Some Unsung Songs: Andrea Levy’s Late, Unpublished Works
Keywords:Andrea Levy, contemporary literary archives, Caribbean history, Mary Seacole, racism, diversity in broadcasting, Small Island, The Long Song
This article explores projects which Andrea Levy worked on in her final years but which did not come to light during her lifetime. Drawing extensively on material found in Levy’s personal archive, it considers the form, scope, aims, and qualities of these works. It also reflects on some links between them, as well as how they relate to her published oeuvre. In particular, it highlights the politically-engaged nature of much of Levy’s late unpublished work.
The first part of the article explores material from Levy’s archive relating to a possible sixth novel. This is followed by a detailed discussion of the project in which Levy came to be most invested during her final years: a documentary mini-series on the historical relationship between Britain and the Caribbean. In collaboration with others, Levy developed and pitched this series, ultimately unsuccessfully, to the BBC. As well as Levy’s intentions for and development of the project itself, her subsequent reflections on its rejection are also discussed. The article then discusses a screenplay that Levy wrote based on Mary Seacole’s autobiography. In re-telling Seacole’s story, Levy’s screenplay deftly explores the ways in which that story came to be overshadowed. The last section of the article explores projects that Levy contemplated in the final years of her life but did not significantly develop. It also discusses the short piece “Two”, which was found in Levy’s archive after her death.