Re/reading Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead After 9/11

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English Studies in Africa



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Maps and cartographic tropes are pervasive in Leslie Marmon Silko's 1991 novel Almanac of the Dead, and one of it's most noted features is the author's own map included at the front of the book. Centering on the Southwestern United States and Mexico, the map includes a long list of characters, along with a few historical figures like Geronimo and John Dillinger; many of the characters are listed more than once, reflecting their movements over time - this is, after all, a 'five hundred year map', as one of the captions declares. Dotted lines indicate movement - of people, money, weapons, drugs, and 'snuff films' of the Mexican police torturing the state's political opponents, for example. Thus the map, like the novel as a whole, attempts to account for space, time and the movement of people and capital through both; Ann Brigham says that 'this map is about how space and time are constructed and interrelated' (304). It is also significant that the map is not to scale: Cherry Hill, New Jersey, for instance, is shown on the map as lying just past Albuquerque. Virginia Bell calls this 'a map anxious about its own pretensions, a map refusing the neutral claims of sciences like cartography and history' (18).

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