Hexes and jinxes, maledictions, imprecations, anathema, damnation, fukú. Avada Kedavra, cursed be Canaan, Macbeth, “good luck” and screw you.
Curses are versatile fictions, foundational to myth and literature, to the power of speech acts and religious taboos, even to national and ethnic identity. In some stories, they are the handicaps that mark future heroes — like the lame legs of Sundiata Keita, legendary “Lion King” of Mali, or Harry Potter’s lightning scar. In others, they are instruments of divine comeuppance, like the boulder of Sisyphus or the mark of Cain. The main requirement is to endow misfortune with narrative and moral significance, if not always with a corresponding sense of justice or proportion. In Charles Perrault’s original “Sleeping Beauty,” the prick of a spindle is enough to send the princess off to her 100-year slumber. Pandora merely opens a box.
The curse has no concept of limited liability; a single transgression can quickly swell into a lasting stigma. Tertullian used Eve’s disobedience to slander women as “the devil’s gateway,” and Byzantine persecutors popularized the idea that God smote Sodom and Gomorrah — cities once thought guilty of inhospitality — for homosexuality. Perhaps the most opaque curse in the Bible, which Noah pronounced on his son Ham, has proved one of its most destructive. Noah, lying hungover and naked in his tent, awakens to realize that Ham has glimpsed him in this state, and, in an unaccountable fit of rage, damns Ham’s son Canaan and his lineage to perpetual servitude. The passage makes no reference to Africa, but centuries of Muslim, Jewish and Christian commentators have tethered Ham’s curse to blackness, thereby justifying slavery from the plantations of the Deep South to the salt mines of the Sahara.
If theology often sharpens curses to dogmatic points, great novels can transform them into open-ended questions, unsettling easy pieties about cause and effect, past and present, crime and punishment. Toni Morrison’s novel “Beloved,” the story of a formerly enslaved woman’s confrontation with the infant she killed, moved a generation to reckon with slavery’s intimate violence and its enduring legacy. The fukú of Junot Díaz’s novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” — a curse brought to the New World by Columbus — gave new dimension to the deep interconnectedness of American histories, weaving a rich tangle of science fiction, Caribbean politics and family lore around the tragicomic life of a Dominican nerd in New Jersey. The narrator of “Oscar Wao” dubs his tale a “counterspell,” an apt description of storytelling’s power to reverse (or at least reverse-engineer) the vector of fate. What seems like a curse might also be a birthright, a special form of insight, a destiny.
Four recent books by African women writers turn curse narratives to historically restorative ends. Reclaiming the device from essentializing myths — a “cursed” gender, a “cursed” continent — they ask what function curses play in the manufacture of histories, families, villages and nations, simultaneously paying homage to the ostracized. These are tales of the “curse” as universal warning and hard-earned insight; as means of giving redemptive shape to suffering; as latent superpower and catalyst to solidarity.
Ancestral curses often “explain” a group’s essential character. But a 2017 novel by the Ugandan writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi inverts that conceit: What if a curse expressed all the ways that families, cities and nations fail to cohere? This is the question posed by KINTU (Transit Books, paper, .95), a sweeping portrait of Ugandan history that begins with the fall of a powerful clan in the 18th century and follows the family’s line through the 21st. The novel, like Genesis, is an origin story; it takes its title from the name of Buganda mythology’s “first man.”
Makumbi’s original sinner is the nobleman Kintu Kidda, a beleaguered patriarch consumed by his diplomatic, military and conjugal responsibilities. He serves a bloodthirsty monarch and governs a recently conquered borderland, which he tours in a never-ending circuit of visits to his auxiliary wives. (Makumbi has called the novel “masculinist”; among its great strengths is her attention to the performative burdens patriarchy imposes on men.) Kintu often feels like “a seed dispenser … a slave to procreation and to the kingdom,” but at home, his problems are worse than sexual overcommitment. Married to estranged twins — he loves one; tradition makes the other obligatory — he struggles to command a family that simmers with resentments, rivalries, deceptions and internal contradictions.
