A railroad underground, accessible via shafts and separate stations, built to escape racist enslavement – U.S. author Colson Whitehead literarily expands a metaphor that originally describes an informal network of abolitionists into an actual, underground rail connection. Cora, the main protagonist of his novel, uses these routes to escape from enslavement on a plantation – from unimaginable, violent as well as perfidious, racist structures. The novel tells of precisely these, white exploitation economies – as well as of the struggle against systematic dehumanization and brutal methods of torture and punishment, against de-naming and forgetting. And in doing so, always speaks to current, racist politics of violence – both in and out of the United States.
In an interview with the taz that is worth reading, the author says about working on the book: “The hardest part for me was actually the research. To learn what specifically happened and what I need to put my characters through to make it realistic. At the same time, I realized what a coincidence or accident it is that I am here today. It is pure coincidence that my relatives survived slavery.”
A lecture by Colson Whitehead on the genesis of the novel can be found here.
Colson Whitehead 2016: Underground Railroad, Munich: Hanser.
If you don’t have a bookstore worth supporting near you, you can also buy the book from the alternative non-profit online bookstore links-lesen.de, which supports political projects with the profits. You can find the link to the book here.