In​ Mrs Flanigan’s Antigua and the Antiguans, published in 1844, we are told about a plantation overseer who acted against pilfering slaves. His rigour

caused him to be disliked, and determined one among them, more heartless, perhaps, than the rest, to undertake his destruction. On Christmas day, Mr Brown rode to … a neighbouring estate, and upon his return in the evening … he met with his untimely death.

The slave to whom Mr Brown had rendered himself particularly obnoxious was named Cambridge, and this man had long lain in wait for an opportunity of completing his crime, and for the purpose had sharpened an old copper skimmer, (used in boiling sugar), which he thought would prove an effective weapon.

It was an article of faith among planters that theft, disobedience and one-off acts of violence were on a slippery slope to rebellion. Cambridge had a second objective too. Mr Brown, Flanigan writes, ‘like too many other white men in this island, carried on an amour with a woman belonging to the property, named Christiana, and it was the first intention of Cambridge to murder her as well as the overseer, supposing it was through her communications that so many discoveries of thefts had been made.’ Any attentive reader of treatises about the West Indies will take the disapproval of the ‘amour’ as covering up more than it reveals. What pressure – how brutal, how persistent – was put on Christiana to sleep with the overseer? Such women were exploited, yet also given privileges. To get by they had to manipulate, behave like buckra (white) women; when they were abused, some turned to obeah (magic), poisoning, infanticide, arson and payback of other kinds.

In the event, Flanigan tells us, Cambridge did not attack Christiana, because she took another road that day. ‘Thus thwarted in his views of obtaining revenge, his designs upon Mr Brown gained double hold.’ Unaware of the fate awaiting him, the overseer rode home, and was struck down between two fields of sugar cane. ‘The negroes say that no grass has ever grown in the spot where the blood dropped since the time of the murder.’ The place’s association with death was reinforced by the authorities’ actions. Seeking, in their usual way, to make retribution deter, they decided Cambridge should be hanged near the site of the killing. ‘Long did his whitened bones glisten in the moonbeams; and as the wind shook the chains which held the body’ – he was enslaved even in death – ‘many a little negro who had strayed that way in search of guavas, fled from the spot, for fear of the “dead man’s jumby”.’

A jumby, Flanigan explains, is a vengeful spirit that haunts a place or wanders about. ‘Many are the tales related of their exploits, – tales more terrible than that of the poor ghost in Hamlet, whose “lightest word would harrow up the soul”.’ Did the little boys fear Cambridge’s jumby because he was a killer, or because, like the ghost in Hamlet, he complained of being murdered? To read Flanigan critically is to wonder whether Cambridge’s pilfering really took place or was claimed by the overseer for the sake of imposing discipline. However you construe the evidence, Cambridge was a victim of what the historian of slavery James Walvin calls ‘plantocratic revenge’: legal or irregular retribution – whipping, shackling, lynching – that was used to punish rebellious behaviour or to make an example of someone in order to deter revolt. ‘Scratch a planter,’ Walvin writes, ‘and a ferocious and vengeful man stepped forth to inflict death and bloodshed.’

My attention was drawn to Cambridge not because – or not just because – Cambridge, my own university, is now investigating how far it profited from the slave trade, but because Flanigan’s account is the most significant of the many passages from the literature of slavery that Caryl Phillips recycles in his novel Cambridge (1991). Inventing a backstory, he decided that Cambridge had been married to Christiana, and that his feelings towards her, if vindictive at all, were stirred up by Brown, who, in a repulsive episode reported by Cambridge in the novel, went into their cabin while drunk and forced himself on Christiana, yet also managed to entice her to live with him as though mistress of the plantation. What Cambridge sought in the encounter with Brown, according to Phillips, was an altercation, but it turned into a scuffle.

Out of this triangle emerges another, with the arrival at the start of Phillips’s novel of the proprietor’s daughter, Emily, who has come to the West Indies to inspect her father’s estate, and finds herself, half-consciously, the lightly renamed Christiania’s rival for Brown’s bed. She is badly treated and gives birth to a stillborn child. Emily’s function is partly to provide an equivalent of Flanigan, presenting an eyewitness account of slavery that is at once liberal and riddled with racism. She is also counterpointed with Cambridge, because she has come to the Caribbean to avoid a forced marriage – another form of enslavement – and ends up being coerced by Brown.

