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Year of Plagues
A Memoir of 2020
Categories: 21st Century, American, BAME, British, Caribbean, Memoirs
Imprint: Lives and Letters
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (336 pages)
(Due Aug 2021)
In this piercing and unforgettable memoir, the award-winning poet reflects on a year of turbulence, fear, and hope.
For acclaimed British-Guyanese writer Fred D'Aguiar, 2020 was a year of personal and global crisis. The world around him was shattered by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the United States, California burned, and D'Aguiar was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
Year of Plagues is an intimate, multifaceted exploration of these seismic events, which trouble and alienate D'Aguiar from community, place and body. Combining personal reminiscence and philosophy, drawing on music and on poetry, D'Aguiar confronts profound questions about the purpose of pursuing a life of writing and teaching in the face of overwhelming upheavals; the imaginative and artistic strategies a writer can bring to bear as his sense of self and community are severely tested; and the quest for strength and solace necessary to help forge a better future. Drawn from distinct cultural perspectives - his Caribbean upbringing, London youth and American lifestyle - D'Aguiar's beautiful and challenging memoir is a paean of resistance to despotic authority and life-threatening disease.
In his first work of nonfiction, D'Aguiar subverts the traditional memoir with highly charged language that shifts from the quotidian to the lyrical, from the personal to the metaphysical. Both tender and ferocious, Year of Plagues is a harrowing yet uplifting genre-bending memoir of existence, protest, and survival.
Praise for Fred D'Aguiar 'In parts of Letters to America, Fred D'Aguiar comes to seem like Walcott's true twenty-first-century heir ... Fred D'Aguiar has written 'a canticle of water', a book for the individual bowed, imperilled, under the wave of history - monarchical and imperial - and crying out for collective action to stop it from consuming further shores. Letters to America is emphatically worth reading.'
Camille Ralphs, Ambit
'There are some exceptional poems, including the title poem Letters to America (An Abecedary) [...] The poetry is vibrant and musical''An array of sublime poems that unfold unsettling accounts of 'black' identity and the horrors of slavery...written with refreshing candour.'
Adrian B. Earle, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal
Mohammad Fahran, Wasafiri
'Translations from Memory everywhere suggests the vital necessity of continually revisiting and revising our cultural past... It asserts the presence of those who have been written out of it and shows how the complex legacies of slavery and colonialism remain under-explored and undigested.'
Sarala Estruch, The Times Literary Supplement
'D'Aguiar manages to weave together memoir, history and critical race theory in ways that deepen our understanding of his poetics...Translations from Memory [...] will no doubt cement his standing as one of the most important Guyanese writers of the twentieth century.'
Leo Boix, Poetry London
'D'Aguiar is not generally concerned with textual translation in this collection: he applies the word in a broader sense... abbreviations seem part of the serious trans-cultural game, inviting recognition, but also making the outsider notice the limits and exclusions their own education has entailed. Whether the planet's human creatures might coexist without radically mistranslating each other is one of the vigorously posed questions.'
'Reformation' was The Guardian's Poem of the Week, September 24th 2018
'D'Aguiar interrogates and reassesses whatever he sees in a poetry that is flexible and fast paced, every action, every relationship thrown into fierce relief by a sense of threat and insecurity...'
Charles Bainbridge, The Guardian
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