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Year of Plagues
A Memoir of 2020
10% off eBook (EPUB)
10% off Paperback
Categories: 21st Century, American, BAME, British, Caribbean, Memoirs
Imprint: Lives and Letters
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (336 pages)
(Pub. Aug 2021)
eBook (EPUB) Needs ADE!
(Pub. Aug 2021)
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A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year 2021
A New Statesman Book of the Year 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.
'D'Aguiar's electric prose vividly recounts a cancer diagnosis and treatment in the Covid year, a private suffering amid a collective one.'
Sandeep Parmar, New Statesman
'Nothing in this book is sentimental or simple... Reading Year of Plagues is a contradictory experience. Both its language and the experience it conveys are too complex and rich to skim over, and yet the prose has an ongoing urgency, speed and impatience that hustle the reader along. Time passes both slowly and quickly... Yet when he breaks into song or waxes rhapsodic, time stops.'
Rachel Hadas, Times Literary Supplement
'sharply observed...Part of [D'Aguiar's] defiance in the face of cancer is to throw everything he has onto the page. The result is weird and articulate and angry... his rage to live shivers in every sentence... I'm happy to report that Year of Plagues ends on a cautiously upbeat note. Cancer's had to pipe down.'
Dwight Garner, New York Times'A visceral account of personal illness and social ills'
'Throughout, the author's resilience inspires. This makes the fragility of life devastatingly palpable.'
Praise for Fred D'Aguiar 'D'Aguiar's rhymes give the dialogues between Black Swan and the jockey and irresistible energy as freed slave and horse find common ground... It's a glorious gallop of a book.'
Rishi Dastidar, The Guardian
'I've long admired D'Aguiar's poetry for its musicality, which rarely has anything less than perfect pitch, even when taking on extended narrative or dramatic monologue... Still, there's a shift in these Letters, even more swing and dare in the language and an unflinching political activism. Put simply, D'Aguiar is writing the most accomplished and interesting work of his life.'
James Byrne, The Poetry Review
'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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