Slave Old Man

Patrick Chamoiseau, trans. from the French and Creole by Linda Coverdale. New Press, $19.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-62097-295-3
An escaped slave is hunted by a hound who “burst the bounds of utter slavering rage” in this heart-pounding novel from Chamoiseau (Texaco), Martinique’s great chronicler of the atrocity of Caribbean slavery. The old man, once believed to be the “most docile among the docile” slaves on an island plantation, slips away unnoticed, with “no ruminations, no grim glance toward the woods.” He has a head start on the plantation owner’s favored mastiff; by the time the animal that has already killed a half dozen fugitives is loosed, the old man is deep in the island’s forest, where “the leaves were many, green in infinite ways, as well as ochre, yellow, maroon, crinkled, dazzling.” The ensuing pursuit is electric and illuminating: for the old man, Chamoiseau writes, “the mastiff on his heels is showing him his own unknowns.” These insights into his mental strength show how the old man manages to persevere through a fall into a wellspring, branches that leave him “covered in bright blood and scabs,” and an encounter with a viper, en route to the book’s climactic confrontation. Chamoiseau’s prose is astounding in its beauty—and is notable for its blending of French and Creole—and he ups the stakes by making this novel a breathtaking thriller, as well. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/26/2018
Release date: 05/01/2018
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