A Brief History of Seven Killings is a unique novel that looks away from the magnitude of things and the drastic effects on one man; and instead, it entices the reader with a broad impact I’ve never seen as effective in literature before. This novel parallels history, so before I could offer any base to the novel itself, you have you understand a few key historic events.
“Well, at some point you gotta expand on a story,” --- “A Brief History of Seven Killings.” “You can’t just give it focus, you gotta give it scope.”
About 20 years after Jamaica declared their independence, the system left behind by the British had frayed. If you were to walk down the central streets of Jamaica you’d find music, creativity, love, and everything of that sort in abundance. Yet the basics on the shelves of supermarkets from rice to jewelry were lost. Power outages became as regular of an event that children would ask when it was ‘scheduled’ for the day.
To compensate, the average middle-class Jamaican man would steal from his neighbors and even little boys on the street, tribal wars broke out over undefined territories, and people risked death to leave their cities in the times of crisis.
One man; however, found separate means in which he responded to the situation. Bob Marley was a poet with a kind soul, he worked to make his free peace concerts known across the blocks and soon found himself almost a political leader. But when he was asked to perform at the Prime Minister's home he insisted, “No, mek it somewhere central that don't have no political affiliation.” His innocent refusal to separate his words from the government was taken offensively and gangs formed against him.
Cutting to the point- in spite of peaceful aim, three gunmen tragically slaughtered Marley as children crunched their ears in fear.
Knowing this will not spoil the book by any means, much more are shown effected and the deep messages, particularly at the beginning about death, give this novel meaning more than anything else. Regardless, this novel follows this outline of the history and is most intriguing without knowing too much in advance. As you read, something to look for and understand is the political aspect of things.
Aside from the history this novel entails, it was a rather difficult piece that does not indulge the reader in a single passive voice, rather a complex of starting and stopping stories happening constantly throughout the same work. The attention required for literature like this is crucial to understanding.
It was also quite interesting how James wrote this in a fashion that didn't entirely follow historical events but paralleled them just enough to have impact. The settings were all created in his mind and fit the history so well I forgot they weren't real. Coperhagen city is likely the most thought-provoking, where most of the deaths (much more than seven) unfold. Even in the darkest places like this, James shines a light that sculpts events in the minds of the readers, from there to decide for themselves if they were good or bad.
The broader view of such a novel ignites a desire to truly understand the big picture. Marley only seeks to reform the broken society he lives in while the government could not. But when he does give his people stability and short periods of peace, he becomes an enemy of the government, for the reason he did not benefit them with a guarantee that he would stay, and work just as the government wanted him to. If there is no sense of security from a beneficial source, why must we block that out? The small disruptions of peace that the government inflicted on Marley, and even more, the small disruptions of daily life, lead a spiral of eternal anarchy.