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Sacred hunger de Barry Unsworth
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Sacred hunger (1992 original; edició 2012)

de Barry Unsworth

Sèrie: Sacred Hunger (1)

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
1,5833611,538 (4.09)299
Fiction. African American Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:

Winner of the Booker Prize

A historical novel set in the eighteenth century, Sacred Hunger is a stunning, engrossing exploration of power, domination, and greed in the British Empire as it entered fully into the slave trade and spread it hroughout its colonies. Barry Unsworth follows the failing fortunes of William Kemp, a merchant pinning his last chance to a slave ship; his son who needs a fortune because he is in love with an upper-class woman; and his nephew who sails on the ship as its doctor because he has lost all he has loved. The voyage meets its demise when disease spreads among the slaves and the captain's drastic response provokes a mutiny. Joining together, the sailors and the slaves set up a secret, utopian society in the wilderness of Florida, only to await the vengeance of the single-minded, young Kemp.

.… (més)
Membre:naratemari
Títol:Sacred hunger
Autors:Barry Unsworth
Informació:New York : Anchor Books, [2012].
Col·leccions:Read, La teva biblioteca
Valoració:**1/2
Etiquetes:Cap

Informació de l'obra

Sacred Hunger de Barry Unsworth (1992)

  1. 00
    Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution de Simon Schama (BIzard)
  2. 00
    Middle Passage de Charles Johnson (rebeccanyc)
    rebeccanyc: While Middle Passage is a complex, philosophical, and psychological look not only at the slave trade but also at the African-American experience more broadly, Sacred Hunger, which also focuses on the slave trade, is a more straightforward historical novel.… (més)
  3. 00
    Mar de roselles de Amitav Ghosh (jigarpatel)
    jigarpatel: Appreciated by the Booker Prize, Sacred Hunger (1992 winner) and Sea of Poppies (2008 finalist) are powerful and well-researched indictments of British imperial trade interests. They explore slave and opium trade routes respectively, combining adventure with multi-threaded plots and sensitive characterisation.… (més)
  4. 00
    Morality Play de Barry Unsworth (kjuliff)
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» Mira també 299 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 36 (següent | mostra-les totes)
I hadn't read much (if any) historical fiction until encountering Barry Unsworth‘s work. Although I wouldn't say it is a genre I'm too enthused about, a sincere doff of the cap is in order to authors like Unsworth who can migrate the seas of time to present a seemingly vibrant and 'real' narrative of the particular era in which they anchor their story. In this case, we are transported to Liverpool in the 1700s and more broadly the world when slavery was rife and prosperous. A struggling businessman and his son decide to risk failing profits in launching their very own freshly constructed slaver in the hope of plundering hefty rewards on the seas. Complete with illicitly acquired crewmen, a wily, nefarious Captain and their distant, heretic cousin on board, the Kemp's fortune takes its maiden voyage across the seas to Africa in pursuit of the 'Sacred Hunger' that being the profit such mean seek to feast on. The book is in part (but by no means primarily) an account of life on a slaver; the fetid conditions, brutal treatment and precarious existence of master and slave are harrowing. Unsworth's prose is stark and hard hitting; he pulls no punches. Parallel to this, we are told the story of the Merchant's son as he endeavours to win the affections of a young daughter of another local businessman. Sadly, his tale is less well crafted and clunky which adds further disappointment due to the fact both strands come together as the book progresses. Unsworth writes well but I feel he misses a certain something to truly engage me and feel for his characters. This is another 3/5 but unlike ‘Morality Play’ I became a little disinterested in parts and so took a long time to finish it. A readable book but falls short of an unforgettable tale. ( )
  Dzaowan | Feb 15, 2024 |
Probably the best book I have read in a long time. Slow going throughout, but beautiful writing and compelling characters. ( )
  Lapsus16 | Nov 15, 2023 |
I slogged through this loving parts and skimming over others at the ending where the use of dialect is so heavy that it's hard to read. A once prosperous man in England turns to the slave trade as a way to dig himself out of debt. He has a ship built specifically to ship slaves from Africa, hires an experienced captain, has men recruited (captures) off the street as seamen. His son, Erasmus Kemp admires his father not realizing his financial situation. A cousin, Paris Kemp, who is older and a physician, is offered a place on the ship after being disgraced due to his heretical writings. The captain, is leery of having the nephew of the owner on the ship. Erasmus has a deep dislike for Paris due to an incident when they were much younger in which Erasmus felt Paris made a fool of him; he has carried this anger for years.

