Nomadic London: Reading Wandering in Sam Selvon’s <i>The Lonely Londoners</i> and Ben Okri’s “Disparities”
This essay presents an aesthetic of mobility, or a way of reading that recognizes migrancy, wandering, and fragmented experience as fundamental narrative features of colonial and post-colonial literary contexts. Drawing on contemporary network theories and on discussions of walking as a social practice, the essay argues that Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners and Ben Okri’s “Disparities” demonstrate the creative potential of wandering as a narrative strategy of digression and layering in plot and structure, allowing for an incorporation of the views of migrants into London’s topography and its concomitant meaningfulness. The analysis identifies a narrative practice where metropolitan space is constructed by the lived, mobile experiences of colonial migrants and post-colonial immigrants, who sidestep the controlling pressures and modulating flows of local and global network systems, especially as they are exerted by urban design, social organization, and immigration policies. This reading for mobility as aesthetic practice offers a way of understanding the stories of im/migrants as composed of complex paths and unexpected intersections, rather than as confrontational or hierarchal. It provokes a need for focusing critical attention on networks as compelling structures of order and influence that, paradoxically, also offer potential for an indirect, multi-layered agency.