The Emigrants by George Lamming

The Emigrants by George Lamming

The novel captures the chaos and milieu of England in the 1950s, the journey and arrival of one cohort of the Windrush generation. The flux of characters and unattributed dialogue convey to the reader a palpable sense of the transience and tumult of their migration. Every person one meets on the journey is a stranger and despite the common experience, remains a stranger; no one is sure if the person next to them will survive their time in England, if they will succeed or fail, establish themselves or fade away, stay or succeed enough to return. The characters perform this by never getting close enough to the reader. They never even get close enough to each other to learn their true natures, their true intentions. The reader is only ever treated to a brief interiority of the characters, and some of them barely get a name. Lamming’s prose, via its non-linearity, non-structure, its confusion, and its unease is performative of the atmosphere and history he wants to convey. The reader is meant to be feel the lurch of the ocean, the nausea of arrival, a keen sense of dis-ease and unbelonging in their arrival. It’s a brilliant novel. 

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