Erasmus is an interesting but completely unlikeable character. A believer that all worth is counted by prosperity, a follower of rules, a calculating young man who is unable to marry a young woman he thinks he loves due to her father's discovery of the financial shape of the family. After the father commits suicide, Erasmus develops the "sacred hunger" to restore the family name and position regardless of any moral concerns.

The novel switches between Erasmus's story and the story of the slave ship - in Africa with the purchasing of slaves by the African slave traders, and life on the sea heading for North America. As the Captain becomes more and more cruel (once hurling a seaman's pet monkey in the ocean), a mutiny apparently takes place. The actually scene of the mutiny is not told, but skips to a remote location in Florida where the slaves and the seamen are attempting to create a civilization where there is no leader, no money, no slave or slaver. Paris, having been influenced by a young noble in Africa who pays for a ride on the ship -- the belief that men will overcome all cruelty if there is equality.

Eventually Erasmus learns of the ship's sighting in Florida and comes to avenge his father's loss. The life of the group in this "community" is so difficult to read due to the heavy dialect.

It's long, filled with horror in places, and interesting in others. The ending in which Erasmus and Paris confront each other changes both and points out the motivation behind a "sacred hunger" can be so misunderstood.

A good read - too long, and the print in places tiny! ( )
  maryreinert | Sep 28, 2023 |
“Love does not stand still, as everyone knows; it is always adding to its own shape whether by advance or retreat. Wounds can be absorbed, but only like elements embodied in a story; they are always there, part of the meaning.”

'Sacred Hunger' is the 1992 Booker-prize winning novel by Barry Unsworth which mixes fiction with historical fact and covers a period between 1752 and 1765 and the horrors of the slave trade which at least in the UK was pretty topical only a short time ago with the toppling of statues etc. It concerns the conflicting fortunes of two cousins; Erasmus Kemp, the son of a Lancashire merchant, and Matthew Paris, a scholar and surgeon recently released from prison for "denying Holy Writ".

The story is set in two sections twelve years apart and begins with, William Kemp, a leading merchant in Liverpool who believes the time is ripe for the city to reap the rewards of the triangular Atlantic trade, taking goods and guns to the west coast of Africa which are then traded for slaves to be transported and sold in the West Indies in exchange for a cargo of sugar which is then brought back to England to be resold at a huge profit.

He knows it will be a risky endeavour but he is so confident in its success that he has his own ship built, the 'Liverpool Merchant', and fits it out accordingly, with guns to quell slave revolts and raised rails to make death leaps more difficult. For her captain he engages Saul Thurso a veteran of the trade and as the ship's doctor “for reasons of humanity” his nephew, Matthew Paris, much to Thurso’s disgust.

Most of the action within centres around the 'Liverpool Merchant' and it’s through Paris's eyes that we witness events on board ship once she sets sail. He is a complicated character, in between treating the crew for venereal diseases and dysentery, Paris spends his time reading Voltaire and Pope. His thoughts turn constantly to his wife and his feelings of guilt for her premature death. Once he reaches Africa and witnesses it for himself, he abhors the treatment of the human cargo and becomes increasingly disquieted about his own role in it.

"I have assisted in the suffering inflicted on these innocent people and in doing so joined the ranks of those that degrade the unoffending… We have taken everything from them and only for the sake of profit—that sacred hunger… which justifies everything, sanctifies all purposes."

During the voyage Paris has become well liked by the crew if not by the officers, so when Thurso decides to jettison the captured slaves overboard in the belief that their value insurance will out-weigh what they can be sold for, the crew join Paris in a rebellion.

The action then jumps on twelve years to the coast of Florida. The remaining crew members and slaves have built a settlement in which they live together on equal terms. They have set up a utopian society where they share the women and trade with local Indians. However when William Kemp's son Erasmus learns of this settlement he resolves to recapture what in his eyes, is his property. The second half of this novel traces his journey across the Atlantic to seek retribution against his cousin and to reclaim the remaining slaves.

Like his father, Erasmus is motivated by money alone and this is the sacred hunger of the novel's title.

