Escape to an Autumn Pavement


Johnnie Sobert is a brown Jamaican who earns his living as a barman in a Soho club. Sobert is a man divided: between Black and White; between class identities; between heterosexual and homosexual desires; between being an exiled Jamaican and an incipient Black Londoner.

Against the background of bedsitter Hampstead and bohemian Soho, Sobert attempts to be, as he describes himself, a ‘nigger with coolth’ but the reality is that his wisecracking persona is an all too transparent cover for his uncertainties. He embarks on an unsatisfactory affair with his landlady, Fiona, which makes him uncomfortably aware of the stereotype of black desire for ‘white pussy’, and then goes to live with his gay friend Dick. The novel ends with Johnnie yet to make a decision about where his desires really lie.

Introduction by Thomas Glave.

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A brave and pioneering treatment of sexual identity in Caribbean literature, this novel, first published in 1960, follows the fortunes of Johnnie Sobert, a Jamaican exile who works in London at a club that caters to black American servicemen. In flight from his dominant, possessive mother, he immerses himself in the bohemian Soho scene and adopts a wisecracking persona as a cover for his deep-seated insecurities. Adding to Johnnie’s confusion is the fact that when he is not at work, he navigates a completely different life in Hempstead, where he lives in a bedsitter and carries on an unsatisfying affair with his white landlady, Fiona. These two worlds provide a lively portrait of Britons reacting to the growing presence of blacks and Asians in their neighborhoods, and Johnnie takes lessons from each place. By the time he finally decides to move in with his gay friend, Dick, he is much better equipped with self-awareness–but he has yet to make a decision about where his desires truly lie.