George William Lamming


Novelist, essayist, and poet


George Lamming (born 8 June 1927) is a Barbadian novelist, essayist and poet and an important figure in Caribbean literature. He has also held academic posts including as a distinguished visiting professor at Duke University and a visiting professor in the African Studies Department of Brown University, and has lectured extensively around the world.

 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.

Lamming left Barbados to work as a teacher from 1946 to 1950 in Port of SpainTrinidad, at El Colegio de Venezuela, a boarding school for boys. 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 Center and Department of Education at the University of the West IndiesKingston (1967–68). Since then, he has been a visiting professor in the United States at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Pennsylvania, and Brown University, and a lecturer in DenmarkTanzania, and Australia.

In April 2012, he was chair of the judges for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, and served as chief judge for the inaugural Walter Rodney Awards for Creative Writing 2014.

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 much acclaimed first novel, In the Castle of My Skin, featuring an autobiographical character named G., can be read as both a coming-of-age story as well as the story of the Caribbean.

 His 1960 collection of essays, The Pleasures 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.

 A more recent(1995) collection of essays is Coming, Coming Home: Conversations II – Western Education and the Caribbean Intellectual.

 Brown University held a two-day series of events celebrating Lamming, 8–9 March 2011

In May 2011 the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) awarded Lamming the first Caribbean Hibiscus Award in acknowledgement of his lifetime's work. In 2014, he won a Lifetime Achievement Prize from the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.

George Lamming Primary School, located at Flint Hall, St Michael, was named in his honor and opened on September 2nd, 2008.

 His work is celebrated through the George Lamming Pedagogical Center, housed at the Errol Barrow Center for Creative Imagination (EBCCI), with annual distinguished lecture series held annually in June, the month of Lamming's birth. His personal literary collection is housed at the Sidney Martin Library, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados.