Andrew Salkey

(novelist, poet, travel writer, editor, journalist)

Born on 30 January 1928 as Felix Andrew Alexander Salkey in Colón, Panama to Jamaican parents, Andrew Alexander Salkey, a businessman, and Linda Marshall Salkey. At the age of two Salkey was sent to Jamaica, where he was raised by his grandmother and his mother. His mother’s work as a teacher there would prove a great influence on Salkey’s writing. His father continued to work in Panama, and the two never met until Salkey was an adult.

Salkey attended two of the finest schools in Jamaica, Saint George’s College, a Catholic secondary school for boys, run by Jesuits in Kingston; and Munro College, a boarding school in the rural parish of Saint Elizabeth. Salkey then moved to Britain in 1952 to attend the University of London and became a part of the West Indian Students Union (WISU), which provided an effective forum for Caribbean students to express their ideas and provided voluntary support to the ‘harassed’ working-class Caribbean immigrant community, during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The association also included Gerry Burton, Arif Ali, Chris LeMaitre, John La Rose and Horace Lashley.

In the mid-1950s Salkey taught English at Walworth Secondary school (also known as Mina Road school), an early comprehensive just off the Old Kent Road in south-east London. During that time he also contributed regularly to the BBC’s influential Caribbean Voices radio programme, working as a reader, interviewer, editorial advisor and contributing author. Salkey’s home became a meeting place for many Caribbean writers living or visiting London in that period and he nurtured many young artists and writers during his lifetime. One example is his long friendship with Austin Clarke; the two had a long written correspondence, a great deal of which is available in Clarke’s files at the McMaster University Archives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. This nurturing was apparent when, in 1966 Salkey, along with the Trinidadian publisher, writer and activist John La Rose and the Barbadian poet and historian Kamau Brathwaite co-founded the Caribbean Artists Movement, providing a platform for Caribbean artists, poets, writers, dramatists, actors and musicians.

In 1959 Andrew Salkey’s first novel was published, A Quality of Violence, set in rural Jamaica of 1900. His second book, Escape to An Autumn Pavement (1960), set in London, is a novel of exile, whilst his third novel, The Late Emancipation of Jerry Stover (1968), returns to Jamaica and is a damning indictment of the nihilism of middle class Caribbean life. The Adventures of Catullus Kelly (1969) is set back in London, and Salkey’s last major novel, Come Home, Malcolm Heartland (1976) has as its theme the revolutionary activity and posturing of black secret agents and exiles in London. After this novel was published, Salkey concentrated on writing poetry and reworking tales of Caribbean folklore.

Andrew Salkey was a pioneer in the field of writing for Caribbean children and he published numerous books for them, including Hurricane (1964) and The River That Disappeared (1979) among others.

In 1960 Salkey edited one of the first anthologies of Caribbean short stories, West Indian Stories, which brought him international recognition. The anthology introduced many unknown Caribbean writers to readers outside that region and, along with the literary magazines of the 1940s and 1950s and the few anthologies produced in the Caribbean, was essential material for the study of the short story. This was the first of a number of anthologies that he worked on over the course of his career, such as Breaklight: An Anthology of Caribbean Poetry published in 1971.

Andrew Salkey also published several collections of his own poetry, including Jamaica (1973), a poem he worked on for over twenty years. In the 1970s he turned to the Anancy figure in Caribbean cultures and began a series of recreations of the folk figure in modern situations. His works include Anancy’s Score (1973), where Anancy is often found victimising and exploiting women even as he helps them, to Anancy Traveller (1992), which explores the pleasures of placenessness.

Salkey’s travelogues were Georgetown Journal (1972), about his visit to Guyana for the inaugural Carifesta of 1970, and Havana Journal (1971), which records a month-long visit to revolutionary Cuba to attend a Congress along with C L R James and John La Rose.

In 1976 Andrew Salkey left London and took up a teaching position as Professor of Creative Writing at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, USA. He lived there until his death on 28 April 1995.

Main source of information: Kenneth Ramchand. Approved by Pat Salkey, widow of Andrew Salkey.

Work by Andrew Salkey

Fiction for Adults

Salkey, Andrew. The Adventures of Catullus Kelly. London: Hutchinson, 1969. ISBN 0090951409.

—. Come Home, Malcolm Heartland. London: Hutchinson, 1976.

—. Escape to an Autumn Pavement. London: Hutchinson, 1960. Leeds: Peepal Tree Press Modern Caribbean Classics, 2009.

—. The Late Emancipation of Jerry Stover. London: Hutchinson, 1968. ISBN 0090855302. Harlow, Essex: Longman, 1982. ISBN 0582785596.

—. A Quality of Violence. Novel. London: New Authors Limited, 1959. London and Port of Spain: New Beacon Books, 1978. ISBN 090124127X; ISBN 9780901241276. Winner of the Guggenheim Prize.

In the Border Country and other stories (1998) ISBN 090452194X

Non-Fiction for Adults

Salkey, Andrew. Georgetown Journal: a Caribbean writer’s journey from London via Port of Spain to Georgetown, Guyana, 1970. London: New Beacon, 1972. ISBN 090124113X.

