From William Styron's The Confessions of Nat Turner to Toni Morrison's Beloved, modern American fiction engaged with slavery has provoked fiery controversy. So will The Longest Memory, the powerful, beautifully crafted, internationally acclaimed fictional debut of prizewinning Guyanese poet Fred D'Aguiar.
In language extraordinary for its tautness and resonance, The Longest Memory tells the story of a rebellious, fiercely intelligent young slave, who in 1810 attempts to flee a Virginia plantation - and of his father who inadvertently betrays him. The young slave's love for a white girl who slakes his forbidden thirst for learning and his painful relationship with his father are hauntingly evoked in this novel of astonishing lyrical simplicity. It is a measure of D'Aguiar's achievement and bravery that The Longest Memory is informed not only by the complicities between black slave and white master but also by the tensions among slaves themselves - between stoic survivalists and passionate rebels.