Celebrating Fifty Years of Picador Books
Winner of the National Book Award 1990
The Apocalypse would definitely put a crimp in my career plans.
Rutherford Calhoun, a puckish rogue and newly freed slave, spends his days loitering around the docks of New Orleans, dodging debt collectors, gangsters, and Isadora Bailey, a prim and frugal woman who seeks to marry him and curb his mischievous instincts. When the heat from these respective pursuers becomes too much to bear, he cons his way on to the next ship leaving the dock: the Republic. Upon boarding, to his horror he discovers that he is on an illegal slave ship embarking on the Middle Passage, the portion of the triangular trade route that saw slaves transported from Africa to the US.
Staffed by a crew of criminals and degenerates, the Republic is on a mission to enslave members of the legendary Allmuseri tribe, while the sadistic yet philosophical Captain Falcon has a secondary objective: securing a mysterious cargo that possesses a terrifying and otherworldly power. What follows is a story of Rutherford’s battle for survival, as he finds himself juggling loyalties between the ship’s crew and the enslaved passengers, and is forced to use every ounce of the charm and cunning that he possesses to endure the desperate conditions and battle the myriad deadly forces on the high seas.
A masterful blend of allegory, black comedy, naval adventure and supernatural horror, Charles Johnson’s wildly inventive Middle Passage is a true modern classic.
Part of the Picador Collection, a series showcasing the best of modern literature.
Long after we'd stopped believe in the great American novel, along comes a spellbinding adventure story that may be just that * Chicago Tribune * A novel in the honorable tradition of Billy Budd and Moby Dick... heroic in proportion...fiction that hooks into the mind * New York Times Book Review * A rousing adventure yarn that resonates with and echoes the spirit of early sea stories...Johnson has fashioned a tale of travel and tragedy, yearning and history, and done so from a different, rarely explored viewpoint....Middle Passage is a story of slavery, often brilliant in its structure and riveting in the way it's told * San Francisco Chronicle * Middle Passage has it all - rich lyricism and erudition, apocalyptic storms, clumsy ships disintegrating beneath their sputtering sailors and perilous philosophical conflicts. * Independent * No American writer has returned to the past as effectively as this since Toni Morrison's Beloved...a brilliantly written, human, tragicomic odyssey. * Irish Times * History, philosophy and powerful story-telling converge and somehow Johnson gives this indictment of inhumanity grace and humour. * Observer * Stunningly good...and in its analysis of the black predicament in America, ranks with the classic Invisble Man * Time Out *
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