Contemporary commentators often said that black slaves were vengeful because of their barbarous origins. Sometimes they refined the point by saying that mulatto vindictiveness was worse because more devious and tenacious. The historical record does show that the reciprocal violence described by such words as awereto (in Twi) and gbsan (in Yoruba) was embedded in African culture. Feuds produced captives to be traded with slavers on the coast. In his Narrative of a Five Years’ Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (1796), John Gabriel Stedman describes meeting a man who had been a prince in Africa but was ‘surprized, taken, and bound’ while on a raid ‘to revenge his [father’s] death’. Yet some who wrote about the plantations also correctively maintained that, whatever the predisposition of the slaves, it was the planters’ brutality that provoked rebellions.

As these violent dynamics found their way into Anglophone writing, they added to the stock of revenge plots that had dealt with questions of justice and liberty since Aeschylus and Euripides through Seneca to Shakespeare’s tragedy about the former slave Othello. Certainly the earliest texts that look extensively at the slave trade – Aphra Behn’s novel Oroonoko (1688) and Thomas Southerne’s stage adaptation of it (1695) – are structured by the motifs and conventions of revenge tragedy: resentment, conspiracy, delay, the grand soliloquy and, above all, tortured bodies.

Reflecting on the prominence of ‘the morbid and the tragic’ in his own work, the Guyanese poet David Dabydeen once said that ‘the plantation experience had severe and traumatic psychic impacts … but overwhelmingly had to do with what is the very ground of our being, which is our body.’ This is an obvious reason slavery goes with revenge tragedy. The ‘human butchers’, in the words of Olaudah Equiano, writing in 1789, ‘who cut and mangle the slaves in a shocking manner on the most trifling occasions’, using the excuse of punishment to justify their sadism, might have learned their trade from Titus Andronicus. Plantocratic revenge continued the reduction of the African that began with capture and sale. Southerne asks for an onstage tableau with Oroonoko ‘upon his Back, his Legs and Arms stretcht out, and chain’d to the Ground’. His punishment for rebellion is an extension of the treatment of slaves on the Middle Passage. Behn’s prince, denied revenge against the planters, stabs and eviscerates himself, and is stitched up only so that his enemies can enjoy his execution. In high tragic fashion, he endures it with stoic indifference, smoking a pipe of tobacco. At the end of Southerne’s tragedy, there is a histrionic glance at the supernatural machinery of the genre, when Oroonoko, about to kill himself, stabs the governor of the colony in a confusing tangle of bodies and says that he will make a ghost of him.

That slavery generates payback is a fear that can be tracked through the reception of Oroonoko into the widely read epistolary poem The Dying Negro (published anonymously in 1773): ‘Thanks, righteous God! – Revenge shall yet be mine;/Yon flashing lightning gave the dreadful sign.’ Storms over the Black Atlantic were held to show divine displeasure, as in Turner’s The Slave Ship, or Henry Fuseli’s engraving The Negro Revenged, which shows a slave ship being struck by lightning as an African couple exult on a rock. One way of taking these images would be to see them as leaving revenge to God, as required by Romans 12, and reducing slaves to victims. A more sympathetic interpretation would see them as threatening retribution – the raised fist in Fuseli’s engraving – from whatever forces of fire and air can be roused against the planters.

Related images can be found in work by members of the black populations of the Caribbean and United States. In Ottobah Cugoano’s Thoughts and Sentiments (1787) or Equiano’s Interesting Narrative, the debt to Christian abolitionism is clear. ‘Kings are the ministers of God … to revenge wrath upon them that do evil,’ Cugoano writes, citing Romans. ‘But if they do not in such a case as this, the … blood of the murdered Africans who are slain by the sword of cruel avarice, must rest upon their own guilty heads.’ Equiano, like Phillips’s Cambridge a Christian convert, rebukes himself when he feels vengeful, yet expects revenge to rain down from heaven and understands how it is stirred up in slaves. Hence his references to Paradise Lost, an epic that began in draft as a tragedy, and that, in the handling of Satan, owes a debt to Jacobean drama. For Equiano slaves are turned into devils once removed from the heaven of Africa to the hell of Montserrat. Aligning himself with the oppressed, he quotes the words of Milton’s Beelzebub as the devils plot rebellion in hell. ‘Are you not hourly in dread of an insurrection,’ he asks of the planters?

