Philadelphia Fire

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John Edgar Wideman
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Eleven people – five of them children – are killed in west Philadelphia when 6221 Osage Avenue is bombed out of existence. One small boy is seen to escape the fire. From his life of self-exile on an island in the Aegean, Cudjoe mourns the child until it becomes an obsession, leading him home, forcing him to face up to his own profound alienation and to the wrenching realities of his native land. He searches for the boy and, as he does so, he searches out his own past. Reconstructing his life plunges him backwards into memories both personal and communal, forwards inch by inch into a city fast becoming a nightmare. ‘Wideman’s novel succeeds through raw emotion and a linguistic versatility . . . Written in a sinewy language which also combines reportage, Philadelphia Fire operates as parable and social document’ Irish Times ‘Philadelphia Fire is a welter of fine writing, sociological observation, polemical address and messianic prophecy . . . A literary novel in the grand contemporary, postmodern, literary style’ New Statesman & Society ‘Unquestionably the foremost chronicler of the urban African-American experience. A master storyteller, Wideman is both a witness and a prophet’ Caryl Phillips