All Souls' Risingby Madison Smartt Bell
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… See more details below
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 the excesses of the mob and still put an end to French dominion. Toussaint's story is the focal point of the larger drama of an avaricious inhumanity and the deadly conflagration that was its outcome, the consequences of which have reached even into our own time.
“A serious historical novel that reads like a dream.” –The Washington Post Book World
“Rich and ambitious. . . . One of the most sophisticated fictional treatments of the enduring themes of class, color, and freedom.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“A powerful and intelligent novel. . . . Historical fiction in the monumental manner.” –The New York Times Book Review
“A beautifully composed, eloquent, grand nightmare of a book. With it, Bell becomes as remarkable a historical novelist as we have in this country.” –Harold Bloom
“A work of breathtaking stylistic expertise on a large scale, easily [Bell’s] most daring and accomplished novel.” —The Baltimore Sun
“A passionately engaged opus. All Souls’ Rising reflects both a sustained imaginative audacity and great intellectual resourcefulness.” —The New Yorker
“Remarkable. . . . All Souls’ Rising deserves to be read for its fictional representation of history and for its compelling characterizations. But its political importance should not be underestimated. . . . Bell’s excursion into revolutionary Haiti is the attempt of an undaunted novelist to stand face to face, as it were, with the prehistory of our own racial divisiveness. . . . An important book.” —The Oregonian
“I’ve known Madison Smartt Bell’s work for quite a while, and this is the best thing he’s ever done–and probably the best thing he’ll ever do, which is my definition of a masterpiece. All Souls’ Rising is simply breathtaking.” —Gloria Naylor
“The scope of this ambitious narrative is heroic. . . . Bell demonstrates that each race destroys itself in doing evil to the other.” —Chicago Tribune
“A major work, a triumph of both storytelling and inspired historical analysis.” —Robert Stone
“A vivid, visceral tale. . . . [Bell] has taken the events of eighteenth-century colonial Haiti and made them a prism for the most divisive issues confronting us today.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Bell’s luminous, intelligent novel . . . is magnificent. It restores my faith in the energy of American fiction.” —Barbara Probst Solomon
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Meet the Author
Madison Smartt Bell is the author of fourteen works of fiction, including The Stone That the Builder Refused; Master of the Crossroads; Save Me, Joe Louis; Dr. Sleep; Soldier's Joy; and Ten Indians. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his family and teaches at Goucher College.
- Baltimore, Maryland
- Date of Birth:
- August 1, 1957
- Place of Birth:
- Nashville, Tennessee
- A.B. in English, Princeton University, 1979; M.A. in English and creative writing, Hollins College, 1981
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All Soul¿s Rising is kind of an amazing book. It¿s bloody. Very bloody. But so is the subject matter. Bell is stretching himself on this one. I¿m not sure it gives the full complexity of the story from the slave¿s perspective, but this really feels like it¿s intended to set the grand stage for the books to follow. It does that well. The author¿s writing is precise and beautiful, even as it describes amazing horrors. I look forward to the next one. If Bell can tie all these story lines together and somehow give meaning to this chaos he will be achieving something grand, something few authors even attempt.
George Bernard Shaw says somewhere that one can better learn about the past from historical novels than from history texts. That's not generally true, I think; but Bell's recreation of events in the first two years of the 1791¿1803 Haitian revolution ¿ All Souls Rising ¿ is the kind of work Shaw must had in nind. Master of the Crossroads, the second work in his trilogy, carries Bell's account to 1801. Both books are imaginatively conceived, extensively researched, and brilliantly written. I recommend them highly.