Beyond Liverpool, 1957: Travel, diaspora, and migration in Jamal Mahjoub’s The Drift Latitudes

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2011-09-22 00:23Z by Steven

Beyond Liverpool, 1957: Travel, diaspora, and migration in Jamal Mahjoub’s The Drift Latitudes

The Journal of Commonwealth Literature
Volume 46, Number 3 (September 2011)
pages 493-511
DOI: 10.1177/0021989411409813

Jopi Nyman, Professor
University of Eastern Finland, Finland

This essay discusses the novel The Drift Latitudes (2006) by the Anglo-Sudanese author Jamal Mahjoub. By telling the stories of the German refugee Ernst Frager and his two British families, I argue that Mahjoub’s novel utilizes the tropes of transnational travel and migration to present a critique of discourses of purity and nationalism. Through its uncovering of silenced family narratives, the novel hybridizes British and European identities and underlines the need to remember the stories of ordinary people omitted from official histories. As the novel’s supposedly British families appear to possess transnational links with Sudan, Germany, and the Caribbean, the novel reconstructs European identity as transnational and in need of historical reassessment. As a further contribution to the importance of hybrid identity, the story of black cultural identity and its construction in post-Second World War Liverpool is told in tandem with the importance of black music as a means of constructing black diasporic identity.

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The Drift Latitudes

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels on 2011-09-21 22:53Z by Steven

The Drift Latitudes

Chatto & Windus
320 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0701178222

Jamal Mahjoub

Liverpool, 1958, and German refugee and inventor Ernst Frager is in search of a sense of belonging. What he finds is an unusual nightclub on the Merseyside docks, and Miranda: hat-check girl, aspiring jazz singer and daughter of West Indian immigrants. Their doomed love affair will have repercussions for the children waiting for Ernst back in London, but also for the daughter Miranda gives birth to. Almost half a century later, Jade finds herself grappling with the very questions that drove her father into the arms of her mother, and realising that a successful career cannot define an identity; nor can you separate your existence from all the many other stories connected to it …

Like the jazz that snakes its way though this beautiful novel, The Drift Latitudes is about how we improvise our lives and the chances we take. From the Nubian boy who flees the tedium of home to find the bright lights of New York’s jazz scene, to Ernst’s daughter Rachel who turns her back on Europe and follows her husband to the Sudan, it is about the movement of people around our globe and the interdependence of our dreams. Awash with memorable characters, filled with unputdownable stories, this is a brilliantly intricate novel that lingers in the mind long after its final note.

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