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More secrets from the Underground Railroad: The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates reviewed

21 February 2020

10:00 PM

21 February 2020

10:00 PM

The Water Dancer Ta-Nehisi Coates

Hamish Hamilton, pp.403, £16.99

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s debut novel transports us to antebellum Virginia, when the tobacco wealth of years gone by is dwindling, due to soil exhaustion. He introduces us to the world of the ‘Quality’ (slave owners) and that of the ‘Tasked’ (the enslaved), in which slave-owning is framed as a Lacanian failure on the part of the slaveholder: ‘They did not know us, because not knowing was essential to their power.

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