Press, 1966.

Selected awards[edit]


  1. ^ Lichtenstein, David P., "A Brief Biography of George Lamming", Literature of the Caribbean.
  2. ^ Brown University, Africana Studies.
  3. ^ a b Clarke, Sherrylyn, "Black History Month: George Lamming", NationNews (Barbados), 13 February 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d "George Lamming is Chief Judge of the Inaugural Walter Rodney Creative Writing Award", Walter Rodney Foundation, 15 February 2014.
  5. ^ "George Lamming", Encyclopædia Britannica.
  6. ^ Lamming, George (24 October 2002), "Sea of stories", The Guardian.
  7. ^ King, Bruce, Derek Walcott: A Caribbean Life (2000), p. 62.
  8. ^ "George Lamming", East-West Center.
  9. ^ Waters, Erika J.,George Lamming interview, The Caribbean Writer, 7 December 1998.
  10. ^ Hughes, Michael, "Lamming, George", in A Companion to West Indian Literature, Collins, 1979, p. 69.
  11. ^ "The Emigrants" at University of Michigan Press.
  12. ^ Moore, Gerald, "George (Eric) Lamming Biography",
  13. ^ Robinson, Lisa Clayton (2006). "Lamming, George". Oxford African American Studies Center. doi:10.1093/acref/9780195301731.013.42082. ISBN 9780195301731. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  14. ^ "Lamming laments Rodney amnesia in Guyana", Stabroek News, 1 May 2012.
  15. ^ Anderson, Teresa, "In the Castle of My Skin", Colonial & Postcolonial Literary Dialogues, Western Michigan University.
  16. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "George Lamming". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 4 August 2012.
  17. ^ a b "George Lamming’s Coming Home published in Spanish; to be launched at Carifesta VII in St. Kitts-Nevis", House of Nehesi, 3 September 2000.
  18. ^ Josephs, Kelly Baker, "Tribute to George Lamming", The Caribbean Commons — Caribbean Studies in the Northeast US, CUNY, 7 March 2011.
  19. ^ Dottin, Bea, "Cuba honours Lamming's work", NationNews, 21 May 2011.
  20. ^ Martindale, Carol, "Lamming wins literary award", NationNews, 12 May 2011.
  21. ^ a b "George Lamming – 2014 Lifetime Achievement", 80th Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.
  22. ^ "About Us" Archived 17 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine, abusSTAR.
  23. ^ "Barbados: Educators excited as CFS model is expanded", Eastern Caribbean – UNICEF.
  24. ^ "The George Lamming Pedagogical Centre", EBCCI, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados.
  25. ^ "Sovereignty of the Imagination, Language and the Politics of Ethnicity - Conversations III" at Amazon.
  26. ^ "George Lamming guest lectures at the St. Augustine Campus", Campus News, UWI, St Augustine, 12 September 2011.
  27. ^ The Somerset Maugham Awards – Past Winners" Archived 26 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine, The Society of Authors.
  28. ^ Manheim, James, "George Lamming", Contemporary Black Biography, 2003.
  29. ^ "Langston Hughes Medal", Book Awards,
  30. ^ Creighton, Al, "George Lamming: 'An outstanding Caribbean literary icon'", Stabroek News, 22 June 2003.
  31. ^ Ransome, Debbie, "Caricom's 'disconnect'", BBC Caribbean, 2 July 2008.
  32. ^ 7th Annual St. Martin Bookfair (Salon de Livre de St. Martin), 2009.
  33. ^ "George Lamming Thanks Alba Award for the Work of his Life", Radio Cadena Agramonte, Cuba, 18 February 2012.
  34. ^ Editorial, "Celebrating with the indefatigable George Lamming", Jamaica Observer, 28 April 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • Boxhill, Anthony, Critical Perspectives on George Lamming, Passeggiata Press, 1986.
  • Dalleo, Raphael. "Authority and the Occasion for Speaking in the Caribbean Literary Field: George Lamming and Martin Carter”. Small Axe 20 (June 2006): 19–39.
  • Dalleo, Raphael. Caribbean Literature and the Public Sphere: From the Plantation to the Postcolonial. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011.
  • Forbes, Curdella. From Nation to Diaspora: Samuel Selvon, George Lamming And the Cultural Performance of Gender. Kingston: University of West Indies Press, 2005.
  • Joseph, Margaret Paul. Caliban in Exile: The Outsider in Caribbean Fiction. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992.
  • Munro, Ian, "George Lamming", in Bruce King (ed.), West Indian Literature, Macmillan, 1979, pp. 126–43.
  • Nair, Supriya. Caliban's Curse: George Lamming and the Revisioning of History. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996.
  • Pouchet Paquet, Sandra. The Novels of George Lamming. London: Heinemann, 1983.
  • Rao, S. Jayasrinivasa. "Redemption Song: Narrative, Time, and Narrator/s in George Lamming's In the Castle of my Skin." Literary Criterion 43: 1 (5-33), 2008.
  • Saunders, Patricia. "The Pleasures/Privileges of Exile: Re/covering Race and Sexuality in The Pleasures of Exile and Water With Berries. Alien-Nation and Repatriation: Translating Identity in Anglophone Caribbean Literature. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2007.
  • Simoes da Silva, A. J., The Luxury of Nationalist Despair: George Lamming's Fiction as Decolonizing Project, Atlanta: Rodopi, 2000.

External links[edit]