Toni Morrison’s passing earlier this week leaves an irreparable void in the transnational cultural landscape. She becomes not most effective an archivist of extraordinary eloquence, voicing black American history in its various mundane, euphoric, and abysmal dimensions; her works, like her sturdy intellectual ethics, additionally tested with clean-eyed honesty and unflinching compassion, the chronic legacy of racial injustice within the shape of trauma,
alienation, and fragmented relationships. From The Bluest Eye, via Beloved and Sula, to Paradise, Jazz, and Song of Solomon, Morrison’s writing is passionately invested in operating out the connection of language to the silences on which white empires are built and the disruptive electricity of the unspeakable, those atrocious or ecstatic reviews that assail the coherence of character while pushing grammar and syntax to their limits.
How to navigate via the numerous injunctions to keep one’s voice, a way to use one form of language to top off the abrasions left by another, a way to inhabit literary technique so that you can authentically configure through image, gesture, and tune, the forbidden, the sublime, and the forgotten: Morrison’s books enact survival, desire, and reclamation by delving into the deep structure of racism. Racism as she sees it’s far, amongst different
It matters, most markedly, the depletion through the path of records of the important richness of black existence, its emotional textures, creative praxes, and sensory topographies, precise approaches of feeling, remembering, and being in the global. As a writer seeking to address this loss thru what Sethe in Beloved (1987) calls “memory,” Morrison’s prose is likewise an engagement with how the erosion of language, autonomy, tradition, and the network has profound implications for the mental lives of black topics.
There is no restitution in Morrison’s narrative universes without the promise and opportunity of recuperation, no powerful idiom of protest without space for care, and no proper politics of subversion without vulnerability. The work of freedom and rehabilitation is incomplete without the identity of underlying, inherited grief and its participation in a shared challenge of mourning. This therapeutic radicalism, her awareness of the inextricable connection among activism and affects politics and the psyche, empowerment, and restoration, give Morrison’s writing a timbre resonating across time and area.