Season of the Shadow
This powerful novel presents the early days of the transatlantic slave trade from a new perspective: that of the sub-Saharan population that became its first victims. Cameroonian novelist Léonora Miano presents a world on the brink of disappearing—a pre-colonial civilization with roots that stretch back for centuries. One day, a group of villagers find twelve of their people missing. Where have they gone? Who is responsible? A collective dream, troubling a group of mothers in a communal dwelling, may have some of the answers, as the women’s missing sons call to them in terror; at the same time, a thick shadow settles over the huts, blocking out the light of day. It is the shadow of slavery, which will soon grow to blight the whole world.
Miano renders this brutal story in deliberately strange, dreamlike prose, befitting a situation that is, on its face, all but impossible for the villagers to believe.
‘Reading Miano’s brilliant, pitiless novel is like treading water in an undertow. The approaching wave — more than four centuries high and tens of millions of victims long — is invisible from within the story’s deliberately confined perspective. But the omission only enhances its force. . . . Narratively thrilling [. . .] profoundly original.’—New York Times
‘Extraordinary [. . .] Miano’s feat is to restrict her perspective to the points of view of the Mulongo, conjuring afresh the horror and immediacy of an event that time has rendered matter-of-fact [. . .] The writing, benefiting from Gila Walker’s excellent translation from the French, is restrained and dispassionate, so that its fierce emotional energy seems to well up naturally from the characters rather than being imposed by the author from without [. . .] A work of remarkable fidelity and dedication, this novel, too, seems to possess the strength to bring back the stolen.’—Wall Street Journal
‘This work of historical immersion drops readers into the heart of an isolated African community devastated by the arrival of European slavers. Léonora Miano’s novel, in Gila Walker’s translation, dramatizes an unfathomable catastrophe, and its captivating portrayal of the lost world’s rites and customs makes it a vital act of restoration.’—Wall Street Journal, Best Books of 2018
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