Jamaican, Claude McKay’s Book “Ahead of Its Time” Finds Publisher after 87 Years

Claude McKay

On February 11, 2020, the novel “Romance in Marseilles” by Jamaican writer and poet Claude McKay will finally be published 87 years after it was completed. McKay, who died in 1948, had an important role in the cultural and intellectual movement centered in Harlem, New York, known as the Harlem Renaissance. The book, which is being published by Penguin Classics and edited by Gary Edward Holcomb, addresses post-colonialism, slavery’s legacy, and same-sex love. According to an article in the New York Times, the debut of the novel comes at a time when attitudes about the Harlem Renaissance have shifted. It is now perceived as a movement addressing class, gender, nationality, and sexuality as well as race. The themes covered in the book reflect issues that are topics of active discussions today.

McKay started writing this novel in 1929. In “Romance in Marseilles,” McKay tells the story of Lafala, a man who lost his legs due to cruel treatment by his white captors, and who then receives a financial windfall and moves from New York to Marseilles in France, a city that was a center of the African Diaspora. He is hoping to return to the village where he was born in West Africa. While living in the French city, he experiences a culture that is sexually liberated and where same-sex love is accepted without judgment on par with heterosexual love.

Festus Claudius McKay was born in Clarendon Parish, Jamaica, in 1889. He attended Kansas State College and the Tuskegee Institute, how called Tuskegee University. His book “Home to Harlem” published in 1928 was the first book by a black writer to become a best-seller in the United States. McKay died in Chicago, Illinois, in 1948 at the age of 58. “Romance in Marseilles” is the second of McKay’s books to be published recently; “Amiable with Big Teeth” was published in 2017.

Source: New York Times

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