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Cargo Hold Of Stars


Cargo Hold of Stars is an ode to the forgotten voyage of a forgotten people. Khal Torabully gives voice to the millions of indentured men and women, mostly from India and China, who were brought to Mauritius between 1849 and 1923. Many were transported overseas to other European colonies. Kept in close quarters in the ship’s cargo hold, many died. Most never returned home.

With Cargo Hold of Stars, Torabully introduces the concept of ‘Coolitude’ in a way that echoes Aimé Césaire’s term ‘Negritude,’ imbuing the term with dignity and pride, as well as a strong and resilient cultural identity and language. Stating that ordinary language was not equipped to bring to life the diverse voices of indenture, Torabully has developed a ‘poetics of Coolitude’: a new French, peppered with Mauritian Creole, wordplay, and neologisms—and always musical. The humor in these linguistic acrobatics serves to underscore the violence in which his poems are steeped.
Deftly translated from the French by Nancy Naomi Carlson, Cargo Hold of Stars is the song of an uprooting, of the destruction and the reconstruction of the indentured laborer’s identity. But it also celebrates setting down roots, as it conjures an ideal homeland of fraternity and reconciliation in which bodies, memories, stories, and languages mingle—a compelling odyssey that ultimately defines the essence of humankind.

200 pages | 6 1/4 x 9

The French List


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"Torabully’s book is an inspired tribute to a people taken from their homes in India, China, and other Asian communities and forced into labor. The poems stand out for their lyrical richness and spiritual depth: the experience of exile is interwoven with a desire for reconciliation. The poems are written in a French infused with Mauritian Creole, Old Scandinavian, Old French, Hindi, Bhojpuri, Urdu, and various neologisms. . . . Cargo Hold of Stars: Coolitude celebrates diversity and the beauty of resilience. Even those unfamiliar with the cultural heritage of Mauritius will not only enjoy the collection but will feel expanded by it."

Los Angeles Review of Books

"It is difficult to overestimate the political significance of Torabully’s epic. . ."

The Nation

"[A] groundbreaking poetry collection. . . notable for its conceptualization of “coolitude” as well as for its linguistic innovation and sensual archipelagic imagery. . . . In today’s Covid-19 reality of closing national borders, Torabully’s collection takes on renewed appeal as it challenges us to dare to imagine a fragile and yet glittering tomorrow."

World Literature Today

"Torabully crafts images of the sea, replete with longing, to help the reader comprehend the depths of Coolitude — the experiences of these indentured workers, cast across the wide world and caught in a net of circumstance which insists they formulate new ways of existence while at the same time struggling to preserve their heart-links to distant homes... a vivid and evocative testament to which the reader may return again and again, for in the saga of Coolitude, we may see mirrored the struggles and the hopes of all humankind."

Beltway Poetry Quarterly

“Whether you have a valentine this month or not, this love poem by prize-winning Mauritian poet and thinker Torabully is not to be missed.”

Johannesburg Review of Books

“A clear, prospective dimension accompanies the memory of the forgotten, devoured by history, in this song of love with its Homeric reminiscences.”

Ottmar Ette

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