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.