George Lamming

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

George Lamming

Photo of Lamming by Carl Van Vechten, 1955
Photo of Lamming by Carl Van Vechten, 1955
BornGeorge William Lamming
(1927-06-08)8 June 1927
Carrington Village, Barbados
Died4 June 2022(2022-06-04) (aged 94)
Bridgetown, Barbados
  • Novelist
  • essayist
  • poet
  • academic
NationalityBarbadian (Bajan)
Notable works
Nina Ghent
(m. 1950, divorced)
PartnerEsther Phillips

George William Lamming OCC (8 June 1927 – 4 June 2022) was a Barbadian novelist, essayist, and poet.[1] He first won critical acclaim for In the Castle of My Skin, his 1953 debut novel.[2] He also 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 lectured extensively worldwide.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

George William Lamming was born on 8 June 1927 in Carrington Village, Barbados,[5] of mixed Afro-Barbadian and English parentage. After his mother, Loretta Devonish, married his stepfather, Lamming split his time between this birthplace and his stepfather's home in St David's Village. He attended Roebuck Boys' School and Combermere School on a scholarship. Encouraged by his teacher, Frank Collymore – founder of the pioneering Caribbean literary magazine BIM – Lamming found the world of books and started to write.[6]


Lamming left Barbados to work as a teacher from 1946 to 1950 in Port of Spain, Trinidad,[7] at El Colegio de Venezuela, a boarding school for boys. He then emigrated to England where, for a small 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 moved with other West Indians to England in 1950. We easily 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.[8]

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.[9]

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,[10] the latter writing an introduction to the book's U.S. edition.[11] Lamming later said of the book: "I tried to reconstruct the world of my childhood and early adolescence. It was also the world of a whole Caribbean society."[12] He was 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.[13] 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."[14]

He lived in England for more than a decade but, as Hillel Italie notes, "unlike Naipaul, who settled in London and at times wrote disdainfully of his origins, Lamming returned home and became a moral, political and intellectual force for a newly independent country seeking to tell its own story. ...Lamming had a broad, connective vision he would say was inspired in part by the Trinidadian historian-activist C.L.R. James. His calling was to address the crimes of history, unearth and preserve his native culture and forge a 'collective sense' of the future."[15]

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, Mona, Jamaica (1967–68).[citation needed] Later, he was 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.[16]

Lamming in 1988

In April 2012, he was chair of the judges for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature,[17] and served as chief judge for the inaugural Walter Rodney Awards for Creative Writing 2014.[4]

George Lamming died in Bridgetown, Barbados, on 4 June 2022, four days short of what would have been his 95th birthday.[5][18][19]


Lamming wrote 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.[20] His second novel, The Emigrants, was a sequel to his debut autobiographical work, following the life of the same protagonist as he travels from Barbados to England in search of better prospects and opportunities.[21][22]

Of Age and Innocence (1958) and Season of Adventure (1960) take place on the fictional Caribbean island of San Cristobal, and 1972's Water with Berries "describes various flaws in West Indian society through the plot of Shakespeare's The Tempest."[23] Of Lamming's last novel, Jan Carew wrote in The New York Times: "'Natives of My Person' is undoubtedly George Lamming's finest novel. It succeeds in illuminating new areas of darkness in the colonial past that the colonizer has so far not dealt with, and in this sense it is a profoundly revolutionary and original work."[24]

Much of Lamming's work had gone out of print by the late 1970s, when Allison and Busby reissued several titles,[25] including his 1960 collection of essays, The Pleasures of Exile,[26] which 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.[27]

A later (1995) collection of essays is Coming, Coming Home: Conversations II – Western Education and the Caribbean Intellectual.[28]

Honours and recognition[edit]

