Author bio

David Dabydeen

David Dabydeen - book author

David Dabydeen (born 9 December 1955) is a Guyanese-born critic, writer, novelist and academic. Since 2010 he has been Guyana's ambassador to China.

Dabydeen is the author of novels, collections of poetry and works of non-fiction and criticism, as editor as well as writer. His first book, Slave Song (1984), a collection of poetry, won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize and the Quiller-Couch Prize. A further collection, Turner: New and Selected Poems, was published in 1994, and reissued in 2002; the title-poem, Turner is an extended sequence or verse novel responding to a painting by J. M. W. Turner, "Slavers Throwing overboard the Dead and Dying – Typhoon coming on" (1840).

His first novel, The Intended (1991), the story of a young Asian student abandoned in London by his father, won the Guyana Prize for Literature. Disappearance (1993) tells the story of a young Guyanese engineer working on the south coast of England who lodges with an elderly woman. The Counting House (1996) is set at the end of the nineteenth century and narrates the experiences of an Indian couple whose hopes of a new life in colonial Guyana end in tragedy. The story explores historical tensions between indentured Indian workers and Guyanese of African descent. His 1999 novel, A Harlot's Progress, is based on a series of pictures painted in 1732 by William Hogarth (who was the subject of Dabydeen's PhD) and develops the story of Hogarth's black slave boy. Through the character of Mungo, Dabydeen challenges traditional cultural representations of the slave. His latest novel, Our Lady of Demerara, was published in 2004.

Dabydeen has been awarded the title of fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He is the second West Indian writer (V.S. Naipaul was the first) and the only Guyanese writer to receive the title.

In 2001 Dabydeen wrote and presented The Forgotten Colony, a BBC Radio 4 programme exploring the history of Guyana. His one-hour documentary Painting the People was broadcast by BBC television in 2004.

The Oxford Companion to Black British History, co-edited by Dabydeen, John Gilmore and Cecily Jones, appeared in 2007.

In 2007, Dabydeen was awarded the Hind Rattan (Jewel of India) Award for his outstanding contribution to literature and the intellectual life of the Indian diaspora.

(from Wikipedia)

David Dabydeen is the author of books: The Intended, Turner: New and Selected Poems, Disappearance, A Harlot's Progress, Counting House, Slave Song, The Oxford Companion to Black British History, India In The Caribbean, Johnson's Dictionary, Coolie Odyssey

Author books

Exploring rites of passage in London's Asian community, this semiautobiographical novel follows a young Indo-Guyanese narrator from his South American village to Great Britain. With determination and self-discipline he seizes opportunities of education and upward mobility, but struggles to keep his cultural identity alive through memories of his childhood. This sophisticated postcolonial text links language and character to reveal the social divisions, educational obstacles, and self-exploration of a struggling foreigner in the mid-20th century.
David Dabydeen’s Turner is a long narrative poem written in response to J. M. W. Turner’s celebrated poem “Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying.” Dabydeen’s poem focuses on what is hidden in Turner’s painting, the submerged head of the drowning African. In inventing a biography and the drowned man’s unspoken desires, the poem brings into confrontation the wish for renewal and the inescapable stains of history, including the meaning of Turner’s painting.
This novel that echoes the styles of Joseph Conrad and V. S. Naipaul follows a young Guyanese engineer appointed to help save and shore up a Kent coastal village's sea defenses, and his relationship with the old woman with whom he lodges. Learning more about the village's history through his relationship with Mrs. Rutherford, the narrator discovers that underlying the village's Englishness is a latent violence that echoes the imperial past, forcing him to not only reconsider his perceptions of himself and his native Guyana, but also to examine the connection between land and memory.
A HARLOT'S PROGRESS reinvents William Hogarth's famous painting of 1732 which tells the story of a whore, a Jewish merchant, a magistrate and a quack doctor bound together by sexual and financial greed. Dabydeen's novel endows Hogarth's characters with alternative potential lives, redeeming them for their cliched status as predators or victims. The protagonist - in Hogarth, a black slave boy, in Dabydeen, London's oldest black inhabitant - is forced to tell his story to the Abolitionists in return for their charity. He refuses however to supply parade of grievances, and to give a simplistic account of beatings, sexual abuses, etc. He will not embark upon yet another fictional journey into the dark nature of slavery for the voyeuristic delight of the English reader. Instead, the old man ties the reader up in knots as deftly as a harlot her client: he spins a tale of myths, half-truths and fantasies; recreating Africa and eighteenth-century London in startlingly poetic ways. What matters to him is the odyssey into poetry, the rich texture of his narrative, not its truthfulness. In this, his fourth novel, David Dabydeen opens up history to myriad imaginary interpretations, repopulating a vanished world with a strange, defiantly vivid and compassionate humanity.
Issues of caste, slavery, racism, and the immigrant experience in the early 19th century are addressed in this novel. Rohini and Vidia, a young married couple struggling for survival in a small, caste-ridden Indian village are seduced by a recruiter's persuasive talk of easy work and plentiful land. They sign up as indentured laborers to go to British Guiana and discover their harsh fate as "bound coolies" in a country only just emerging from the savage brutalities of slavery. In their problematic encounters with the Afro-Guyanese, hostile to immigrant labor, they confront the truths of their uprooted condition and learn to live with their fate.
Songs of frustration and defiance from African slaves and displaced Indian laborers are expressed in a harsh and lyrical Guyanese Creole far removed from contemporary English in these provocative Caribbean poems. An insightful critical apparatus of English translations surrounds these lyrics, shedding light on their meaning, while at the same time cleverly commenting on the impossibility of translating Creole and parodying critical attempts to explain and contextualize Caribbean poetry. Twenty years after the initial release of this work, the power of these poems and the self-fashioned critique that accompanies them remain a lively and vital part of Caribbean literature.
The Oxford Companion to Black British History is an essential reference for anyone who wants to understand the long and fascinating history of black people in Britain from classical times to the present day. It brings together a unique collection of articles that provide an overview of the black presence in Britain, and the rich and diverse contribution made to British society. The A-Z guide includes entries for landmark figures, key events, concepts (such as Emancipation and Reparations), and historical accounts. Subject areas include medicine, military history, art, music, sports, and education. Entries range from the African auxiliaries stationed on Hadrian's Wall in the second century A.D., through John Edmonstone, who taught taxidermy to Charles Darwin, Mary Seacole, the "Black Florence Nightingale," and Walter Tull, a professional soccer player and First World War officer. The guide will be of tremendous interest to those involved in commenting on subjects relating to the Black British community, or anyone interested in finding out about the history of expatriated Africans outside the Americas.
Features: . First ever reference book to explore the fullhistory of black people in Britain

. Detailed timeline charts key dates for people and events from the 2nd century AD to the 21st century

. Edited by David Dabydeen, prize-winning novelist and respected academic, together with John Gilmore and Cecily Jones

. Over 400 entries written by more than 100 specialists under the direction of Professor Dabydeen, his colleagues, and a distinguished team of advisers
Told by Manu, this novel journeys through 18th-century London and Demerara in British Guiana, recounting experiences that might be dreamed or remembered. With a diverse cast—including slaves, lowly women on the make, lustful overseers, sodomites, and pious Jews—these characters come alive from artist William Hogarth’s engravings; Hogarth himself also appears as a drunkard official artist in Demerara, from whom the slave Cato steals his skills and discovers a way of remaking his world. From the dens of sexual specialties, where the ex-slave Francis conducts a highly popular flagellant mission to cure his clients of their man-love and preach abolition, to the sugar estates of Demerara, this novel revels in the connections of empire, art, literature, and human desire in ways that are comic, salutary, and redemptive.