Nor would it be surprising: for when

                        ‘– No peace is given
To us enslav’d, but custody severe;
And stripes and arbitrary punishment
Inflicted – What peace can we return?
But to our power, hostility and hate;
Untam’d reluctance, and revenge’.

From the wars of Nanny of the Maroons and Cuffee’s rebellion, both in Jamaica, through the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804, led by Toussaint Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe, the energies of revolt were retributive as well as liberatory. By the time Flanigan was writing, the Christian influence was stronger and went further. When Sam Sharpe, a Baptist preacher, led slaves through Cambridge, Jamaica, in another Christmas revolt in 1831, he left others to attack the planters – although inevitably, like Phillips’s Cambridge, he was hanged for violence he hadn’t intended. Yet evangelicalism fed a hunger for righteousness and an appetite for spiritual victory. Derek Walcott was right to say that it is simplistic to regard conversion as ‘Christian treachery that seduces revenge’.

Justified anger is tenacious, and, as Phillips’s Cambridge discovers, it can be hard to manage. Writing about her native Antigua a century and a half after Flanigan in her brief, combative A Small Place (1988), Jamaica Kincaid spoke of wanting to blow up a branch of Barclays bank because of the sugar and suffering behind it: ‘Do you see the queer thing about people like me? Sometimes we hold your retribution.’ The legacy of Christianity can infuse revenge rather than defuse it, as it does in the incendiary prayer ‘Irae’ that ends Kamau Brathwaite’s Middle Passages (1992):

heal me nanny cuffee cudjoe
grant me mercy at thy word

                      day of fire dreadful day
            day for which all sufferers pray
    grant me patience with thy plenty
  grant me vengeance with thy sword

It has been said that in C.L.R. James’s Black Jacobins (1938) Toussaint becomes a tragic hero because, like Hamlet elsewhere in James’s work, he is caught between two worlds: France and its monarchy as contrasted with Republican liberty. It is at least as important to notice that for James the Haitian Revolution was pulled between vengeful rebellion of the sort Oroonoko exemplifies and a forward-looking notion of politically directed violence from which revenge is at best a distraction. ‘Revenge has no place in politics,’ he contends at one point. His Toussaint resembles Hamlet because he resists taking revenge yet is caught up in events that deliver it and this eats into his soul. James tells us that Toussaint ‘abhorred the spirit of revenge and useless bloodshed of any kind’, yet he began an address to the slaves of Haiti with the words: ‘Brothers and friends … I have undertaken vengeance.’

Four years​ before the publication of The Black Jacobins, James wrote a tragedy about Toussaint which became a fixture of his writing life, undergoing a number of revisions. It is far from the only such text. There are tragic works about Haiti by Aimé Césaire, Édouard Glissant, Langston Hughes and Eugene O’Neill. Taken together they secure the point once made by Raymond Williams: ‘A time of revolution is so evidently a time of violence, dislocation and extended suffering that it is natural to feel it as tragedy … there will of course be revenge … after the bitterness and deformity of oppression.’ In this fraught space we can also put the Haitian plays of Walcott, which recapitulate the conventions of early modern tragedy in order to unpick the bonds of revenge that Walcott, for most of his career, saw as a limiting condition of his region.

The Shakespearean pastiche of Henri Christophe (1948) starts with an epigraph from Hamlet and continues in the same vein. The moral of Walcott’s Haitian dramas can be found in Drums and Colours (1958), where the French general Leclerc asks: ‘Do you know what will happen if your revolution succeeds?/There will not be liberty but mere patterns of revenge.’ Christophe has no objection to this, and when steeped in blood remarks that ‘Revenge/Is very tiring,’ while Toussaint, in line with The Black Jacobins, claims that ‘Revenge is nothing.’ In The Haitian Earth (1984) Dessalines, the leader who abolished slavery in Haiti, admits: ‘I know nothing about the art of war,/But I know plenty about the art of revenge.’

