Brathwaite, George Lamming, V.
Or at least, it is if we are to believe its author Sam Selvon. He wrote in an essay in I think I can say without a trace of modesty that I was the first Caribbean writer to explore and employ dialect in a full-length novel where it was used in both narrative and dialogue.
In a discussion with critic Michel Fabre, Selvon described the discovery of this voice as a breakthrough in a creative process that had been stalling: I had in store a number of wonderful anecdotes and could put them into focus, but I had difficulty starting the novel in straight English.
The people I wanted to describe were entertaining people indeed, but I could not really move. At that stage, I had written the narrative in English and most of the dialogues in dialect.
Then I started both narrative and dialogue in dialect and the novel just shot along. He wrote in that he completed the novel in just six months: Two of those were spent wrestling with standard English to give expression to the West Indian experience: I made little headway until I experimented with the language as it is used by Caribbean people.
I found a chord, it was like music, and I sat like a passenger in a bus and let the language do the writing. It sounds so easy! Selvon himself explained that the prose style was a deliberate and considered invention. Most obviously, the book introduces an intriguing vocabulary.
Familiar words can also take on new meaning. Selvon provides enough new language to interest readers who might not be familiar with Trinidadian vernacular — but not enough to alienate them. He works a similar trick with the sound of his prose, which has a rhythm and texture all of its own.
Even the most mundane sentences feel subtly different: But none of that music is over-pronounced. Selvon also avoids the kind of thickly accented dialect that makes writers such as James Kelman so challenging.
The net result is that the novel becomes unusually immersive. The narrator is one of the fellars — and so are you, because he speaks to you so directly.Samuel Selvon is one of the most popular and internationally acclaimed contemporary Ramchand in one of his essays examines Selvon as a revolutionary writer who is concerned more with social, cultural and political issues in his writings.
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