Sweet Li Jie
Set in around 1876, the novel has two story-tellers, the landlord Wang Changling, writing about the last years of imperial China, and a travelling textile merchant, Jia Yun, who leaves Wuhan, China to join the great exodus of migrants fleeing poverty, most of them indentured to work in the canefields of Demerara, Guyana. What links them is Sweet Li Jie, one as protector and the other as suitor.
David Dabydeen
ISBN number
Fiction, Novel
Country setting
Publication date
10 Oct 2024

Set in Wuhan Province and British Guiana around 1876, the novel brings together the concurrent settings of the break up of feudal life in Wuhan and post-emancipation British Guiana. It is a novel which explores the complexities of dwelling in servitude in these societies in the last decades of the 19th century. 

The novel is told chiefly through the eyes of a travelling textile merchant, Jia Yun, who leaves Wuhan to join the great exodus of migrants fleeing poverty in China, most of them indentured, to work in the canefields of Demerara. 

Through a series of letters intended for his sweetheart, Li Jie, Jia Yun gives a vivid account of the conditions of life for Indians, Africans and other ethnic groups living under British rule, whilst the sections of the novel set in China capture life in rural Wuhan under a crumbling feudal regime. 

Sweet Li Jie is also a novel which highlights the complex interpersonal relations and intimacies that develop between the novel’s characters – for example, between the landlord, Wang Changling and his servant, Bayou in Wuhan and between Jia Yun and his Afro-Guyanese guide, Harris in Demerara – revealing their struggles for personhood and interdependence in the face of vulnerability and uncertainty.


David Dabydeen

David Dabydeen was born on a sugar estate in Berbice, Guyana in 1957.
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