These plays do not add much to Walcott’s reputation but they illuminate the thought that is repeated in his prose: because the people of the Caribbean are descended from torturers and slaves – often mixed up in the same body, as in Walcott’s case – they are ‘silently screaming for pardon or for revenge’. The problem as he saw it was that ‘a literature of revenge written by the descendants of slaves’ would always be hobbled by history. Poets should live in the present, which for Walcott (coming rather close to denial) meant in the Eden of the West Indies, the always fresh Caribbean dawn. His critique has in its favour the fact that vengeance only appears to be of the moment and to look forward. It produces tragedy not just because it involves violence and gore but because it is perversely turned to the past and models the future in that image. Walcott set himself against ‘masochistic recollection’ in poetry, regarding it as a groupthink, the cultural version of revengers’ individual behaviour. Given the dislocations of West Indian history, such harking back led to fragmentation (as in Kamau Brathwaite’s modernism), which for him was a failure in art.

Walcott’s Haitian plays constitute a serious attempt to excavate the conditions of revenge rather than recycle its resentments, and they are alert to the way in which a desire to break out of slave history can result in a doubling down on vengeance because its agents have energy and purpose. The plays’ off-putting element of pastiche is part of the same picture. Revenge lies near the core of tragedy because, in the act of payback, which has to be mimetic of the original offence, it is what Aristotle said drama was as a whole: an imitation of an action. In his interviews, as in his practice, Walcott was attracted to the art of imitation but criticised what he called mimicry, not the colonial mimicry of the imperial centre that V.S. Naipaul wrote about and came to indulge in, but a faked-up recapitulation. ‘What happens in the Third World,’ Walcott declared, ‘is acceptance of the idea of history as a moral force. That notion is what paralyses and leads to mimicry of action.’ Or, more pungently put, in words that are still relevant to the fringes of the street theatre of protest, ‘when revenge is the mode and a black angst fashionable … we find ourselves enraged. We imitate the images of ourselves.’ Whether tendentious or merely contentious as a judgement on black radicalism, ‘we imitate the images of ourselves’ catches the histrionic self-construction of the tragic revenger.

What happens when the slave trade is represented from the point of view of those more like Christiana than Cambridge? There’s no reduction in tragic intensity, with exploitation becoming invasive and payback necessarily subtle when the inequalities of gender are added to those of race. Slave rebellion can go inward, to the domestic sphere and into the body of a woman subjected to owner and overseer. The classic, condensed account is Grace Nichols’s lyric sequence I Is a Long-Memoried Woman (1983). Born and brought up in Guyana, Nichols came to Britain in her late twenties, in 1977, just a few years after full independence, so her book is grounded in experience of the colony close to Oroonoko’s Surinam.

Significantly, it starts by figuring the slave woman from Africa as born out of revenge (in Igbo culture, chi is the spirit which determines a person’s destiny):

Child of the middle passage womb
daughter of a vengeful Chi
she came
    into the new world
birth aching her pain
from one continent/to another

Nichols focuses on the tragic effect on slaves when they rob or pay back their owners. ‘Eulogy’ remembers ‘the leaping suicide/ones’ of the Middle Passage. Infanticide leads one slave woman to be punished as a ‘rebel’: staked-out, covered with molasses (what she has been enslaved to make), eaten alive by ants, and made an example to all the other women who are assumed to be smouldering with rebellion. When the long-memoried woman is impregnated by a planter, she murders her own baby, feeling grief but undeterred.

After the planter’s wife arrives from England, the slave woman displaces her. We hear about the fragility of the buckra woman, who, like Emily near the start of Cambridge, has to ride in a carriage and be lifted over ditches. Like Christiania, who scratches about in the dark outside Emily’s window, Nichols’s protagonist is constructed as a threat, an obeah woman laughing softly at night and picking ‘strange weeds’ that can cause harm. Emily is bothered by Christiana’s position in Brown’s house. Nichols’s slave woman acquires much the same status. The planter’s wife happily gives up her sexual duties and the slave subverts the household until ‘her sorcery cut them/like a whip.’ It is payback for the whipping on the plantation. She makes the owners her slaves.

