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Ralph De Boissière (Ralph Anthony Charles De Boissière) Biography

(1907– ), (Ralph Anthony Charles De Boissière), The Beacon, Crown Jewel, Rum and Coca Cola

australian trinidad crown life

Australian novelist, born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, where he was educated at Queen's Royal College. In the 1920s de Boissière, who is of French Creole ancestry, was associated with a circle of politically radical young Trinidadian writers, such as Alfred H. Mendes and C. L. R. James, who contributed to the short-lived but highly influential monthly, The Beacon. He emigrated to Australia in 1947, where he wrote all his novels, and became an Australian citizen in 1970. Among other jobs, he was worked as an auto assembler in Australia, and a bakery supplier in Trinidad. Drawing on his experience of life as a skilled worker, de Boissière's novels are panoramic epics on the struggles of unionized workers for a better life. The first two, Crown Jewel (1952) and Rum and Coca Cola (1956), investigate Trinidadian industrial relations during the turbulent 1930s and 1940s, a period punctuated by a series of bitter strikes and demonstrations, at first against the British and later against the Americans. Salman Rushdie has said of Crown Jewel that ‘the enormous appeal of this book lies not so much in its committed socialism as in its ability to integrate politics with the lives of its characters’. In No Saddles for Kangaroos (1964), de Boissière integrated Cold War politics and the Korean conflict with the private lives of Australian automobile workers in the early 1950s.

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