In Genesis, Ham sins against his father, Noah. In “Kintu,” the patriarch himself is culpable, and the crime is negligence. It begins when Kintu accidentally kills his adopted son and conceals the incident from the boy’s biological father, a Rwandan Tutsi living at the fringes of the community. When the man finds out, he curses Kintu, precipitating a chain of domestic tragedies that afflicts the clan for generations. In the chapters that follow, Makumbi traces the fallout in the lives of Kintu’s modern descendants.
Though she ironically alludes to Ham in an epigraph from the 19th-century explorer John Hanning Speke — “I profess accurately to describe naked Africa … a striking existing proof of the Holy Scriptures” — the joke is how thoroughly her novel snubs his Victorian myopia. “Kintu” pointedly omits the colonial period, and with it the narrative of Europe in Africa that has dominated so much of the continent’s literature. Neither Ham’s nor Africa’s, “Kintu”’s curse grounds a fundamental inquiry into the making and unmaking of families, the negotiation of boundaries and roles and the perpetual question of who — whether in a clan or a country — really belongs.
Writing with the assurance and wry omniscience of an easygoing deity, Makumbi watches her protagonists live out invariably provisional answers. They are pagans and Christians, vagabonds and military generals, newspaper columnists and victims of H.I.V. Some are looking for families, like the orphan girl vying for her neighbors’ charity in a crowded Kampala boardinghouse. Others are in flight from relatives, like the elderly Christian missionary nostalgic for British rule. Named Kanani (or “Canaan”), he believes that faith will save him from the family curse and spends his days proselytizing at captive commuters: “The church was like a bus and brethren were passengers on their way to heaven rather than a family.”
None quite manage to escape or fulfill their appointed roles; when “Kintu”’s carnival of clans, royal courts, Kampala apartments and church groups concludes, it is hardly clearer what form “family” might take, or how individuals should reconcile themselves to kinship. There is, nevertheless, a beauty to how Makumbi’s characters improvise alternatives to what they do not have or cannot be. In one characteristically tender and comic moment, a young man without a father looks for a surrogate to negotiate with a school’s headmaster over a scholarship. His roommate obliges, and finds himself so caught up in the charade that he sheds prideful tears at his “son”’s test results. Dressed for the meeting in a pinstripe suit that makes him resemble “a broke black gangster from an American film,” he boasts and blusters with a parent’s loving obstinacy. It may be a curse that families never “work,” but it is surely a blessing that they can always be reinvented.
If Makumbi’s Kintus are cursed like Cain, the heroes of Wayétu Moore’s SHE WOULD BE KING (Graywolf Press, ) are cursed like Storm, Wolverine and Professor X. The Liberian-American writer’s debut novel is a Marvelesque national epic about Liberia’s independence centered on three supernaturally gifted misfits. The leader is Gbessa, an immortal girl expelled as a witch by her indigenous Vai people, who finds shelter among the black American settlers of Monrovia. (The American Colonization Society, an antebellum organization dedicated to resettling African-Americans in West Africa, established Liberia in 1821. The country declared independence in 1847.)
Gbessa joins forces with two other renegades: a magically invincible plantation runaway from Virginia and a Jamaican maroon with the ability to disappear. These newcomers patrol the coast like abolitionist avengers, superpowering their way through every coffle and barracoon they encounter. Meanwhile, in the ballrooms of Monrovia, Gbessa uneasily assimilates into the Americo-Liberian settler elite. The trio’s powers — immortality, for Africa’s antiquity; invisibility, for maroon cunning; invincibility for the endurance of enslaved African-Americans — allegorize the diasporic strands united by the country’s history: Who needs Wakanda when Liberia already has it all?
The varied and frenetic action makes for a novel that, while stimulating, is often confusing and overstuffed. Some sections read like folk tales or adventure novels, while those set in Virginia serve up reheated plantation melodrama. “She Would Be King” shows greater originality when Moore dissects Monrovia’s social world. Patronized by Americo-Liberian ladies who see themselves less as fellow Africans than as a civilizing vanguard, Gbessa negotiates a double exclusion that only intensifies once she marries the settlers’ military chief. A conflict between the new arrivals and her estranged kin forces her into the role of mediator, brokering a hybrid identity for Africa’s first republic.