Just before she tells us about Brown’s murder, Flanigan reports one of the many cases of vengeful poisoning by a house slave in the history of the plantations. This is the way the long-memoried woman operates, metaphorically, against the planters:

She hide her triumph
and slowly stir the hate
of poison in

As with poisoning in revenge tragedy – Marlowe’s Jew of Malta, for example, is getting his own back for racial abuse – the covert nature of the action is both necessary and gleeful. Tragedy impends because the victims do not see their enemies, even when they are visible. The smile that looks ingratiating is the grin of successful betrayal:

Not every skin-teeth
is a smile ‘Massa’ …

Know that I smile
know that I bend
only the better
to rise and strike

Writing at a time in feminism when archetypes were in vogue as role models, Nichols reaches beyond the house slave to write about the return of an Ashanti priestess and rebel leader, the prime dedicatee of the collection, Nanny of the Maroons, who is said by some sources to have been the first known practitioner of obeah. But Nanny herself is extrapolated through a history of rebellion into

unrestful rumblings
shadowy meetings

drumprayers to Vaudoux
in darkforest clearing

So the book draws on the old exemplars of rebellion to satisfy the ‘vengeful Chi’ from which it starts. One way into revolution was, as in Haiti, fire, burning down planters’ houses and sugar cane. Flanigan says that ‘incendiarism’ was ‘frequently practised by the negroes to carry out their plans of revenge’. It flickers through Nichols’s ‘Omen’ (‘What’s that sound/What’s that flame?’) until the grand moment of revenge arrives:

It has come
It has come

and bloodfeast
a banner of heads on spikes
the black surge

Nichols’s long-memoried woman deals in ritual, religion and fatality. So you could bring to bear on her book some of the oldest questions about tragedy: Can there be tragedy without metaphysics? Do we look for a larger order to make sense of destruction? James Baldwin is thought-provoking about this, in The Fire Next Time (1963):

I could also see that the intransigence and ignorance of the white world might make … vengeance inevitable – a vengeance that does not really depend on, and cannot really be executed by, any person or organisation, and that cannot be prevented by any police force or army: historical vengeance, a cosmic vengeance, based on the law that we recognise when we say, ‘Whatever goes up must come down.’

The law which looks as inevitable as gravity is the product of cumulative and systematic acts of oppression.

Some​ of this logic is followed through by D.S. Marriott, a British poet of Jamaican heritage, now based in America, who, even as a student in Cambridge, was galvanised by the psychopathology of black and white in the history set out by Baldwin. His early pamphlet Schadenfreude (1989) includes a prose poem dedicated to J.H. Prynne that gives us the core scenario: ‘A prejudice of abject variation extends the living into those who have died, bearers of unbroken continuity, a passage into mistaken presentation, re, black homonym of horror.’ And it runs into a piece about the Jamaican Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay in Paris: ‘The vengeful firmity of gradual snow in the threadbare gutters of your cleft being.’ Here are the growth points of an intellectually demanding output that explores black trauma from slavery to poverty through revolt and white vindictiveness.

Some of the most striking recent verse by black poets digs back into the archive: M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong! (2008), which sifts and scatters legal records about the jettisoning of Africans from a slave ship (in 1781) for the sake of insurance money; Jay Bernard’s Surge (2019), which re-presents testimony associated with the New Cross Fire of 1981, in which 13 young black people were killed during a birthday party. There is also a documentary element in Marriott’s work, but he goes deeper into the racial imaginary. From ‘The Dream, Called Lubek’ in Incognegro (2006), which alludes to the earliest slave voyages out of England, to the hallucinations and hauntings of the captain and doctor on the Zong in The Bloods (2011), he probes the still-live nightmare with psychoanalytical insight.

His guide to all this is Fanon, who could declare, ‘face to face with the white man, the Negro has a past to legitimate, a vengeance to exact,’ but who created more complex understandings of black self-construction through masochism and fantasies of revenge under what Marriott calls, in his prose book Haunted Life (2007), ‘the unseeing and always vengeful eye of white imagining’. Marriott wonders whether Haunted Life is ‘too earnest and fervent in its insistence that blackness has become a right to death’, but the power imbalances played out in the American phantasmagoria have not seemed to change his mind.

In Whither Fanon? Studies in the Blackness of Being (2018), he built up an account of exclusion (social death) that effectively and distressingly foreshadowed police killings to come:

in this sense black life does matter, even though not as life but in its preservation as social death, as confirmed by the historic legal codes of racial slavery … We shall see, in the preponderance of extrajudicial killing, or the literal arrest of black life, the repeated performance of an ‘accidental’ choking in which the relation of jurisdiction to propriety is key … the spectacle in which the black body suffers and helplessly succumbs is as much about confirming the proper role of blackness as it is about performing the sovereign power of whiteness.

