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4.12  ·  Rating details ·  800 ratings  ·  66 reviews
In November, 1781, the captain of the slave ship Zong ordered that some 150 Africans be murdered by drowning so that the ship's owners could collect insurance monies. Relying entirely on the words of the legal decision Gregson v. Gilbert--the only extant public document related to the massacre of these African slaves--Zong! tells the story that cannot be told yet must be t ...more
Hardcover, 211 pages
Published March 1st 2008 by Wesleyan University Press
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Davíd No. Unless you're using "nonsense" with the intention to undermine colonialism's supposed monopoly on understanding/logic. Otherwise, calling this tex…moreNo. Unless you're using "nonsense" with the intention to undermine colonialism's supposed monopoly on understanding/logic. Otherwise, calling this text "nonsense" is a miserable interpretation and pretty offensive imo(less)

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The last time I read a lawyer turned writer who happened to be a woman, others saw heterosexual romance where I saw power. What, I wonder, will the sheep make of this.

So, in post-Renaissance/Enlightenment/Humanism in the European spigot of things, we got: slavery; rape; colonization; bunch of thought stolen from Islamic Empire thinkers that sometimes were partially colonized Iranian thinkers; bunch more stolen from Indian/Chinese/other nations of non-white thinkers running through their own fram
May 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing

In water space has no name. In water light and matter do not interact. Photons are not exchanged to give breath to charged particles. Time runs overboard in water. It bears cargo. Space has no space in water. Time does not reciprocate. Space is opened in the graves of lungs. In water there is no cargo. Time fills up. Space has no name without time. Light and matter are unable. The water has no name for cargo. In space water water is never overboard. Spacetime breathes. In water space has no nam
Jan 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most painful and beautifully written books I've ever read. Part plea, part prayer, and a story that unravels the way shame surfaces.
Jun 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
A remarkable text! I want to represent all the forms it takes, but unfortunately my ability to do so is limited by goodreads. I will try nonetheles...

- pg. 3


Zong! #2
the throw in circumstance

the weight in want
in sustenance

for underwriters
the loss

the order in destroy
the that fact

the it was

the were

the after rains

- pg. 5


- pg. 8


- pg. 14


Zong! #7
the when

the which
the who

the were
the throwing

the be

come apprehended

exist did not

I am not rating this because I was unable to finish the final book of the text Ferrum. As it stands it would probably be a hight two or very low three star book, but I will be hearing the author read and perhaps it will make more sense afterwards.

Zong! explores the case of the Zong a Dutch slave ship that jettisoned 150 live enslaved Africans on its journey to the Americas and hoped to receive insurance compensation for the same. Philip takes the court reports and as she says "murders the text"-
John Hyland
Jan 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-poetics
This is an important book. But I still don't know how successful it is . . . I know that some find the closing notes "problematic"--they don't bother me as much. More, it is a question of form somehow and how that is (re)working the history herein engaged/(re)documented/encountered.

It is useful to read this alongside Ian Baucom's SPECTERS OF THE ATLANTIC (Duke UP 2005), which is also considers the Zong incident.
J. A.
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was recommended at a reading I recently attended and was definitely worth tracking down at the univ. library. In 1781, 150 slaves aboard the slave ship Zong were thrown overboard in order for the captain and crew to collect the insurance, and this book, in steeply poetic and minimalist narratives, attempts to tell the story they couldn't. An intersection of history and arts that is as brutal as the synopsis indicates.
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Such an amazing endeavor and a beautiful collection. I found it helpful to read her notes at the end first, as an introduction to her process.
Jacob Wren
Sep 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Right now I'm feeling it's one of the best books of poetry I've ever read. I actually can't think of anything that's blown me away, page by page, to the same degree...
Kate Savage
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
There is a legal document where judges analyze a question about insurance claims. In the language of the law, it tells about a ship called the Zong, which carried a 'cargo' of enslaved human beings. The inexperienced captain got them all lost at sea and before they reached land they threw 150 people overboard. Once he got back home, he asked the insurance company to pay for the loss of his 'cargo.'

In two pages, the justices deliberate the case. It is not a murder case. It's an insurance question
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: tcnj
The idea behind this collection is fascinating, but the execution was definitely below average. I wish I could say that I enjoyed reading it, but it really just made me feel as though I lost the ability to read. As intentional as the confusion may be, Philip's work simply just misses the mark for me.
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
the whole book is worth it just for the "Notanda" essay at the end. but also this book taught me how to be a more generous reader.
Amber Manning
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This may be closer to 3.5 simply because it was an exhausting read--which I absolutely thing was by design, but somewhere during Ferrum it became very difficult to keep reading, and more due to the way in which it was written than the content. I had gone with a 'read every word and make sense of it' approach, which was rewarding because there were so many small pockets of phrases and meaning that I would have missed otherwise, but it also was a very taxing task. So most of Ferrum onward got a mu ...more
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
I think it's about time to write my first book review on here, and this is a good one to begin with.

I read this book for a capstone class on postcolonial women writers, and I'm glad that I read it despite the frustration I felt while reading it. I'm giving it four stars because of the creativity of this text which gives the reader an experience, not a novel. That's something I can get behind, even if this was a challenging read.

