Peter Abrahams, South African-born Jamaican writer, Died at 97


Peter Henry Abrahams Deras was born on March 3, 1919, and died on January 18, 2017.

He was commonly known as Peter Abrahams.

Abrahams was a South African-born Jamaican novelist, journalist and political commentator.

His father was from Ethiopia and his mother was Coloured.

Abrahams was born in Vrededorp, a suburb of Johannesburg, but left South Africa in 1939.

Abrahams worked first as a sailor, and then as a journalist in London.

Pursuing his way as a writer, Abrahams faced considerable challenges as a South African, as Carol Polsgrove has shown in her history, Ending British Rule: Writers in a Common Cause (2009).

During 1942, despite a manuscript reader’s recommendation against publication, Allen & Unwin brought out his Dark Testament, made up mostly of pieces he had carried with him from South Africa.

Dorothy Crisp, the Publisher published his novels Song of the City (1945) and Mine Boy (1946).

Reported by the Nigerian scholar Kolawole Ogungbesan, Mine Boy became “the first African novel written in English to attract international attention.”

Other books followed with publication in Britain and the United States: two novels —The Path of Thunder (1948) and Wild Conquest (1950); a journalistic account of a return journey to Africa, Return to Goli (1953); and a memoir, Tell Freedom (1954).

In London, Abrahams lived with his wife Daphne in Loughton.

Abrahams met several important black leaders and writers, including George Padmore, a leading figure in the Pan-African community there, Kwame Nkrumah of the Gold Coast and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, both later heads of state of their respective nations.

During 1956, Abrahams published a roman à clef about the political community of which he had been a part in London: A Wreath for Udomo.

Abrahams’ main character, Michael Udomo, who returns from London to his African country to preside over its transformation into an independent, industrial nation, appeared to be modeled chiefly on Nkrumah with a hint of Kenyatta.

In 1956, he settled in Jamaica.

During 1994, Abrahams was awarded the Musgrave Gold Medal for his writing and journalism by the Institute of Jamaica.

He became one of South Africa’s most prominent writers, his work deals with political and social issues, especially with racism.

Abrahams’ other works include the story collection Dark Testament (1942) and the novels The Path of Thunder (1948), A Wreath for Udomo (1956), A Night of Their Own (1965), the Jamaica-set This Island Now (1966, the only one of his novels not set in Africa) and The View from Coyaba (1985).

Abrahams also wrote This Island Now, which speaks to the ways power and money can change most people’s perspectives.

He was found dead at his home in Saint Andrew Parish Jamaica.

Peter Henry Abrahams Deras passed away at 97 years old.