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A Swarthy Boy

Author(s)
Edgar Mittelholzer
ISBN
9781845233556
Pages
180
Price
Classification
Memoir, Caribbean Modern Classics
Setting
Guyana
Date published
8 May 2018

Edgar Mittelholzer’s autobiography, first published in 1963, which covers the first eighteen years of his life, was his first return in writing to about his native Guyana, of memory and imagination, for a good many years. Born into a household that regarded itself as European, in Guyana’s second town of New Amsterdam on the edge of Corentyne, Mittelholzer writes with vivid feeling about what it was like to be a boy whose “swarthiness” was anathema to his bigoted father. But what most distinguishes his account of this painful experience is his empathetic attempt to understand the tensions that drove his father’s attitudes. In the process, Mittelholzer gives an account of his family that is frank and searching and an account of the role of race, class and gender in small-town colonial life that is unrivalled in its perception. He writes memorably, for instance, of the ambivalence expressed by family members towards their neighbouring and very successful Indo-Guyanese family, the Luckhoos, and the tortured sensibility of the “coloured” middle class strung out between Black and White.

A Swarthy Boy is also an attempt to trace the origins of the man Mittelholzer thought he had become, the division he felt within himself between the sensitive soul and the militant fighter, the Idyll and the Warrior – a division that he portrays in a good many of his most intimately observed characters. Despite being written only a couple of years before his fiery suicide, A Swarthy Boy was written with zest, not a little humour and some affection for the world he left to become a professional writer in Britain. This new edition has an introduction by Juanita Cox and an afterword by Jacqueline Ward, Edgar Mittelholzer’s second wife, who was with him at the time of writing A Swarthy Boy.

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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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