If you're working on this book, I recommend listening to a live read
Jul 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
If I could give this 0 stars, I would. I had never in my life thrown away a book, but after being forced to read this in an Introduction to the Study of Literature class, and then being imprisoned in an hour and fifteen minute long "discussion" of this utter crap, I flung the text (it is by no means a book) down the garbage chute, because I didn't even want to have it in my trash bin. It is comprised of completely nonsensical words scattered about on a page, seemingly organized by a toddler with ...more
Mike Hayden
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would actually rate this as being a 4.5. I find Philip's "Notanda" is very helpful for clarifying and deepening much of 《Zong!》, but at the same time wonder why she doesn't explain the Setaey Adamu Boateng aspect; and why oh why she needed Derrida to help clarify why the dead need speak/ why the story that must be told cant be told. Her poetics themselves are very frustrating and fragmented and more than once i wondered if what Philip was doing was respectful to the story itself. Again her "No ...more
Steve Mentz
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A gorgeous experiment in giving voice to the voiceless, in this case the roughly 150 Africans who were thrown overboard from the slave ship Zong in 1781. M. NourbeSe Philip takes the text of the notorious court case of Gregson v Gilbert, in which the ship's owners attempted to get an insurance settlement for the value of the jettisoned slaves, as her word-hoard. From it she builds a gorgeous array of scatted poems. "There is no telling this story; it must be told."
Oct 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
haunting. important. a demonstration of what you can do with words -- m. nourbeSe philip stretches words, objectivity, subjectivity, history, breath, time across the page, throughout the book. this is both a masterpiece and a tragedy. in my reading thus far, there is no other text that embodies the trans-atlantic slave trade as fully, as affectively as m. nourbeSe philip does in zong!.
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This book is beautiful, and each poem works well on its own but also as a collection. This book is a must read. It's also a great example of why ebooks aren't always an alternative.
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the cases where you absolutely need to have the context in order to really enjoy the book. You'll do better to do a little search and read the story behind the book, however, in a nutshell, Zong was the name of a slave ship which went on the wrong route and because of a shortage of food and water for all its passengers ended up drowning more than 100 of the slaves aboard it. Then the captain tried to get compensation from his insurance company for the "loss of property."
It became
Apr 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Ultimately, I think that Zong! does a disservice to itself when it is printed. I know that the piece has been performed aloud many times, and while I think that Philip's ideas of fragmenation, channeling, corrupting, exploding, investigating and trying to write about an incident that defies language are interesting, it was ultimately her process essay at the end of the book that solidified these ideas for me. The 200 some pages of the poem ultimately collapse under it's own weight. While many ...more
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is hard to review.. all I can really say is that this text is an accomplishment. It reads, feels, like an untold story told. Or a told story untold. It might be more fitting to say that it fits somewhere in the gap-region between those two previous statements. Of course, we take Philip seriously, then words are to be deeply distrusted, for what do they really contain? And thus, what can my 'review' really say? This text, to me, is all about the affective register. There can be no criticism ...more
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have to preface this by saying there's no way to describe _Zong!_ that captures its importance and magnitude without sounding reductive and over-simplified. _Zong!_ is enormous and all-encompassing, sparse and uncomfortable. NourbeSe does what most people can't, and what "most people" (white people) shouldn't even attempt. How does one un-tell a story that was never told in the first place?

The simple answer to what _Zong!_ is: _Zong!_ is a poem that breaks down an 18th century court case in w
Rai Beattie
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was an incredibly challenging read both stylistically and in terms of content (the murder of 150 enslaved people on a ship bound for Jamaica in the 1700s). And I honestly can't say that I completely understood it. But as NourbeSe Philip points out in her notes, the act of trying to untangle the text, to make meaning out of the pulled apart words, replicates the act of trying to understand something so horrible. There are very precise reasons for all the stylistic devices.
What makes "Zong!" so moving is not only its content but also the experience of reading it, the way the language leaves an unmistakable impact on the reader. Philip's "explanation" at the end was very fitting, I found, and her thoughts and hopes really were reflected by the writing. I felt like I was trying to make sense of a puzzle that was astounding and horrifying and I'm so grateful that a work like this exists.
Matt Sautman
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
M. NourbeSe Philip's Zong is not an easy read. Its subject is heavy, drawing from the forced drowning of enslaved people on a slave ship called the Zong. Its poems are translingual and rely on blank space, signaling both the inaccessibility and traumatic nature of this history. Christina Sharpe's scholarship first made me aware that this book existed, so I definitely recommend this to anyone familiar with Sharpe's concept of wake work.
Rach Wilton
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Be sure to read up on the context of this seemingly ‘formless’ work of art. An understanding of the Gregson v. Gilbert case and Nourbese Philip’s ideas behind Zong! will allow you to access the text better, and realise that part of the point is to be left confused, disturbed and fired up.

”I murder the text, literally cut it into pieces, castrating verbs, suffocating adjectives, murdering nouns, throwing articles, prepositions, conjunctions overboard, jettisoning adverbs.”
Rachel Holloway
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
A novel about the Zong! massacre, and more widely, the representation of black voices in western literature.

Zong! is challenging and ardious read, but i enjoyed this aspect. I liked having to work for a meaning, and a great representation of subaltern voices. Would recommend to those seeking original representations of post-colonial inspired literature.
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
A heart-wrenching, mind-bending collection. Worth reading but I would definately suggest starting out with the author’s comments at the end. It provides a great introduction into the historical subject of the book and her process of writing it. One of the most audacious poetry collections i’ve read in a while.
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M. NOURBESE PHILIP is a poet and writer and lawyer who lives in the City of Toronto. She was born in Tobago and now lives in Canada. In l965, when graduating from Bishop Anstey High School, M. NOURBESE PHILIP was awarded the Cipriani Memorial Scholarship for standing first in a Caribbean wide examination at the high school level. This award entitled her to carry out her undergraduate studies at th ...more

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“they ask for water we give them sea
they ask for bread we give them sea
they ask for life we give them only the sea”
“we rescue our tears from the sea
secure them by writ”
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