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Madison Smartt Bell ~ All Souls’ Rising

Just finished reading the massive and magnificent first volume of Madison Smartt Bell‘s trilogy of novels illuminating the Haitian Revolution, All Souls’ Rising.

We who ignore history are doomed to repeat it: while essentially a narrative of the development from slave, Toussaint-Louverture, to General of the largest and most disciplined force of the uprising, of his intensely personal evolution into a black Spartacus, this book attains a terrible and intimate clarity not only from its recounting of all the atrocities on all facets of this multi-racial conflict, but from the detail and passionate description of daily life on the plantation (from the glassily-mottled colouration of an alighting beetle, the redolence of homemade soup made from scraps, a kiss of a blistered heel), on the run in the mountains; we are given a multi-various feast for all the senses, above and beyond that of our conscience. Make no mistake, the labyrinthine path of racist hatred, deception, betrayal and barbarism at all strata of human society and innate human nature makes this a cautionary and timely tale.

This is a supreme accomplishment in historical fiction. I would normally leaven my traversal of Bell’s works with something light, but I can’t help but plunge in to the remaining two volumes of the trilogy, Master of the Crossroads & The Stone That The Builder Refused.

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