Back in Print: A Morning at the Office by Edgar Mittelholzer
If ever there was a Caribbean classic, A Morning at the Office is surely one of them.
From four minutes to seven, when the aspiring black office-boy, Horace Xavier, opens up the premises of Essential Products Ltd in Port of Spain in 1947 and leaves a love poem in the in-tray of the unattainable, high-brown Nanette Hinckson, to noon when the poetic Miss Jagabir is the last to leave for lunch, the reader is privy to the interactions and inner feelings of the characters who make up the office’s microcosm.
Expatriate English, Coloured Creoles of various shades, Chinese, East Indians and Trinidadian Blacks (and a sympathetically presented gay man), all find ample scope for schemes and fantasies – and wounded feelings when they think their positions on the scale of colour and class are being incorrectly categorised, or when those at the bottom are reminded of their position.
Enlivened by the inventive device of “telescopic objectivity” and a humane comedic touch, Mittelholzer’s classic novel of 1950 challenges the present to declare honestly whether his news is old.
Edgar Mittelholzer was born in British Guiana in 1909. He wrote more than twenty novels. He eventually settled in England, where he lived until his death in 1965, a suicide predicted in several of his novels.