"Money is sacred as everyone knows… So then must be the hunger for it and the means we use to obtain it. Once a man is in debt he becomes a flesh and blood form of money, a walking investment. You can do what you like with him, you can work him to death or you can sell him. This cannot be called cruelty or greed because we are seeking only to recover our investment and that is a sacred duty."

This book shines a bright light not only on the abhorrent slave trade but also on the underhand tactics that the colonial nations, in this case Britain, cheated the natives out of their own lands with false promises.

However, remorse is the central theme of this novel. Not only does Paris feel guilty about the premature death of his wife but he also feels guilty about his motivations which brought him to be involved in the slave trade. Many of the crew members and slaves also mourn the lives they left behind.

My copy of the book is over 600 pages long so its quite a weighty tome yet the story moves along at a good pace. There is a large and colourful cast of characters amongst the crewmen many of whom were duped into joining the ship whilst captain Thurso, is an imposing figure. In the first section of the book there is a realistic smattering of 18th century dialogue and Unsworth provides a fascinating depiction of life at sea where ships and their crews are subject to the vagaries of the wind interspersed with failed romances and family tragedy back on land.

So why didn't I enjoy it more? Perhaps its because I'm a fan of historical fiction that whilst I found the considerably longer first book an interesting adventure tale but I didn't find it particularly original, the Hornblower and Bolitho series of books capture life at sea far better IMHO. Personally I enjoyed the second book set in Florida more. The hoped for utopia of equals is clearly breaking down despite Paris’ best attempts to keep it alive is fascinating but there just wasn't enough of it for my liking. A solid book but not a great one for me. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Dec 29, 2021 |
I'm reading all the Booker Prize winners in this, the 50th year of the prize. Follow me at www.methodtohermadness.com.

1992: What a great year for literature. The English Patient and Sacred Hunger, two stupendous books, shared the prize. However, the rules were changed after this second double-prize year (1974 was the other) so that two winners wouldn’t share the podium again. The two novels, while both intricately plotted, could not be more dissimilar in style: the former is told in an ethereal, nonlinear, post-Modernist way; the latter in such a realistic fashion that it could almost pass for a novel of the period it is set in, the mid-1700s.

Why haven’t I heard of Barry Unsworth before? Sacred Hunger is a compelling, suspenseful, dense historical novel about the slave trade, and as such, it is also a philosophical meditation on liberty, equality, justice, and capitalism. The title refers to greed, the hunger for money that drives European men of the time not only to enslave Africans, but also to imprison debtors and cheat Native Americans out of their land. This avarice is viewed as part of the impersonal mechanics of trade, and therefore outside the scope of ethics.

Our cast of characters includes Matthew Paris, ex-convict and ship physician. He is nephew to the owner of the ship, and therefore cousin to the owner’s heir, Erasmus Kemp. Both men pursue justice in radically different ways: Paris makes life on the slave ship as comfortable as possible for everyone, black and white, which means confronting its mercenary despot, the profit-thirsty Captain Thurso. Kemp's pursuit comes twelve years later, when the ship thought lost is found, and he seeks to reclaim its “cargo” to vindicate his father.

Early on, British men are shown being pressed into service on the slave ship, using various underhanded tactics. This leads the reader to hope that these men will have more sympathy for the Africans who will later board the ship as slaves, but the outcomes are more complicated than that. I don’t want to spoil this book for anyone, because I wish everyone would read it, especially in these politically divided times, when the politics of the rich are overpowering justice for all. ( )
2 vota stephkaye | Dec 14, 2020 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Barry Unsworthautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Averbach, MárgaraTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Dabekaussen, EugèneTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Maters, TillyTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Rintoul, DavidNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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Fiction. African American Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:

Winner of the Booker Prize

A historical novel set in the eighteenth century, Sacred Hunger is a stunning, engrossing exploration of power, domination, and greed in the British Empire as it entered fully into the slave trade and spread it hroughout its colonies. Barry Unsworth follows the failing fortunes of William Kemp, a merchant pinning his last chance to a slave ship; his son who needs a fortune because he is in love with an upper-class woman; and his nephew who sails on the ship as its doctor because he has lost all he has loved. The voyage meets its demise when disease spreads among the slaves and the captain's drastic response provokes a mutiny. Joining together, the sailors and the slaves set up a secret, utopian society in the wilderness of Florida, only to await the vengeance of the single-minded, young Kemp.

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