—. Havana Journal. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971. ISBN 0140213031.

Poetry

Salkey, Andrew. Away. London: Allison & Busby, 1980. ISBN 0850313376 ISBN 0850313384.

—. In the Hills Where Her Dreams Live: Poems for Chile, 1973-1978. Havana: Casas de las Americas, 1979. In the Hills Where Her Dreams Live: Poems for Chile 1973-1980. Sausalito, Calif.: Black Scholar P, 1981.

—. Jamaica. London: Hutchinson, 1973. London: Bogle L’Ouverture, 1983. ISBN 0091157412.

—. Jamaica Symphony. Unpublished. (Winning Thomas Helmore Poetry Prize, 1955).

—. Land. Sausalito, Calif.: Black Scholar P, 1979.

Anthologies

Salkey, Andrew, ed. Breaklight: an anthology of Caribbean poetry, chosen, edited and introduced by Andrew Salkey. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1971. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972. Garden City, NY: Anchor, 1973. ISBN 0241019621.

—. Caribbean Prose: an anthology for secondary schools. London: Evans, 1967.

—. Commonwealth Poetry. (editor West Indian section, 1965)

—. Island Voices: Stories from the West Indies. New York: Liveright, 1970. ISBN 0871405040.

—. Caribbean Essays: an anthology; edited and introduced by Andrew Salkey. London: Evans, 1973. ISBN 0237289431.

—. The Shark Hunters. London: Nelson, 1966.

—. Stories from the Caribbean. London, Paul Elek Books, 1965, 1972. New York: Dufour, 1968.

—. West Indian Stories. London: Faber and Faber, 1960, 1968. Hardback. ISBN 0571086306.

—. Writing in Cuba since the Revolution: an anthology of poems, short stories, and essays. London: Bogle L’Ouverture, 1977. ISBN 0904521052 ISBN 0904521044.

Writing for Children

Salkey, Andrew. Danny Jones. (1980)

—. Drought. London: Oxford UP, 1966.

—. Earthquake. London: Oxford UP, 1965, 1979. New York: Roy, 1969.

—. Hurricane. London: Oxford UP 1964, 1979. Harmondsworth: Puffin Books, 1977. New York: Penguin, 1977. (Winner of the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis).

—. Joey Tyson. London: Bogle L’Ouverture, 1974. ISBN 0950154695 ISBN 0904521001.

—. Jonah Simpson. London: Oxford UP, 1969. New York: Roy, 1970.

—. Riot. London: Oxford UP, 1967, 1973.

—. The River That Disappeared. London: Bogle L’Ouverture, 1979.

Folklore

—. Anancy’s Score. London, Bogle L’Ouverture, 1973. ISBN 0950154679 ISBN 0950154687

—. Anancy Traveller. (1992)

—. Brother Anancy and other stories. (1993) ISBN 0582225817

—. Caribbean Folk Tales and Legends. London: Bogle L’Ouverture, 1980.

—. The One: the story of how the people of Guyana avenge the murder of their Pasero with help from Brother Anancy and Sister Buxton. (1985)

Written Resources

Carr, Bill. ‘A Complex Fate: The Novels of Andrew Salkey’. The Islands in Between. Ed. Bruce King. 1979. 100-108.

Cumber Dance, Daryl. ‘Andrew Salkey’. A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Ed. Daryl Cumber Dance. New York, Westport and London: Greenwood P, 1986. 418-427.

Gray, C R. ‘Mr Salkey’s Truth and Illusion’. Jamaica Journal 2 (June 1968): 46-54.

Maes-Jelinek, Hena. ‘The Novel from 1950 to 1970’. A history of literature in the Caribbean volume 2: English- and Dutch-speaking regions. A James Arnold. Amsterdam, Netherlands and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing Co., 2001. 127-148.

Maes-Jelinek, Hena and Bénédicte Ledente. ‘The Novel since 1970’. A history of literature in the Caribbean volume 2: English- and Dutch-speaking regions. A James Arnold. Amsterdam, Netherlands and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing Co., 2001. 149-198.

Ramchand, Kenneth. ‘Andrew Salkey: 30th January 1928 – 28th April 1995’. Wasafiri 22 (Autumn 1995): 82-84.

Ramsaran, J A. ‘The Social Groundwork of Politics in Some West Indian Novels’. The Negro Digest (Aug. 1969): 71-77.

Walmsley, Anne. The Caribbean Artists Movement 1966-1972: a literary and cultural history. London: New Beacon Books, 1992. Hardback ISBN 978 1 873201 01 5, paperback ISBN 978 1 873201 06 0.

Online Resources

Ali, Jonathan. ‘Lonely Londoner’. The Caribbean Review of Books 22 July 2010.

Bailey, Ekaete. ‘Caribbean Short Stories’. EHow website. Updated 6 Apr. 2011

Poynting, Jeremy. ‘The Caribbean Short Story’. Peepal Tree Press website.  Uploaded 21 Mar. 2003.

Sobel, Richard. ‘Third World literature as revelation – a letter to Carew’. Race & Class 43.3 (Jan. 2002): 64-71.  (limited access without subscription).