In 2008, Lamming was awarded CARICOM's highest award, the Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC),[29] "honouring fifty-five years of extraordinary engagement with the responsibility of illuminating Caribbean identities, healing the wounds of erasure and fragmentation, envisioning possibilities, transcending inherited limitations. In recognizing this son and ancestor, CARICOM is applauding intellectual energy, constancy of vision, and an unswerving dedication to the ideals of freedom and sovereignty."[30]

Brown University held a two-day series of events celebrating Lamming, 8–9 March 2011.[31]

In May 2011, the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC)[32] awarded Lamming the first Caribbean Hibiscus Award in acknowledgement of his lifetime's work.[33] In 2014, he received a Lifetime Achievement Prize from the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.[34]

George Lamming Primary School, located at Flint Hall, St Michael, was named in his honour and opened on 2 September 2008.[3][35][36]

His work is celebrated through the George Lamming Pedagogical Centre, housed at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination (EBCCI),[37] 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]

Lamming's 1953 debut novel, In the Castle of My Skin – about which Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, said: "...none of his works touches the Barbadian psyche like his first"[38] – was included on the "Big Jubilee Read" list of 70 books by Commonwealth authors, selected to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II in June 2022.[39][40][41]

In a statement issued on the day of his death, Prime Minister Mottley described him as a national icon and as "the quintessential Bajan", saying: "Wherever George Lamming went, he epitomised that voice and spirit that screamed Barbados and the Caribbean."[42]