Few novelists have explored the singular relationship between Liberia’s black settlers, for whom “returning” to Africa was a form of deliverance from American white supremacy, and the indigenous people who fell under their dominion. Moore’s sophisticated treatment of this encounter showcases her novelistic talents, though the tension somewhat dissipates when the “real” enemies arrive: The complex dance of nation-building gives way to a Garveyite battle royale pitting the reconciled settlers and natives against French slavers who attack Monrovia.
The triangular trade did not always unify those menaced by its advance. SEASON OF THE SHADOW (Seagull Books, .50), a novel by the Cameroonian writer Léonora Miano, considers slavery from the perspective of its first victims, West Africans for whom it was not a burdensome past but a nebulous and terrifying present. The story’s “curse” is a community’s decision to blame this incipient disaster on witchcraft, a cowardly act of scapegoating that leaves them defenseless against the very real apocalypse at hand.
“Season of the Shadow,” translated from the French by Gila Walker, takes place in an isolated Douala village where a dozen men have disappeared. Several of their mothers are relegated to a communal dwelling to commiserate, an act that leads to their ostracism once a mysterious shadow materializes overhead. Like the Trojans who imprisoned the prophet Cassandra, the elders quarantine and ignore the bereaved women, with catastrophic results. Here at the beginning of slavery’s world-blighting Rapture, “night has become more than a moment in time. It is duration, space, the color of ages to come.”
Reading Miano’s brilliant, pitiless novel is like treading water in an undertow. The approaching wave — more than four centuries high and tens of millions of victims long — is invisible from within the story’s deliberately confined perspective. But the omission only enhances its force. We may know all about the Middle Passage, but Miano’s characters know only that their boys are missing; that the neighboring towns’ hunters have built an unusual number of forest retreats; that somewhere at the world’s edge, the Coastlanders do a brisk business with the “men with hen feet.” (Beyond this enigmatic phrase, Europeans have almost no presence in the novel. The fleets of scavenging Guineamen anchor just beyond the frame, like U.F.O.s.) The elimination of hindsight is narratively thrilling and Miano’s decision to adopt a Douala perspective and chronology — rather than the diaspora’s elegiac retrospect — profoundly original.
These are nobody’s “ancestors.” Miano’s protagonists are not the abducted but those who investigate their disappearance: the midwife, the chief’s scheming brother, a desperate mother who tracks her kidnapped son through the bush. None manage to save the village from its ruinous complacency but several find sanctuary in a hidden lake village beyond the slavers’ nets. (Slaving gave rise to many such settlements; Ganvié, perched over a lagoon in Benin, has been called the “Venice of Africa.”) Their desperate ingenuity serves as a powerful lesson: It is often the most vulnerable, those thought “cursed” because of circumstance, who first apprehend threats endangering everyone.
Decades before the 1994 genocide in which her parents and 35 of her other relatives were killed, Scholastique Mukasonga endured its grim precursor amid Rwanda’s independence. Her memoir BAREFOOT WOMAN (Archipelago Books, paper, ), translated from the French by Jordan Stump, is a tribute to her mother, Stefania, and the refugee women of Bugesera, a Land of Nod where the Hutu government relocated thousands of Rwandan Tutsis in the 1960s.
Royal tradition and colonial race science once afforded the Tutsi minority a superior place in Rwanda’s social hierarchy, but Mukasonga grew up in the aftermath of this illusory privilege. Premised on a European obsession with the Tutsis as a eugenically or even biblically chosen race of “Hamites,” it ultimately proved a curse.
Conceived as a “shroud” of sentences for her mother, “Barefoot Woman” is also a paean to the traditions of Rwandan womanhood Stefania preserved in exile. Bugesera’s deportees lived in a world of scarce bread, travel restrictions, constant surveillance and the daily threat of assault by Hutu soldiers, some of whom considered the rape of young Tutsi women a “revolutionary act.” Stefania’s house was a bulwark against this unrelenting terror; its back courtyard, a gathering place for local women, is “Barefoot Woman”’s inner sanctum.
