Obituary: Sam Selvon

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The Independent Online
LOUIS JAMES's fine obituary of Sam Selvon (20 April) suggested but did not develop an area of Sam's personality that will be immediately recognisable to and remembered by anyone who knew him. He was one of the most generous men I have ever met, writes Carl MacDougall.

I succeeded him as Creative Writing Fellow at Dundee University. He had held the post from 1975 to 1977 and was a hard act to follow. I am sure he was instrumental in my appointment and equally certain of the effect he had on those who came to see him. He must have spent hours discussing other people's work; encouraging, showing and offering models with warmth, sensitivity and humour. His impact was powerful in a small community, a place with a distinctive voice and little means of expressing it.

His texts were always other Caribbean writers, especially Derek Walcott or VS Naipaul's Miguel Street. He encouraged others to find their voice through the voice of their community and was adamant that his Caribbean workings could be equally effective with other accents from other places, especially his gift of lyricism, his astonishing ability to write love stories about a person and a place at the same time.

I have lost count of the people he helped into print. Numbers hardly matter. Everyone was treated the same. He offered improvement or suggested a practical means of publication because he was that sort of man. He couldn't help himself.

Our correspondence petered out in the early 1980s. His last letter encouraged me to do better. I always thought I'd see him again. He inspired that kind of hope.