Understanding slavery

Jane Miller

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
    Chatto, 275 pp, £11.95, October 1987, ISBN 0 7011 3060 1

Toni Morrison’s novels have been constructed, and are magically unsettled, by the unique character of historical memory for black Americans. That is to say, she has wanted to account for black experience that has been ignored or quite inadequately narrated by white historians and novelists, and even more significantly, in order to do that she has needed to confront precisely those aspects of the experience which have blocked memory, made remembering intolerable and memories inexpressible, literally unspeakable. Indeed, the verb ‘rememory’ is invented in her astonishing novel, Beloved, to stand for something like a willed remembering which includes its own strenuous reluctance to return to the past.

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