The Honourable George William Lamming, OCC Novelist, Barbados
George Lamming (born 8 June 1927) is a novelist, essayist and poet, who is the most famous writer to emerge from Barbados and one of the Caribbean's most important novelists. "Each of his novels is both complete in itself and part of a continually developing vision linked to the changing political scene in the Caribbean, with its urgent problems of political and psychological decolonisation, and to Lamming's evolving understanding of the human condition." He is a visiting professor in the Africana Studies Department of Brown University.
Early life and education
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.
Before moving to England, he worked from 1946 to 1950 as a teacher at El Colegio de Venezuela, a boarding school for boys in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He then emigrated to England where, for a short time, he worked in a factory. In 1951 he 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.
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, the latter writing an introduction to the book's US edition. 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.
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). Since then, he has been a visiting professor in the USA at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Pennsylvania, and Brown University, and a lecturer in Denmark, Tanzania, and Australia.
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 1960 collection of essays, The Pleasure 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.
In May 2011 the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) awarded him the first Caribbean Hibiscus Award in acknowledgement of his lifetime's work.
In April 2012, he was chair of the judges for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.
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)
The Pleasures of Exile (London: Michael Joseph, 1960; Allison & Busby, 1981; Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992)
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)
Coming, Coming Home: Conversations II - Western Education and the Caribbean Intellectual (Philipsburg, St. Martin: House of Nehesi, 1995, 2000)
Sovereignty of the Imagination: Conversations III - Language and the Politics of Ethnicity (2009).
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.
Caribbean Reasonings - The George Lamming Reader: The Aesthetics of Decolonisation, edited by Anthony Bogues, Ian Randle Publishers, 2010.
Honours and awards
George Lamming is the recipient of the Order of the Caribbean Community, conferred in 2008.
His other awards include:
1954: Kenyon Review Fellowship
1955: Guggenheim Fellowship
1962: Canada Council fellowship
1987: Companion of Honour of Barbados (CHB)
1998: Langston Hughes Medal
2003: Fellow of the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ)
2009: The President’s Award (St. Martin Book Fair)
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