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A Swarthy Boy: A Childhood in British Guiana

Mittelholzer offers a beautifully written account of his distinctly eccentric Germanic family; of the colonial life of the town of New Amersterdam; the humid tropical sights and smells of the Guyanese landscape; and the rigid race and class hierarchies that kept British Guiana hidebound and immobile under a snobbish and uncreative elite, and his own saving through the power of literature and his desire to be a writer.

£12.99

Author(s)
Edgar Mittelholzer
ISBN
9781845235550
Pages
180
Price
£12.99
Classification
Memoir
Setting
Guyana
Date published
10 Aug 2023

First published in 1963, and only two years before his tragic suicide by fire, A Swarthy Boy is a remarkably balanced and often good-humoured account of a life born as the dark child to a father who was “a confirmed negrophobe” and a mother who, though “soft and sentimental… to the point of molly-coddling” turned in an instant to a fierce chastiser with a leather thong (and aunts and grandmothers to back her up). In this account that takes him to age of twenty in 1929, when he sends of the first bulky script of his never-to-be-published novel, “The Terrible Four”, under the slogan “Victory or Death!”, Mittelholzer offers a beautifully written account of his distinctly eccentric Germanic family; of the colonial life of the town of New Amersterdam; the humid tropical sights and smells of the Guyanese landscape; and the rigid race and class hierarchies that kept British Guiana hidebound and immobile under a snobbish and uncreative elite, whose attitude to African and Indian Guyanese had been fixed in the periods of slavery and indenture. What saved the youthful Mittelholzer from this colonial stasis was not only his eye for the absurd, his constitutional rebelliousness, but his voracious appetite for books – and his unquenchable desire to become the noted writer, which, against the odds, he triumphantly struggled to become.

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Edgar Mittelholzer

Edgar Mittelholzer was born in British Guiana in 1909. He wrote more than twenty novels. He eventually settled in England, where he lived until his death in 1965, a suicide predicted in several of his novels.

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