Enthroned on a termite mound in the courtyard, under the “parasol” of a tall coffee tree, Stefania presides over family matters and, on Sundays, a “genuine Parliament” of pipe-smoking wives, whose duties include matchmaking sessions where marriageable young women audition for Stefania’s endorsement. Around the hearth, old Rwandan folk tales dispel the gloom of exile. Yet loss is lodged in every reminiscence. Grief recalls Mukasonga to the hard present; emerging from the memory of her mother’s friends, she finds herself loitering by the window of a pipe shop in France. She stays outside — what savor could tobacco have without another woman to share it?
Mukasonga is a master of subtle shifts in register — a skill inherited, perhaps, from the Rwandan traditions of intricate courtesy and assiduous privacy that Stefania maintained. She turns everything over restlessly: In her prose, poignant reminiscences sharpen into bitter ironies, or laments reveal flashes of comedy, determination, defiance.
Interrupting the memory of her mother’s folk tales, Mukasonga reflects on the “other stories” invented by white people, “experts” who “concocted a tailor-made race just for us.” More painful still is the recollection that Stefania took pride in these ersatz origin stories, including a theory that Tutsis were not true Rwandans but had migrated from what she called “Businiya” (a corruption of Abyssinia, or Ethiopia). It was a story the génocidaires of 1994, endeavoring to reclaim their country for “real” Rwandans, took to heart — “Businiya, Abyssinia, Ethiopia: How could my mother have foreseen that those words would bring death to so many of us?”
What solace is possible when a sustaining identity is also the germ of a tragedy — when who you are becomes a curse? It is a theme that Mukasonga perpetually revisits, often discovering the balm for traditional stigmas within tradition itself.
One of “Barefoot Woman”’s most wrenching passages is also its most resolute. When soldiers rape and impregnate a young woman fetching water, convention dictates that she and her child are cursed. But “solidarity and pity” prove “stronger than tradition” as Stefania finds a way to circumvent the anathema. After the baby is born, she and several other women wash mother and child in the waters of a sacred spring, where legend holds that Rwanda’s founding monarch once thrust his spear into the ground.
