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Higher Ground
     

Higher Ground

by Caryl Phillips
 

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This searing novel about slavery and its legacy brings the same stylistic virtuosity and tightly focused intelligence of Phillips's other novels. Higher Ground tells multiple stories, set generations and continents apart but unified by their ambitious exploration of themes of race, power, captivity, and abuse.
 
In a slave garrison in Africa, a

Overview

This searing novel about slavery and its legacy brings the same stylistic virtuosity and tightly focused intelligence of Phillips's other novels. Higher Ground tells multiple stories, set generations and continents apart but unified by their ambitious exploration of themes of race, power, captivity, and abuse.
 
In a slave garrison in Africa, a native collaborator betrays his people and humiliates himself in order to win the favor of white men. From an American prison cell in the 1960s, a black convict tries to impart his vision of race and justice to his indifferent family. And in a dreary city in postwar England, a displaced Jewish refugee watches her youth and sanity slip down the drain of history.
 
Combined and in the skilled hands of Phillips, these narratives take on a devastating power.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Phillips ( The Final Passage ) calls these three novellas a novel, and they are so allied in feeling, though not in style or subject matter, and so superbly written that it would be carping not to go along. Each story captures an apocalyptic moment in the life of a protagonist being tried in his or her innermost being by history's cruelties: an unnamed African at a slave post acts as interpreter for the traders; Rudi Williams, a radical young American black jailed in the '60s, writes letters from a Southern prison; Irina, a Jewish refugee in England, tries not to fall back into madness. The psychology of each narrator determines the startlingly different prose styles of the stories. Phillips impresses also with his intimate knowledge of his subjects and of the way physical and psychological suffering turn into political truths. One reads with anguished suspense as each sad tale is told, exhilarated rather than depressed by the sorrowful truths Phillips humanely pursues. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Throughout history people have found themselves trapped in dehumanizing situations, their sense of personal dignity challenged. It is such situations that connect the three stories making up this work. In the first, an African adept at languages finds himself the toady of slavers, accepted neither in his world nor theirs. In the second, a young black man in a Southern jail struggles to maintain his fierce pride and revolutionary fervor in the face of isolation and brutality. Indeed, one of the story's most telling moments occurs when he asks, ``. . . they have called us nigger, then negro, then colored, and now black; do you imagine they will ever call us Americans?'' The final story involves a young Polish woman, a refugee from Nazi terror, now trapped in fear and loneliness in England. While both interesting in concept and compelling, the book at times seems to be trying too hard, and the characters seem to lose their naturalness. Serious fiction for larger libraries from the author of State of Independence ( LJ 6/15/86).-- David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679763765
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/01/1995
Edition description:
1st Vintage International ed
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.30(d)

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