For all that this is prescient the whole point is that it’s not surprising. Such arrests and chokings have long been re-enacted in the psychodrama of the United States and the empire of slavery. Look no further than lynching, and before that the hanging of men like Cambridge for whatever reason or example.

The assault on black women has been different, and often, as in Phillips and Nichols, sexual. In his prose poem ‘Nothing Precious Is Scorned’, included in The Bloods, Marriott takes us into the rage and grief of a slave woman who is repeatedly raped by a white man. Reduced to ‘an ornament, a husk, an emptiness’, she works out her bitterness by spinning and weaving in her cabin. Like an obeah woman she plots her payback. When he returns once too often, she strikes: ‘The first blow bloodied his head and eyelid, the second blow forced him to hang his neck down, the third dispossessed him of his strength forcing him to slump onto the pile of skirts, silks, and stockings, his eyes wide and doleful in the lace-work, his mouth opening and closing like a fish caught in a net.’

There are echoes in this killing of Homer and Aeschylus. And Marriott’s note tells us that his title is taken from Simone Weil’s ‘The Iliad, or, The Poem of Force’, an essay that works out why, in Baldwin’s phrase, whatever goes up must come down. For Weil, ‘those who have force on loan from fate’ – e.g. a white man raping a slave woman – ‘do not see that the force in their possession is only a limited quantity.’ This blindness exposes them to payback. ‘Nothing’, as Weil puts it, ‘no shield, stands between them and tears. This retribution, which has a geometrical rigour, which operates automatically to penalise the abuse of force, was the main subject of Greek thought. It is the soul of the epic. Under the name of Nemesis, it functions as the mainspring of Aeschylus’s tragedies.’

The genius and extravagance of Weil’s essay – and this stems from her Christian commitment – lies in her finding a species of compassion in the fact that ‘no man is set above or below the condition common to all men’. ‘Justice and love,’ she writes of the Iliad,

which have hardly any place in this study of extremes and of unjust acts of violence, nevertheless bathe the work in their light without ever becoming noticeable themselves, except as a kind of accent. Nothing precious is scorned, whether or not death is its destiny … no man is set above or below the condition common to all men; whatever is destroyed is regretted.

Marriott gives us death as a leveller, but his vision of life on the plantation, and, by implication, its legacy, is too socialised and too psychoanalytical to generate the dispassionate inevitability Weil finds in the Greeks. ‘Nothing precious is scorned,’ the phrase he extracts from this passage, is layered at the top of his poem with bitterness and complication. The pigmentocracy he depicts owes more to Fanon than to the New Testament. As the black woman prepares to ‘revolt’, her face is caught in the moonlight and a white mask appears (Fanon calls this ‘lactification’): ‘On her milky forehead appeared a sort of venomous calm.’

One reason Marriott draws on Weil is that she quotes from some of the slaves in the Iliad. When he tells us before the master’s murder that slavery is a state of being ‘chained to the absence of being, your being a stone. No one can lose more than the slave loses,’ the words he puts in italics are taken from Weil’s gloss on a speech by Briseis, who has been captured by Achilles and enslaved. Weil sees in her plight a paradigmatic, tragic economy. The slave ‘loses’ her ‘whole inner life’. Only the possibility of changing her fate allows the slave to regain a piece of it. ‘Such is the empire of force.’ Aware that repeated suffering leads to a depletion that can be more devastating than total loss, Marriott revises Weil to say that a slave’s ‘inner life drains away’. More searchingly, he takes a different view of force, one in which responsibilities are systemic yet hard to allocate, while agonies fall on the weak: ‘What is force?’ he asks. ‘It is an act in which all are implicated, but the force of that “all”, as of the implication, remains uncertain. And not everyone is equal to its weight.’

‘Nothing Precious Is Scorned’ speaks now to a moment in which many want a reckoning with slavery, if only reparation as payback. It is too pessimistically alert, however, to the ubiquity of force and the virulence of the racial imaginary to wave a banner. The horrors of what is described prevent the reader from identifying with payback, and it ends not with Greek catharsis but with unanswered questions. There is no chance here that rape and retribution will be elevated into ‘love and justice’, and although Marriott is attracted to Weil’s grounding of value in ‘the condition common to all men’ and her derivation of equality from Nemesis, his text, briefly put, says that tragedy is not enough. His forensic and restless work shows how difficult it will be to even things out with the brutality of the past.

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