Bocas Lit Fest

Exploring the legacy of the iconic Barbadian writer

George Lamming
 
For seven decades, George Lamming was one of the most catalytic writers and thinkers of our Caribbean civilisation, contemplating the intricate social realities of the region and its diasporas, the place of the Caribbean in the wider world, and the responsibilities of Caribbean people in remaking that world. His influence on subsequent generations is not only in his many books of fiction and essays, but in his work over the decades as editor and mentor.
 

On the occasion of Caribbean Literature Day (12 July) 2022, we have curated a selection of texts and videos exploring Lamming’s life and work, including excerpts from two of his novels, courtesy Peepal Tree Press.

WATCH

Conversations with George Lamming, from the Barbados National Oral History Programme

In 2013, interviewer Margaret Gill spoke to Lamming on a broad range of topics, recording these conversations for the Barbados National Oral History Programme. Edited selections are archived on YouTube:

On people and political parties

On the role of art and artists in society

On becoming West Indian

On his novel In the Castle of My Skin

Reading in Miami

In 1993, as part of the programme of the Miami Caribbean Summer Writers Institute, Lamming gave an extensive reading from In the Castle of My Skin, archived in the University of Miami Libraries Digital Collections. Watch it here

Interviewed in London

In 1960, the BBC interviewed the 33-year-old Lamming for the Monitor TV programme. He spoke about his impressions of London, where he then lived, and the state of West Indian literature. Watch it here

READ

Writing by George Lamming

Excerpts from two of the author’s celebrated novels, presented in partnership with Peepal Tree Press

From Of Age and Innocence
(originally published 1958)
Including an introduction by Jeremy Poynting

[PDF download]

From Water with Berries
(originally published 1971)
Including an introduction by J. Dillon Brown

[PDF download]

Writing on George Lamming


The Sovereignty of the Imagination: An Interview with George Lamming

“Language is a source of control. But language is also a source of invention.”

This interview by David Scott, published in Small Axe in 2022, is the most extensive published conversation with Lamming, ranging from his early life in Barbados to his political and aesthetic thought. Available online until September 2022


Richard Drayton on Lamming’s life and work

“It is now our hard and bitter work to make sense of his life and our loss, and to rescue from the waste of mortality all his generous and heroic ambitions.”

Published in Guyana’s Stabroek News, this obituary draws on historian Richard Drayton’s lifelong friendship with the Barbadian writer.


Jeremy Poynting on Lamming’s major works

“Lamming’s fiction was written between 70 and 50 years ago, but the issues his novels explore remain utterly pertinent today.  As a public intellectual, his contribution to Caribbean thought has few parallels”

In this obituary essay, Peepal Tree Press editor-in-chief Jeremy Poynting focuses on Lamming’s major published books, offering a concise critical overview of the author’s literary achievements.


Karen Lord on In the Castle of my Skin

“In the Castle of My Skin elevates our common speech to poetry and our common lives to literature, infusing it all with a gentle humour that allows the reader to ‘laugh off the licks.’”

This review by Karen Lord of Lamming’s best known novel, published in The Caribbean Review of Books in 2016, is “an experiment of literary time travel” — as a writer of the present considers a classic book as though she were transported back to its time of original publication.


An Afternoon with George Lamming

“Critical of both the regional intelligentsia … and the separatism of the ‘new political and technical bourgeoisie’ … Lamming retains ‘an optimistic scepticism.’”

In this profile published in Caribbean Beat in 2002, writer Simon Lee describes visiting Lamming on the east coast of Barbados to hear about his life story and current work in progress.


Three poems by Esther Phillips


“There’s a cry inside you still / that summoned revolution”

In her 2015 book Leaving Atlantis, Barbados Poet Laureate Esther Phillips presented a suite of poems addressed to Lamming and exploring “the unstable territory between public and private.” Presented in partnership with Peepal Tree Press

leaving atlantis

“Coming Home”
“Meeting Point”
“You Another Country”

[PDF download]

George Lamming at the 2012 NGC Bocas Lit Fest

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