Marlon James‘ epic conspiracy semi-fiction around Bob Marley’s assassination is an overwhelming cocktail of post-colonial politics, cold war conflict, exploitation, crime and drug trade. I picked up the book shortly after it won the Booker prize, but it took me a few years almost to finish it (because usually I only find time to read novels during vacations, and this blogpost is even more overdue so it’s been quite a while since I finished the book, too).
A History of Seven Killings spans several decades, starts with countless pages just briefing the reader about all the character names, and to make the confusion complete, is written in the character’s points of view, including their manner of speaking. Despite its scope, its byzantine plot and the countless references that may be hard to get unless you have some basic knowledge of the Island and its history (I don’t), it is at times hard to read, but, it is thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining and gripping. It is a very vivid telling of these characters‘ stories, whose experiences come to life (also because of the language aspect) unlike any you may have experienced in such a context.
I always wondered – while reading – if this might make for a great movie or mini series. It might be hard to adapt, but certainly not impossible, as the adaptation of the book Yardie has shown, and the material might find a great audience. What sets A Brief History of Seven Killings apart is that it’s not just a story about poverty, crime, colonialism and such, but weaves in quite the conspiracy, the local politics, the cold war and much broader topics, placing the local hoodlum in a fantastic way at the center of global conflict.