Toni Morrison

Illustrated by Joe Morse

Introduced by Russell Banks

Now in its first illustrated edition, this seminal novel of slavery in America was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and ranked the greatest fiction work of the past 25 years.

Something that is loved is never lost

As extraordinary as the character who inspires its title, Beloved is seminal both in its stylistic achievements and its searing depiction of the lives of African Americans under slavery. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988, and in a 2006 New York Times survey was ranked the nation’s best work of fiction of the past 25 years. At its daring, startling heart lies the image of infanticide – an act of paradoxical violence by which an escaped slave, Sethe, saves her child from a life like her own. Unnamed, the baby is buried in a grave marked ‘Beloved’, but her time among the living has not drawn to an end.

Production Details

Bound in blocked cloth

Set in New Caledonia

304 pages

Frontispiece and 8 colour illustrations

Plain slipcase

9˝ × 6¼˝

An unforgettable story of survival and loss

Underlying Beloved’s many hauntings – literal and metaphorical – are the stark realities of slavery, every bit as brutal as the experience of stoical Sethe and her kin. Morrison’s many-layered narrative gradually tells their stories, revealing the bonds that tie them to each other, in life and in death, and how they strive to cope with memories of appalling abuse, loss and indignity. She evokes beautifully the complex interplay between past and present – the power of the former to govern the latter – and the profound, particular difficulties of navigating the world as a former slave, of developing a sense of identity: ‘Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.’ The novel’s magical and mythical elements, which the characters largely perceive without surprise, serve to heighten its realism.

About Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is an American author, editor and professor. She was born in Ohio in 1931. She received a BA in English from Howard University in Washington, DC, in 1953, and an MA from Cornell University in New York in 1955. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. Her second book, Sula (1973) was nominated for the National Book Award, and her third, Song of Solomon (1977) won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Beloved (1987) won various honors, including both the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award of the United States, in 2012. Her writing, known for its examination of the black experience in America, is characterised by her distinct style and unique narrative technique. Her most recent novel is Home (2012).

About Russell Banks

Russell Banks is an American author of 18 works of fiction, including the novels Continental Drift (1985), Cloudsplitter (1998) and Lost Memory of Skin (2011), as well as 6 short story collections, most recentlyA Permanent Member of the Family (2013). Two of his novels, Affliction (1989) and The Sweet Hereafter (1991), have been adapted into award-winning films. Banks has been a PEN/Faulkner Finalist (for Affliction, Cloudsplitter and Lost Memory of Skin) and a Pulitzer Prize Finalist (for Continental Drift and Cloudsplitter). He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. He lives in Miami, Florida, and upstate New York.

About Joe Morse

Joe Morse is an American illustrator. He studied Fine Arts at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, where he won grants to study in Italy, Mexico and Japan. His illustrations have been recognised with over 200 international awards, and he was included in Taschen’s compendium of today’s most important illustrators worldwide, 100 Illustrators (2013). His clients include the New York Times and Rolling Stone, and his work has been exhibited in the United States, Italy, the Netherlands and Canada. His illustrations for Beloved are watercolor on paper, finished using digital techniques.

An extract from the introduction by Russell Banks

Morrison selected author Russell Banks to introduce this edition. He writes earnestly of how Beloved has the power to transform the reader because it ‘lets one know how it feels to be an American and, yes, black and female, and ultimately how, at the deepest and most inclusive level, it feels to be human’. Joe Morse’s award-winning illustrations, approved by the author, capture the novel’s extraordinary power.

‘“I wanted to translate the historical into the personal,” Morrison has said. Her original source for the story is the historical account of a woman, Margaret Garner, who in January 1856 escaped with her baby daughter from the Kentucky plantation of Archibald Gaines, where she was a slave, into Ohio, a non-slave state. Thanks to the 1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court decision, she was nonetheless still legally the property of Gaines, and when he and a posse appeared at the Cincinnati home where Garner, her husband and her three other children had found refuge, Garner, according to a contemporary account, “seized a butcher knife that lay on the table, and with one stroke cut the throat of her little daughter, whom she probably loved the best. She then attempted to take the life of the other children and to kill herself, but she was overpowered and hampered before she could complete her desperate work.” The story of Margaret Garner was widely circulated afterwards in the pre-Civil War antislavery press as an example of the unnatural consequences of slavery, but eventually it was more or less lost to public memory. Morrison herself first came across the story in the early 1970s, when she was editing African-American documentary material for a groundbreaking anthology called The Black Book.

‘But Beloved is not about the historical Margaret Garner. Morrison has insisted, “I didn’t do any more research at all about that story. I did a lot of research about everything else in the book – Cincinnati, and abolitionists, and the underground railroad – but I refused to find out anything else about Margaret Garner. I really wanted to invent her life.”’


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