Re-Writing/Righting the Middle Passage in Fred D’Aguiar’s Feeding the Ghosts

Abid Larbi Labidi


Based on a close textual analysis of Fred D’Aguiar’s tour de force novel Feeding the Ghosts (1998), this paper particularly examines how D’Aguiar’s narrative reconstructs (from a fictional perspective) submerged facts about the unrecorded and/or distorted history of slavery. One major episode of the ‘triangular trade’ will be brought under close scrutiny in this paper: the slaves’ horrendous experience of the Middle Passage with its unspeakable inflictions and degradations. I mainly argue that the literary text (fictional as it may seem) allows the retrieval of the slaves’ ‘inundated’ memories and lost testimonies while on board a slave-ship. This very experience has been immensely marginalized/or distorted in Eurocentric ‘official’ texts about a three-century-long enterprise that immensely enriched Europe and yet went forgotten in its grand narratives of Enlightenment and progress. I show how the slaves’ bodies, memories and identities are profoundly shattered by this infernal cross-Atlantic passage which brought millions of Africans to the Americans while burying their nightmarish tribulations in the very sea that witnessed their infamous passage. I also propose that unearthing the buried secrets of the Middle Passage is a vital task entrusted to the storyteller/writer in the Caribbean cultural and literary context.

Keywords: D’Aguiar, Feeding the Ghosts, The Middle Passage, history re-writing  

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