Many Seasons Gone: Memory, History, and the Atlantic Slave Trade

in New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids
Open Access

[First paragraph]African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade: Beyond the Silence and the Shame. Anne C. Bailey. Boston: Beacon Press, 2005. 289 pp. (Cloth US $ 26.00)Lose Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route. Saidiya Hartman. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. xi + 270 pp. (Cloth US $ 25.00)In Two Thousand Seasons, the great Ghanaian novelist Ayi Kwei Armah describes the effects of centuries of European exploitation and violence in Africa and the alienation and death that separated Ghanaians in 1973 (when the book was published) from those before them. “Pieces cut off from their whole are nothing but dead fragments,” he laments. “From the unending stream of our remembrance the harbingers of death break off meaningless fractions. Their carriers bring us this news of shards. Their message: behold this paltriness; this is all your history” (Armah 1973:2). It is this seeming paltriness, this history of meaningless fractions that Anne C. Bailey and Saidiya Hartman explore in their latest works, identifying and mending shards of memory and written and oral fragments into recognizable and meaningful forms. As with Armah in Two Thousand Seasons, for Bailey and Hartman, “the linking of those gone, ourselves here, those coming ... it is that remembrance that calls us” (Armah 1973:xiii). Both of them, haunted by remembrance and driven by a personal quest for reconciliation with the past and a scholarly desire for the truth, are unwilling to accept the past as passed, or to settle for the scattered silence that so often substitutes for the history of Africans and those of the diaspora.

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