The improvised ritual is a retelling that also grasps at a redeemed future, and its impulse echoes in the novels of Miano, Moore and Makumbi. These books insist that if curses have any virtue, it may be in returning us to the beginning — that Archimedean point from which every story can be remade, where the difference between “malediction” and “benediction” can be as slight as a switched prefix.B:
“【哥】……【呜】【呜】。” 【凌】【霄】【昨】【天】【晚】【上】【喝】【酒】【喝】【的】【太】【多】，【导】【致】【胃】【出】【血】，【已】【目】【前】【这】【个】【时】【代】【的】【医】【学】【技】【术】，【无】【法】【救】【治】，【然】【后】【挂】【了】。 （【全】【本】【终】） 【嗯】……【这】【本】【书】【切】【了】
【中】【心】【岛】，【位】【于】【遗】【忘】【岛】【中】【心】【出】，【故】【名】【为】【中】【心】【岛】。 【要】【到】【中】【心】【岛】【必】【须】【穿】【过】【三】【波】【山】【洞】，【拿】【得】【洞】【内】【磁】【铁】【才】【能】【散】【去】【迷】【雾】，【从】【而】【见】【到】【庄】【严】【高】【耸】【的】【城】【墙】。【城】【墙】【上】【插】【着】【尖】【刺】，【整】【个】【中】【心】【岛】【上】【空】【泛】【着】【一】【层】【薄】【薄】【的】【乌】【云】，【城】【墙】【上】【插】【的】【旗】【帜】【被】【风】【吹】【的】【飘】【飘】【摇】【摇】，【整】【个】【环】【境】【让】【人】【不】【由】【得】【压】【抑】，【零】【散】【的】【人】【员】【更】【是】【让】【人】【不】【由】【自】【主】【恐】【慌】。 【站】【在】【城】【门】【前】本港台开奖结果报码【正】【在】【这】【时】，【云】【韵】【等】【人】【都】【发】【现】【了】【自】【身】【的】【异】【常】。 “【我】【身】【体】【里】【的】【斗】【气】【失】【控】【了】……” 【云】【韵】【诧】【异】【的】【道】。 “【我】【们】【的】【也】【是】！”【雅】【妃】【脸】【色】【微】【变】，【她】【立】【即】【想】【要】【控】【制】【体】【内】【的】【斗】【气】【涌】【动】。 “【大】【家】【不】【必】【担】【心】，【你】【们】【不】【会】【有】【事】【的】，【这】【是】【因】【为】【这】【个】【位】【面】【的】【力】【量】【体】【系】【不】【同】【于】【斗】【气】【大】【陆】。【来】【到】【这】【里】，【我】【们】【体】【内】【的】【斗】【气】，【都】【会】【变】【成】【一】【种】【叫】【做】【
……【但】【大】【哥】【我】【就】【在】【你】【跟】【前】【呢】【你】【说】【话】【能】【不】【可】【以】【不】【这】【么】【索】【性】？ “【但】，【这】【次】【倒】【不】【是】【我】【们】【的】【人】【发】【现】【陆】【少】【侠】【的】，”【沙】【耶】【宫】【馨】【顿】【了】【顿】，【继】【续】【增】【补】【道】，“【据】【说】【是】【由】【于】【九】【法】【塚】【干】【彦】【在】【被】【绑】【走】【以】【前】，【给】【家】【里】【打】【了】【一】【个】【求】【救】【电】【话】……” “【九】【法】【塚】【家】【的】【人】【敢】【和】Campione【发】【生】【冲】【突】？” 【爱】【丽】【丝】【公】【主】【露】【出】【了】【惊】【异】【的】【神】【采】。 【虽】
【奥】【兹】【其】【实】【将】【两】【场】【战】【争】【看】【在】【眼】【里】，【它】【这】【三】【位】【下】【属】【的】【表】【现】【也】【是】【可】【圈】【可】【点】，【不】【过】【依】【旧】【太】【弱】【了】，【祂】【们】【还】【需】【要】【更】【多】【的】【时】【间】【成】【长】【起】【来】。 【不】【过】【之】【后】【就】【没】【有】【这】【样】【练】【手】【的】【对】【手】【了】，【连】【弗】【仑】【萨】【都】【失】【败】【了】，【实】【力】【在】【弗】【仑】【萨】【之】【上】【的】【魔】【神】【可】【没】【有】【几】【位】，【祂】【们】【不】【会】【拉】【下】【这】【个】【脸】【来】【对】【付】【自】【己】，【而】【且】【现】【在】【还】【是】【非】【常】【时】【期】。 【几】【乎】【所】【有】【的】【魔】【神】【都】【汇】【聚】【在】【六】
“【哼】！” 【桃】【兔】【衹】【园】【凤】【目】【一】【抬】，【她】【望】【着】【那】【攻】【势】【快】【若】【奔】【雷】【般】【而】【来】【的】【多】【弗】【朗】【明】【哥】，【却】【是】【一】【声】【冷】【哼】，【玉】【手】【一】【握】，【手】【中】【华】【丽】【长】【剑】【徒】【然】【爆】【发】【出】【耀】【眼】【光】【华】，【隐】【约】【间】，【仿】【佛】【是】【有】【着】【清】【澈】【的】【剑】【鸣】【之】【声】【嘹】【亮】【的】【响】【彻】【而】【起】。 “【一】【刀】【流】，【金】【凰】！” 【华】【丽】【长】【剑】【爆】【射】【而】【出】，【仿】【佛】【是】【一】【只】【展】【翼】【略】【空】【的】【金】【凰】，【携】【带】【着】【刺】【目】【金】【光】，【没】【有】【丝】【毫】【退】【避】【的】