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In the Eye of the Storm: Edgar Mittelholzer 1909–2009: Critical Perspectives

In the 1950s and early 1960s no Anglophone Caribbean novelist had a higher profile and was more praised than Edgar Mittelholzer.


Juanita Cox
Essays, Literary Criticism
Date published
26 Apr 2018

He was the first writer to earn his living from writing and his earlier novels in particular found enthusiastic reviewers in the UK and USA. But after his suicide in 1965 his reputation began to sink and until Peepal Tree began republishing his earlier writing in 2007, for several decades, none of his books was in print. This collection of essays charts both the way Mittelholzer’s work was read in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and shows how a contemporary generation of critics is rediscovering his real merits – the quality of his prose, his literary ambition and the ways in which at least some of Mittelholzer’s ideas about the Caribbean speak to a postnationalist generation. 

Several factors contributed to the decline in Mittelholzer’s reputation. His wariness of nationalist political and cultural agendas; his honesty in confronting the pathologies of race (in particular that of his own light-skinned, mixed race Guyanese and Caribbean middle class) and the shift in his later work towards a provocative preachiness around rightwing ideas about crime and punishment. Mittelholzer was also not well served by his publication in popular paperback editions with lurid and often ludicrously inappropriate covers. 

The essays in this collection explore Mittelholzer’s treatment of race and the divided person, of sexuality, history, heredity and the charge that he wrote pornography. More recent essays discuss his formal inventiveness in exploring analogies for musical forms and the leitmotiv in his fiction. Contributors include A.J. Seymour, Michael Gilkes, Joyce Sparer and an important biographical essay from Mittelholzer’s widow, Jacqueline Ward. More recent critics include Keith Jardim, J. Dillon Brown and Juanita Cox.
The collection is edited by Juanita Cox, whose research on Mittelholzer’s life and writing has played an important role in the rediscovery of this important Caribbean writer

Juanita Cox is of Guyanese parentage. She has a PhD on the work of Edgar Mittelholzer. She currently teaches at the University of North London.

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Juanita Cox

Juanita Cox is of Guyanese parentage.

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