Roger Mais

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Born on the 11th of August 1905 in Kingston, Jamaica and died on the 21st of June 1955 the renowned Roger Mais was a Jamaican poet, novelist and journalist. His fundamental role in Jamaica’s political and cultural development is evidenced in him being awarded the Order of Jamaica honour.

 

A past student of the Calabar high school he wrote several plays, reviews, and short stories for the newspaper Focus and the Jamaica Daily Gleaner, concerning his articles with social injustice and inequality.

 

Mais left for England in 1952. He lived in London, then in Paris, and for a time in the south of France. He took an alias, Kingsley Croft, and showcased an art exhibition in Paris. His artwork also appeared on the covers of his novels. In 1953, his novel The Hills Were Joyful Together was published by Jonathan Cape in London.

 

Soon afterwards, Brother Man (1954) was published, a sympathetic exploration of the emergent Rastafari movement. His short stories were collected in a volume entitled Listen, the Wind, and thirty-two years after his death. Mais’s novels have been republished posthumously several times, an indication of his continuing importance to Caribbean literary history.

 

He also had an influence on younger writers of the pre-independence period, notably John Hearne. Many of Mais’s manuscripts have been deposited in the library of the University of the West Indies, Jamaica.

 

In the early 1930s Mais began writing verse and short stories, and later a number of plays. He was swept up in the riots and workers rebellion of 1938, and thereafter was an entirely committed supporter and protester involved with the PNP and Jamaican nationalism.

 

His essays and short stories, mostly published in Public Opinion, were the literary attachment to Edna Manley’s discovery of an increase anti-colonial Jamaican spirit in sculpture. Mais was possibly the most important writer to materialize from the nationalist movement which began with the labour rebellion of 1938.

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His play of that year, George William Gordon, which focused on the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865, played an important role in the rehabilitation of the eponymous character, who was in conventional colonial history described as a rebel and traitor, and who would be proclaimed, on the centenary of the rebellion, a National Hero. Mais’s novels have been republished posthumously several times, an indication of his continuing importance to Caribbean literary history.

 

Mais also won ten first prizes in West Indian Literary competitions. Mais left for England in 1952; he travelled to Europe-London, Paris, and the South of France, just merely to fulfil himself. Roger Mais often incorporated a romantic idea into his writings which he drew from his western education inspirations that lead to his use of tragic, visionary and poetic elements within books and plays.

 

On his trips abroad in 1954 he found out he had a life-threatening cancer. He returned to Jamaica, tried to finish a fourth novel, but died before its achievement in 1955 at the age of forty- nine. Mais legacy still lives on; he was a dynamic and inspirational writer.