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C. L. R. James (Cyril Lionel Robert) Biography

(1901–89), (Cyril Lionel Robert), Trinidad, The Beacon, Manchester Guardian, Glasgow Herald, Minty Alley

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Robin’ [Iris Guiver Wilkinson] ‘Hyde Biography to Percy Janes Biography

Trinidadian historian, political theorist, and novelist, born in Tunapuna, near Port of Spain, Trinidad, educated at Queen's Royal College. In the early 1930s he was involved in the publication of two influential literary and political magazines, Trinidad and The Beacon. In 1932 he moved to Britain where he became cricket correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, and later the Glasgow Herald. In this period he published his only novel, Minty Alley (1936), which had a great influence on modern Caribbean fiction, and The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Overture and the San Domingo Revolt (1938). A prolific writer, and a political activist and publicist, James was much involved in the struggles for independence in the West Indies, and in Africa, initially from a Trotskyist, but later from an independent, and always anti-Stalinist perspective: he translated Boris Souvarine's critical biography of Stalin (1939). He stayed in the USA after a lecture tour in 1938, but was interned in Ellis Island in 1952, and expelled in 1953 for his Marxist political activities. His other major works included a study of Herman Melville, Mariners, Renegades and Castaways (1953); Notes on Dialectics (1980); Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution (1977); and his delightfully autobiographical book on cricket, Beyond a Boundary (1963). Most of his essays have been collected in The Future in the Present (1971), Spheres of Existence (1980), and At the Rendezvous of Victory (1984). See Paul Buhle, C. L. R. James: The Artist as Revolutionary (1988).

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