Review: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, winner of this year’s Booker Prize

Spencer Jordan in The Wire:

Brief-History-Booker-CoverIn Middle Passage (1962), V S Naipaul’s account of revisiting the Caribbean, the author is swept up by the voices of its inhabitants. As one taxi driver tells him: “Is only when you live here as long as me that you know the sort of animal it is.” Understanding exactly what sort of “animal” Jamaica is also lies at the heart of Marlon James’s Booker-winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings.

Like Middle Passage, James’s book is a whirlwind of different voices, intertwining and separating as the novel proceeds. Yet unlike Middle Passage there is no artful attempt to spare the darkness of what was once the heart of the slave trade. As one of James’s characters says when talking about Naipaul’s travelogue, “the beauty of how him write that sentence still lie to you as to how ugly [West Kingston] is”.

Ostensibly A Brief History of Seven Killings is about the failed assassination of Bob Marley, immediately before a peace concert organised by the socialist People’s National Party (PNP) in 1976. Marley was wounded but went on to play the concert. He left straight afterwards and did not return to Jamaica for two years. The gunmen were never brought to justice and their identities remain a mystery.

The fog of uncertainty surrounding these events has elevated them to mythical status. James takes the few facts that are known and runs with them…

More here.