Both devastating and funny, The Lonely Londoners is an unforgettable account of immigrant experience - and one of the great twentieth-century London novels. This Penguin Modern Classics edition includes an introduction by Susheila Nasta.
At Waterloo Station, hopeful new arrivals from the West Indies step off the boat train, ready to start afresh in 1950s London. There, homesick Moses Aloetta, who has already lived in the city for years, meets Henry 'Sir Galahad' Oliver and shows him the ropes. In this strange, cold and foggy city where the natives can be less than friendly at the sight of a black face, has Galahad met his Waterloo? But the irrepressible newcomer cannot be cast down. He and all the other lonely new Londoners - from shiftless Cap to Tolroy, whose family has descended on him from Jamaica - must try to create a new life for themselves. As pessimistic 'old veteran' Moses watches their attempts, they gradually learn to survive and come to love the heady excitements of London.
Sam Selvon (b. 1923) was born in San Fernando, Trinidad. In 1950 Selvon left Trinidad for the UK where after hard times of survival he established himself as a writer with A Brighter Sun (1952), An Island is a World (1955), The Lonely Londoners (1956), Ways of Sunlight (1957), Turn Again Tiger (1958), I Hear Thunder (1963), The Housing Lark (1965), The Plains of Caroni (1970), Moses Ascending (1975) and Moses Migrating (1983).
If you enjoyed The Lonely Londoners, you might like Jean Rhys's Voyage in the Dark or Shiva Naipaul's Fireflies, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.
'His Lonely Londoners has acquired a classics status since it appeared in 1956 as the definitive novel about London's West Indians'
'The unforgettable picaresque ... a vernacular comedy of pathos'
Sam Selvon is known for The Lonely Londoners. But it is The Housing Lark in which his brilliance truly shines.
The generation of Caribbean migrants who helped rebuild post-war Britain between 1948 and 1971 have been in the news repeatedly since a 2018 scandal which saw many of them wrongly deported. Here Sara Collins, the award-winning author of The Confessions of Frannie Langton, offers a reading list of books that help define their experience.