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Something Rich and Strange: Selected Essays on Samuel Selvon

Written by Dr Balasubramanyam Chandramohan and Dr Ian Spring for Imperium Journal on no date provided

Several of the essays in Martin Zehnder’s collection Something Rich and Strange: Selected Essays on Sam Selvon compare Naipaul and Selvon, and it is such distinctions that they highlight. John Thieme claims that 

The work of V.S. Naipaul and Sam Selvon [...] illustrates very different responses to the attenuation of the cultures of the subcontinent [in Trinidad]. Naipaul grew up in a fairly traditional Brahminical family and in his early fiction writes almost exclusively about the Indian community. [...] In contrast, Selvon, who is a quarter Scottish, grew up in a hybrid milieu and is more concerned in his early fiction with East Indian assimilation. (John Thieme 2003, p.52) 

Zehnder’s collection focuses on A Brighter Sun and its sequel (two essays) and The Lonely Londoners (1956) and its sequels (seven essays), as well as including two interviews with Selvon and a thorough bibliography. As Zehnder notes, 'the present collection reflects proportionally the focus of previous scholarly work' on these novels (Zehnder 2003, p.13), This is also true of the themes with which the collection deals. John Thieme’s essay goes on to explore 'Carnival Patterns' in The Lonely Londoners, while Maureen Warner-Lewis traces Selvon’s mixture of linguistic registers in its sequel, Moses Ascending (1975). While the essays are generally celebratory, Victor J. Ramraj and Kenneth Ramchand both take issue with what they see as a move towards farce and slapstick in Moses Ascending and its sequel Moses Migrating. Something Rich and Strange is recommended primarily as an introduction to Selvon and key themes in the critical discussion of his fiction. Martin Zehnder’s introductory essay is particularly helpful in this regard.

This is a review of Something Rich and Strange: Selected Essays on Samuel Selvon

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