The Hills Were Joyful Together
Published by Peepal Tree Press
Struggling to survive in the Kingston tenement yard, Surjue falls under the spell of the trickster figure Flitters. Arrested for robbery, he finds himself sentenced to the appalling world of a Jamaican colonial prison, far from his woman, surrounded by his suffering people.
This is a brutal and stark novel, full of Mais’s prophetic rage and railing against the imprisonment felt both inside and outside jail. And whilst the novel displays an unflinching and deeply distressing realism, it is unquestionably also a work of art with a genuinely tragic vision.
Roger Mais (1905-1955) was born into a comfortable, educated middle-class Jamaican family. He was swept up in the riots and workers rebellion of 1938, and thereafter was a wholly committed activist and Jamaican nationalist. His 1944 critique of Churchill’s imperialist ideology, Now We Know, brought Mais to court and he was sentenced to six months in prison for sedition. The Hills Were Joyful Together was originally published in 1951, followed by Brother Man in 1954 and Black Lightning in 1955. He was posthumously awarded the Order of Jamaica in 1978.