Postcolonial London: Rewriting the Metropolis

By John McLeod | Go to book overview

2

London, England

V. S. Naipaul, Doris Lessing and Janet Frame

Dan Jacobson arrived in London from South Africa in 1954, with ambitions to become a writer. On disembarking at Dover, his first action was to buy copies of The Times and New Statesman. Years later he remembers feeling

with gratification, after years of handling only the overseas editions, the thickness of the paper between my fingers; with the same gratification I saw the dateline on the papers to be the actual date, not that of two or three weeks before. So I was in England, truly in England at last.

(1986:75)

Being in London afforded him the opportunity to encounter the substance of English life which he had only previously encountered imaginatively through his reading of literature. As the narrator of his novel The Evidence of Love (1959) puts it, for many South Africans London existed in 'books; in the pictures that were on the walls of their rooms, their schools, their galleries; in films; on the radio; through the mouths of their teachers and the memories of parents; in the letters of those who preceded them here' (1962:120). So although Jacobson had never visited before, he arrived in a country and a culture which he had so long revered from afar, and which London promised to deliver. '[T]his city offered me a continuity between past and present, between words and things, which I had hardly known I was seeking until it was offered to me' (1986:83), he remarks. London, England, civilization, continuity, culture, order - each seemed seamlessly allied with each other, creating an impression of substance conjured vividly in the image of the thick newspaper pages which thrilled and gratified Jacobson at Dover, and which contrasted to the slenderness of the out-of-date overseas editions.

Not long after arriving in London, Jacobson attempted to locate the house in Tavistock Square where Virginia Woolf once lived. From this address she had composed a series of letters to Logan Pearsall Smith, which

-59-

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Postcolonial London: Rewriting the Metropolis
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Making a Song and Dance 24
  • 2 - London, England 59
  • 3 - Living Room 93
  • 4 - Babylon's Burning 126
  • 5 - Millennial Currents 158
  • Coda 189
  • Bibliography 195
  • Index 205
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