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)[28]
  • Sovereignty of the Imagination: Conversations III – Language and the Politics of Ethnicity (House of Nehesi, 2009, ISBN 978-0913441466)[43]
  • 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 & 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. ^ "Kenyan author, activist Ngügï Wa Thiong'o joins visiting scholar as part of Brown University's Focus On Africa". Africana Studies. Brown University. 6 November 2008. Archived from the original on 6 November 2008.
  3. ^ a b Clarke, Sherrylyn, "Black History Month: George Lamming" Archived 2 March 2018 at the Wayback Machine, 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. ^ a b Risen, Clay (17 June 2022). "George Lamming, Who Chronicled the End of Colonialism, Dies at 94". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  6. ^ "George Lamming Obituary: The Times of London", via Repeating Islands, 30 June 2022.
  7. ^ "George Lamming", Encyclopædia Britannica.
  8. ^ Lamming, George (24 October 2002), "Sea of stories", The Guardian.
  9. ^ King, Bruce, Derek Walcott: A Caribbean Life (2000), p. 62.
  10. ^ "George Lamming" Archived 24 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine, East-West Center.
  11. ^ Waters, Erika J.,George Lamming interview, The Caribbean Writer, 7 December 1998.
  12. ^ Paquet, Sandra Pouchet (14 June 2022). "George Lamming obituary". The Guardian.
  13. ^ Hughes, Michael, "Lamming, George", in A Companion to West Indian Literature, Collins, 1979, p. 69.
  14. ^ "The Emigrants" at University of Michigan Press.
  15. ^ Italie, Hillel (19 June 2022). "George Lamming, a giant of modern Caribbean writing, dies at 94". USA Today. Retrieved 2 July 2022.
  16. ^ Robinson, Lisa Clayton (2006). "Lamming, George". Oxford African American Studies Center. doi:10.1093/acref/9780195301731.013.42082. ISBN 9780195301731. Retrieved 3 February 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ "Lamming laments Rodney amnesia in Guyana", Stabroek News, 1 May 2012.
  18. ^ Lindo, Paula (4 June 2022). "Renowned novelist George Lamming dies at 94". Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.
  19. ^ Kendy (4 June 2022). "Official funeral for literary giant George Lamming". NationNews. Retrieved 5 June 2022.
  20. ^ Anderson, Teresa, "In the Castle of My Skin". Archived 23 March 2017 at the Wayback Machine, Colonial & Postcolonial Literary Dialogues, Western Michigan University.
  21. ^ "The Emigrants by George Lamming". The British Library. Retrieved 26 March 2022.
  22. ^ Mohammed, Dlnya Abdalla (2021). "Cultural Hybridity and Racial Identity in George Lamming's The Emigrants". The Scientific Journal of Cihan University– Sulaimaniya. doi:10.25098/5.2.20. Retrieved 26 March 2022.
  23. ^ Hare, James (Fall 1996). "Lamming, George".
  24. ^ Carew, Jan (27 February 1972). "Blighted voyage to Utopia Natives Of My Person By George Lamming". The New York Times.
  25. ^ Edemariam, Aida (22 October 2022). "Margaret Busby: how Britain's first black female publisher revolutionised literature – and never gave up". The Guardian.
  26. ^ "Margaret Busby publisher #BlackHistoryMonth". Touchstone. 2 October 2019.
  27. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "George Lamming". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 4 August 2012.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ Drayton, Richard, "George Lamming (1927-2022)", Stabroek News, 8 June 2022: "...he, with Kamau Brathwaite, having indicated privately that they could not accept a knighthood".
  30. ^ "Hon George Lamming | CHB : Citation for the Order of the Caribbean Community 2008". CARICOM. 2008. Retrieved 5 June 2022.
  31. ^ Josephs, Kelly Baker, "Tribute to George Lamming", The Caribbean Commons — Caribbean Studies in the Northeast US, CUNY, 7 March 2011.
  32. ^ Dottin, Bea, "Cuba honours Lamming's work", NationNews, 21 May 2011.
  33. ^ Martindale, Carol, "Lamming wins literary award", NationNews, 12 May 2011.
  34. ^ a b "George Lamming – 2014 Lifetime Achievement", 80th Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.
  35. ^ "About Us" Archived 17 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine, abusSTAR.
  36. ^ "Barbados: Educators excited as CFS model is expanded", Eastern Caribbean – UNICEF.
  37. ^ "The George Lamming Pedagogical Centre", EBCCI, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados.
  38. ^ Lewis, Emma (5 June 2022). "Barbadian novelist George Lamming, a leading writer of the Caribbean colonial experience, dies at 94". Global Voices. Retrieved 6 June 2022.
  39. ^ "The Big Jubilee Read: Books from 1952 to 1961". BBC. 17 April 2022.
  40. ^ Bedirian, Razmig (22 April 2022). "Big Jubilee Read: the list of 70 books that celebrates Queen Elizabeth's platinum jubilee". The National. Abu Dhabi. Retrieved 6 June 2022.
  41. ^ Mwongela, Ferdinand (12 June 2022). "Literary loss as Caribbean writer George lamming dies". The Sunday Standard.
  42. ^ "PM's statement on the passing of George Lamming". Barbados Today. 4 June 2022.
  43. ^ "Sovereignty of the Imagination, Language and the Politics of Ethnicity - Conversations III" at Amazon.
  44. ^ "George Lamming guest lectures at the St. Augustine Campus", Campus News, UWI, St Augustine, 12 September 2011.
  45. ^ The Somerset Maugham Awards – Past Winners" Archived 26 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine, The Society of Authors.
  46. ^ Manheim, James, "George Lamming", Contemporary Black Biography, 2003.
  47. ^ "Langston Hughes Medal", Book Awards,
  48. ^ Creighton, Al, "George Lamming: 'An outstanding Caribbean literary icon'", Stabroek News, 22 June 2003.
  49. ^ Ransome, Debbie, "Caricom's 'disconnect'", BBC Caribbean, 2 July 2008.
  50. ^ 7th Annual St. Martin Bookfair (Salon de Livre de St. Martin), 2009.
  51. ^ "George Lamming Thanks Alba Award for the Work of his Life", Radio Cadena Agramonte, Cuba, 18 February 2012.
  52. ^ 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.
  • Brown, J. Dillon, "Exile and Cunning: The Tactical Difficulties of George Lamming", Contemporary Literature, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Winter 2006), pp. 669–694.
  • 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]