Results of the National Book Award in the year 1995.
Sabbath’s Theater is a comic creation of epic proportions, and Mickey Sabbath is its gargantuan hero. Once a scandalously inventive puppeteer, Sabbath at sixty-four is still defiantly antagonistic and exceedingly libidinous. But after the death of his long-time mistress—an erotic free spirit whose adulterous daring surpassed even his own—Sabbath embarks on a turbulent journey into his past. Bereft and grieving, besieged by the ghosts of those who loved and hated him most, he contrives a succession of farcical disasters that take him to the brink of madness and extinction.
Haiti in the late eighteenth century: a French colonial society founded on the backs of its black slaves; a morass of shifting political and personal loyalties, of hatred and cruelty meted out to match the increments of lightness and darkness in the color of skin; a world already haunted by its recent genocidal history and facing a new war of extermination in its dangerously near future. This is the setting for Madison Smartt Bell’s All Souls’ Rising—an explosive, epic historical novel.
Leaving the dark, contemporary world he has made his own in nine previous, highly acclaimed novels and short story collections, Bell now turns to the past and brings to life the slave rebellion of the 1790s that would bring an end to the brutal white rule in Haiti. At the epicenter of the rebellion is a second-generation African slave known as Toussaint-Louverture. Self-educated, favored and trusted by his master, quietly charismatic, bold in thought and subtle in action, Toussaint is determined to resist…[more]
The House on the Lagoon is the story of Quintin Mendizabal and his wife, Isabel Monfort. Isabel, a fledgling novelist, is writing a multigenerational novel about the history of their families, of Spanish and Corsican origins, and their arrival in Puerto Rico. Her ambition is great, but her sense of history comically weak. When Quintin, who happens to be a historian, finds her manuscript, he begins to write alternate chapters expressing his own point of view. Isabel colorfully weaves a tapestry of life among the ruling classes of Puerto Rico, with their passionate debates about independence, statehood, racism; their links to Spain and Europe; and their ambivalence toward the United States. But as she draws a self-portrait of her marriage as well, it becomes clear that her relationship with her husband is far from picture-perfect. Quintin becomes incensed at Isabel’s version of events, at her audacity in writing a book, and an autobiographical one at that. And Isabel, in her struggle to forge a new identity and free herself from her coercive marriage and the constraints of the culture, precipitates a conflagration that threatens to consume the entire family.
What would you do if you were driving on the highway with your two daughters and the goons you had noticed with only passing irritation shadowing you in the next lane started shooting? And what would you do once you realized that one of the girls—your beautiful child—lay silent and unconscious, dying of her wounds? This terrible moment when what is literally unimaginable becomes, even for an instant, an inescapable, horrific reality serves as the mainspring for a series of eight interrelated narratives that set about exploring not only the nature and consequences of violence—both real and imagined—but also the richly textured mind and imagination of a representative modern man. A stylistic tour de force, a hypnotic, multifaceted vision of American mayhem, Interstate is also a paean to the visceral truth that a parent’s greatest love is for his child. It is an unforgettable reading experience.
When Haitians tell a story, they say “Krik?” and the eager listeners answer “Krak!” In Krik? Krak!, her second novel, Edwidge Danticat establishes herself as the latest heir to that narrative tradition with nine stories that encompass both the cruelties and the high ideals of Haitian life. They tell of women who continue loving behind prison walls and in the face of unfathomable loss; of a people who resist the brutality of their rulers through the powers of imagination. The result is a collection that outrages, saddens, and transports the reader with its sheer beauty.