Feeding the Ghosts by Fred D'Aguiar

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"The sea is slavery," begins Fred D'Aguiar's powerful novel, which starts aboard the Zong, a slave ship returning from Africa in 1781. Only ten weeks into the voyage, the Zong is struck with a disease that threatens to infect all of th human cargo.

The ship's profit-driven commander, Captain Cunningham, conceives a gruesome plan to safeguard his financial investment. In order to recover insurance money and protect the rest of the valuable stock, the captain orders his men to bring the sick and infirm slaves on deck in small numbers and throw them over the side.

During the roundup, Mintah, a young African woman raised in a Christian mission, begins to taunt Kelsal, the first mate, in whom she sees a hint of humanity. But her scheme fails, and Mintah is hurled into the sea, along with 131 other slaves.

"Mintah's first impression of the high sea was that it was cold and lighter through her fingers and around her skin than it appeared....Mintah parted her lips and inhaled. She breathed the sea." Then, almost by miracle, Mintah is able to grab the ship's rigging and climb back on board, where she hides out in a supply room. From there she tries to rouse the remaining slaves to rebel, becoming a secret force on the ship and stirring up unease among the crew with a voice and a conscience they seem unable to silence.

Inspired by a true story, Feeding The Ghosts confirms the importance of memory and testimony in the struggle against oblivion. This haunting novel is richly atmospheric, full of suspense, and profoundly moving.


About Fred D'Aguiar

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Fred D'Aguiar was born in London in 1960, and raised in Guyana and south-east London. Author of three novels and four books of poetry, he currently teaches English at the University of Miami.
Published January 1, 1997 by London, Chatto & Windus [. 230 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Feeding the Ghosts

Kirkus Reviews

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But when Kelsal is hailed unexpectedly by name from the slave hold, after the first slaves have been cast upon the waters, he discovers a woman, Mintah, who not only speaks English well but who makes a determined appeal to his sense of humanity.

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Publishers Weekly

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In his lyrical third novel, D'Aguiar (Whitbread Award winner for The Longest Memory) fictionalizes a horrifying incident that occurred in 1781. The Zong, a slave ship headed home to England, is packed

Jan 04 1999 | Read Full Review of Feeding the Ghosts

Publishers Weekly

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The crew is nearly absolved of responsibility until Mintah's journal is produced, which directly contradicts the crew's accounts.

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John Baker's Blog

Instead it rolls that body across its terrain, send that body down into its depths, its stellar dark, swells the body to bursting point, tumbles it beyond the reach of horizons and gradually breaks fragments from that body with its nibbling, dissecting current.

Oct 18 2008 | Read Full Review of Feeding the Ghosts

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