Norman Lewis (28 June 1908–22 July 2003) was a prolific British writer best known for his travel writing. Though not widely known, "Norman Lewis is one of the best writers, not of any particular decade, but of our century", according to Graham Greene.
Lewis was born in Forty Hill, Enfield, Middlesex, a suburb of London, and attended Enfield Grammar School.
Lewis served in World War II and wrote an account of his experiences during the Allied occupation of Italy, titled Naples '44. Shortly after the war he produced volumes about Burma, titled Golden Earth, and French Indochina, titled A Dragon Apparent. His intrepid boots-on-the-ground view of Vietnam under French colonial domination, without being itself a political rant, gives context to any discussion of the American experience in that battered and subjugated part of the world.
Lewis was fascinated by cultures which were little touched by the modern world. This was reflected in his books on travels in Indonesia, An Empire of the East, and among the tribal peoples of India, A Goddess in the Stones.
Lewis's first wife, Ernestina, was a Swiss-Sicilian aristocrat, and Sicilian life, including the Mafia, was another of his major themes, reflected in The Honoured Society and In Sicily. His treatment of the Mafia was not sensationalist but based on an acute understanding of Sicilian society and a deep sympathy with the sufferings of the Sicilian people, without losing sight of the horrors inflicted by the organisation.
Another major concern of Lewis's was the impact of missionary activity on tribal societies in Latin America and elsewhere. He was hostile to the activities of missionaries, especially American evangelicals. This is covered in the volume, Among the Missionaries and several shorter pieces. He frequently said that he regarded his life's major achievement as the worldwide reaction to writing on tribal societies in South America. In 1968, his article "Genocide in Brazil" published in the Sunday Times created such an outcry that it led to the creation of the organisation Survival International, dedicated to the protection of first peoples around the world.
Lewis wrote several volumes of autobiography, again concerned primarily with his observations of the many places in which he lived at various times, which included St Catherine's Island in South Wales near Tenby, the Bloomsbury district of London during World War II, Nicaragua, a Spanish fishing village, and a village near Rome.
Lewis also wrote twelve novels. Some of these enjoyed significant success at the time of publication, but his reputation rests mainly on his travel writing.
He died in Saffron Walden, Essex, survived by his third wife, Lesley, and their son, Gawaine, and two daughters, Kiki and Samara, and by a son, Gareth, and daughter, Karen, from his second marriage with Hester, and by a son, Ito, from his first marriage.