Born in 1897, Alfred Hubert Mendes was a Portuguese Creole novelist, short story writer and journalist from Trinidad and Tobago. Along with CLR James, he founded the literary magazine Trinidad and later, with Albert Gomes, the The Beacon - the first such literary magazines to be written and published in the Caribbean. Mendes and James were pioneers, being the first to relate authentically the West Indian social and political experience, as opposed to the British Imperial viewpoint of the situation and marked the beginnings of the Caribbean literary movement.
He spent several years in New York in the thirties involved in literary salons with luminaries such as Richard Wright, Claude McKay, William Saroyan, William Faulkner, Malcolm Lowry and Ford Madox Ford. His first novel, Pitch Lake, was published by Duckworth in 1934 and featured an introduction by Aldous Huxley. It was followed by Black Fauns, published in 1935. Both are outstanding literary novels and cemented Mendes’ reputation as a vanguard of social realism.
Mendes joined the army during the First World War and fought from 1915 to 1917, until he was injured in a gas attack. He fought for two years in Flanders in the 1st Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Brigade and was awarded a Military Medal for his valour on the battlefield. His wartime recollections of carrying messages across no-man’s land, only disclosed late in life, served as inspiration for his grandson Sam Mendes’ award-winning epic, 1917.
He was awarded an honorary D. Litt. by the University of the West Indies for his contribution to West Indian literature. He died in Barbados in 1991.