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Letters from London

James, C. L. R.
Format: Paperback
Published: May 21, 2003
ISBN: 9781902669618
140 pages, notes, index


In 1932 the young writer and political activist CLR James arrived in London from his native Trinidad. During his first weeks in the city he wrote a series of essays about his impressions and experiences for publication back home in the Port of Spain Gazette. Seventy years later, these pieces, newly transcribed from archives in the Caribbean, are published for the first time as a collection, with an extensive introduction and notes.

Letters from London reveals CLR James’ first encounter with the colonial metropolis and the values that had already shaped his intellectual development in Trinidad. Drawn to London’s literary and political avant-garde, he describes life in Bloomsbury, arguments with Edith Sitwell, visits to theatres, museums and concert halls, and his seminal friendship with the great West Indies cricketer, Learie Constantine. Initially in awe of London, James soon develops a critical stance towards the city and its once mysterious people, analysing their drab architecture, shallow newspapers and repressed social relations.

‘Londoners have had sixty years of compulsory education and all the advantages of a great modern city,’ he writes. ‘When you look at the intellectual quality of the people, you are astonished.’ A resurrected ‘classic’ of considerable importance, Letters from London provides a hitherto inaccessible picture of the young CLR James and his formative period. This collection will appeal not just to Jamesites, but to scholars of colonial and post-colonial history and those interested in London.

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