The longest memory by Fred D’Aguiar

The lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon

I’ve been trying to write this post for the past three days but real life is taking over and time seems to just disappear.

Our family will be wildly scattered around the globe in the next week, the house needs to be sorted for my parents who will look after the dog (who hates suitcases and follows me around everywhere.). I’ve been furiously doing lots of washing and ironing because there’s nothing worse thank coming back to a mountain of washing already waiting for you and watching lots of episodes of Lucifer, which is terribly bad and terribly addictive. The pseudo religious references are hilarious.

I should be packing my bag for our holiday instead I’ve been booking skips for a friend, sorted out the gate people out there fixing out gate, made coffees, called the council emergency line because the poor chaps found a gigantic wasps nest hidden in the hedge and … disturbed it… and got stung and it was scary… then I ironed the last few things, packed No 3’s bag, called the plumber for my parents, and now I’m sitting here in a daze because it’s only 10.30am and my brain feels fried.

As usual it takes me longer to decide what books to take with me than which clothes… I’m still not sure, but I’ll probably take the Beauty Myth (by Naomi Wolf) to finish and then a few chewing gum for the brain novels just to rest my brain. And the kindle. Just in case.

But let’s talk about the two books I mentioned above. They’re both part on the reading list of one of my courses next year.

‘The Longest memory’ is one of those books that will echo in your head for ages after you close the last page. We’re in Virginia, in the 18th century on a plantation… there’s Chapel and his thirst for knowledge and learning and who tries to run away, Whitechapel his father, the oldest slave of the plantation who inadvertently betrays him, there’s Lydia, the white girl who he loves. There’s a society who de-humanize people, hate, respect, humility and cruelty. It’s about the relationship between masters and slaves, between slaves and slaves. Each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character and you get to know all different point of view on the story. Absolutely brilliant, poignant, heartbreaking. It’s only a short novel but it definitively pack a punch, there’s a lot ‘written’ in between the lines.

Sam Selvon’s The lonely Londoners is very different. It’s a vivid portrait of the immigrants life of a bunch of characters arriving in London in the 50s from Jamaica. They’re workers, hustlers, friends, lovers; they try to make it against all odds, they try to get by in a country that is cold, that doesn’t welcome them, that doesn’t really want them… and they do this in all manners of ways, different attitudes, different spirits. The language is great too, took me a while to get used to it and to properly understand it… but it’s has a musicality all of its own and it’s almost better to read it out loud. I had never read anything of this period in English history and I really enjoyed it.

And now I must seriously get back to my packing!

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