cover image Mahagony


Édouard Glissant, trans. from the French by Betsy Wing. Univ. of Nebraska, $19.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978‑1‑4962‑0178‑2

Glissant (The Overseer’s Cabin), canonized in the Caribbean for his poetry, novels, and critical theory, offers a dazzling history of colonialism in Martinique, originally published in 1997 and here translated into English for the first time. The book is framed by the musings of contemporary metafictional narrator Mathieu on Martinique’s ubiquitous and ancient mahogany trees, which he believes possess historical memory, and of his role in the story: “I—simultaneously the man, the author and the one depicted as parable—felt the triple entity of this story that I was going to have to relive as such random, opposite kinds of person.” Multiple narrators from the past few centuries surface, and they coalesce around the stories of “Gani the maroon,” who was murdered in the 1830s by a party hunting for escaped slaves, and “Mani the murderer,” who killed a white soldier in retaliation for a rampage on Black peasants. Glissant (1928–2011) is as comprehensive as he is unconcerned with the encumbrance of linearity, and has found the perfect form to explore the inescapable and reverberating legacies of colonialism. This is a transcendent work of art. (Jan.)