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Written in taut, poetic language, THE LONGEST MEMORY is set on a Virginian plantation in the 19th century, and tells the tragic story of a rebellious, fiercely intelligent young slave who breaks all the rules: in learning to read and write, in falling in love with a white girl, the daughter of his owner, and, finally, in trying to escape and join her in the free North. For his attempt to flee, he is whipped to death in front of his family, and this brutal event is the pivot around which the story evolves.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099462217
ISBN-10: 0099462214
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 9mm)
Pages: 144
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 6-Jul-1995
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » An American plantation slave loses his gifted yet headstrong son to a harsh whipping in this powerful, compact rush of a first novel. Guyanese poet D'Aguiar (winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Guyanese National Poetry Award) uses first-person narrative, poetry, journal entries, and newspaper editorials to reveal this tale full of twisted beauty. The reader runs to each of these devices like to a new window from which to catch a glimpse of the truth. That slavery is cruel seems to be the message of the first few pages, which describe the emotional scars Whitechapel still bears many years after the death of his son. But deliberate ambiguities make this much more than a catalogue of slavery's devastations. Whitechapel is a dignified man, respected by his peers, and even by his own masters to a degree. But his dignity is that of the good slave. He accepts his lot and has made the best of it. His son, Chapel, is secretly taught to read by the master's daughter, falls in love with her, dreams of running off with her, and even tries. But Chapel's father reveals his son's whereabouts to the master with the hope of clemency upon his inevitable capture. Chapel's punishment of 200 lashes kills him. Whitechapel becomes known as a Judas and, eventually, as just a silly old grandfather. But dignified acquiescence and spirited rebellion are strategies that fail blacks equally in this novel, set in the American South in the early 1800s. The plantation owner, part tortured Christian soul and part ruthless slaveholder, is a complex if still inexcusable character. So are the two generations of sadistic plantation deputies. Miscegenation and rape further muddy these waters, and inbreeding ultimately results in oedipally proportioned calamity. A small book with the emotional impact of a wide-screen blockbuster, the reasoned progress of a play, and the painful beauty of poetry. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Fred D'Aguiar

Fred D'Aguiar was born in London in 1960 and raised in Guyana and south-east London. He now lives in Florida, where he teaches English at the University of Miami. Author of four novels and four books of poetry, he has been awarded the University of Kent's T.S. Eliot prize for poetry, the Guyanese National Poetry Award and the Malcolm X prize for poetry. He also won the 1994 Whitbread First Novel Award and the David Higham Award for The Longest Memory.

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