Buried Treasure: Tibor Fischer on Samuel Selvon's 'The Lonely Londoners'

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The Independent Culture

This was given to me with high praise by a Trinidadian friend who doesn't like to read much, so I was prepared for something special. He scrawled a dedication to me and the words "there's a lot of truth here", and I think he's right. First published in 1956, it's a portrait of the Windrush generation at work and at play in the imperial capital. Unlike his plodding compatriot VS Naipaul, Selvon has a tangy prose, which while it doesn't descend into full-scale patois, gives the novel an idiosyncratic flavour. It doesn't romanticise the lives of West Indian immigrants in the pea-soupers, but it's a light, entertaining and very likeable book. The Lonely Londoners (Longman Caribbean Writers) has been in and out of print over the years, so although not truly a buried treasure, it's certainly treasure that deserves to be more widely cherished. I don't know anyone who's read it who hasn't warmed to the characters.

Tibor Fischer's new novel is 'Voyage to the End of the Room' (Chatto & Windus)