[ View the story "A reggae singer, a failed assassination and the turmoil of modern Jamaica " on Storify] A reggae singer, a failed assassination and the turmoil of modern Jamaica Man Booker Prize nominee Marlon James speaks to The Stream about his novel "A Brief History of Seven Killings"
The Stream· Mon, Aug 03 2015 17:45:40
When Jamaican author Marlon James was writing his novel, "A Brief History of Seven Killings", he
he wanted the book to feel just like life. “I had one rule when I was writing. Every day, at least once a day, I should say, ‘I didn’t see that coming.'”
Just finished Marlon James' "A Brief History of Seven Killings" and I already miss those characters and places. So perfectly etched.Keri Kellerman
The fiction novel spans three decades. James uses the failed assassination attempt of reggae legend Bob Marley in 1976 to tell a larger story of rival gangs in Jamaica, partisan politics enmeshed in the Cold War Era, the tales of CIA operatives, and the violent Jamaican drug trade transplanted to a new generation in the Bronx, New York City.
A range of
followed Bob Marley's assassination attempt. In a time of turmoil for Jamaica's rival political groups, some say only Marley, a
, was calling for peace. Just days before his "Smile Jamaica" concert, three intruders allegedly
the singer, his wife Rita Marley, and several others in their home.
During the Smile Jamaica concert in Kingston, Jamaica on December 5, 1976, Marley sang the song below titled, "Rat Race." At 1:01 he sings, "Political violence fill ya city, ye-ah! Don't involve Rasta in your say say. Rasta don't work for no C.I.A."
05. Bob Marley & The Wailers - Rat Race [Smile Jamaica Concert]ReggiMusic
The novel refers to the rivalry between Jamaica's two main political groups, the socialist-democratic People's National Party (PNP) at the time led by prime minister Michael Manley and allegedly
by Cuba and Russia, and the conservative Jamaica Labour Party (JLP),
to be aided by the CIA. Some allege that the CIA funneled
into the country to destabilise Manley's government. Characters in James' novel illustrate the battleground where partisan terrorist groups used gun violence to settle turf and elections.
Today, both of the parties continue to vie for power. Some Jamaicans are tweeting about a need for change.
PNP gotta go. JLP gotta go.
New political movement needed.Senhor
Y'all should try Emancipate yourselves from PNP and JLP.. They are the ones holding this country downDondrè
But Jamaica does not have a
fixed election date
and relies on
from the International Monetary Fund, as well as other international funding agencies. One user from Jamaica says the problem stems from more than just rival political parties.
Cold war related disruption and imf strategies have more to do with the destruction of your future than merely PNP and JLP.Innovo Biggs
Politics and gangs are intertwined in the island's ghettos or
, often ruled by
with political ties as seen with James' characters "Josey Wales" and "Papa Lo". Today these dons may provide social benefits to the community. Below, druglord Christopher "Dudus" Coke was seen as a community hero in Kingston who helped deliver elections. He received a
23 year sentence
after being extradited to the US on charges of weapons and drug trafficking. At least 73 people
while security forces got Coke out of Jamaica and into US custody.
Praising a Jamaican 'drug lord'Al Jazeera English
"A Brief History of Seven Killings" offers a backdrop for a time in Jamaica's history where physical and sexual violence, drug wars, partisan politics, Cold War influence, and the love of reggae music were woven into the island's society. The book was among
for the prestigious Man Booker Prize. The winner will be announced in October.
Congrats to @FranklinParkBK Reading alum @MarlonJames5 on @ManBookerPrize nom for A BRIEF HISTORY OF SEVEN KILLINGS!
This marks the second year that authors of any nationality have been eligible for the Man Booker Prize, which comes with a payment of about $78,000. Before last year, only authors from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth of Nations were considered.
It's pretty amazing that a Jamaican author is the 2015 American Book Award winner. Big up Marlon James! And very well-deservedsash.
The Stream asked its community what implications there are for choosing Bob Marley as the central point for the novel and how his character as the unnamed "Singer" functioned in the book.
@Nuri_ibrahim @AJStream Why Marley as the focus of this imaginative chronicle? What's gained in probing beneath the mythos of this icon?Kinohi Nishikawa
@Nuri_ibrahim @AJStream Was Marley always a silent and un-named figure in Brief History, or did that come during the writing process?Alex Bean
@Nuri_ibrahim @AJStream thank u for this opportunity. There is a sense in the book that Bob Marley wasn't seen as truly a son of the ghetto.Dominic OwenWilliams
The Stream also asked what questions they have for the Jamaican author.
.@Nuri_ibrahim @AJStream sure! I took a class with him once. Q: Is it hard to write on JA being so far away from the language and culture?Shanza Lewis
@Nuri_ibrahim Question: After writing "A Tale of Seven Killings", what conclusions can be drawn about JA's current political climate?Queen Nanny
@AJStream @MarlonJames5 As colonized people, how do we use our imagination to rewrite our histories, aside from the colonial texts?Kiprop Kimutai