The Cattle Killing Author:John Edgar Wideman In plague-ridden eighteenth-century Philadelphia, a young itinerant black preacher searches for a mysterious, endangered African woman. His struggle to find her and save them both plummets them both into the nightmare of a society violently splitting itself into white and black. Spiraling outward from the core image of a cattle killing--the Xhos... more »a people's ritual destruction of their herd in a vain attempt to resist European domination--the novel expands its narrator's search for meaning and love into the America, Europe and South Africa of yesterday and today.
Set in Philadelphia in 1793, when the city was afflicted by an epidemic of yellow fever, Wideman's novel is narrated by a young black preacher whose mind seems unhinged by the terrible events he is witnessing. His apocalyptic visions reflect the confusion and delirium around him. The rich white citizens of the city are mostly shutting themselves in and sending their black servants out into the fever-ridden streets. One prominent historical figure, Dr. Benjamin Rush (Dr. Thrush in the novel), is portrayed in a very ambivalent relationship with a black servant girl. Wideman, who has dealt in a more documentary style with the epidemic in a previous collection of short stories, Fever, here combines vision, hallucination, dream, and African legend in a complex metaphorical novel.« less