If you do a quick query in any internet search engine about Money, Mississippi, the first thing you find are allusions to Emmett Till, an African American teenager who was murdered at age 14 after reportedly flirting with a married white woman. This occurred in 1955, and Emmett’s mutilated body was found three days after the complaint in the Tallahatchie River. His mother decided to leave the open casket so that the whole world could see the atrocities that had been committed with his son. In 2008, Carolyn Bryant, the woman who had suffered Emmett’s alleged harassment, confessed in an interview that the accusation was not true, and that she felt guilty for everything that her testimony had triggered.
In real life, corpses—fortunately—do not have the opportunity to return from the grave to avenge their death. But in literature everything is possible if you build stories as it does Percival Everett (Georgia, 1957), writer and professor at the University of Southern California who has been recognized with numerous awards and as a finalist for the Booker Prize for ‘Los árboles’ (De Conatus, 2023).
With a plot halfway between a police procedural and a horror story, sprinkled with the most absurd humor – and even with a small nod to zombie novels—, Everett builds ‘The Trees’. The descendants of those who once lynched Emmett Till begin to appear brutally murdered. The crime scenes are overwhelming because of the amount of blood found. The most striking thing will be that, next to each body of a white man, another of a black man will be found; just as slaughtered and holding in one hand the testicles removed from the white man’s corpse.
Over and over again, in virtually identical settings. And, as if all this were not enough, the corpse of the black man will disappear from the morgue and will reappear at the next crime scene as if it had been raised by his own foot. Through more than a hundred short chapters, a multitude of dialogues, and an extensive catalog of characters, we are presented with situations loaded with clichés. but always backwards. If in southern literature blacks are illiterate, here the rednecks with phrases full of vulgarisms are whites. The ones who give off an air of police superiority are the MBI and FBI agents, who are not only black but who has the highest rank is a woman.
Reading this novel, it is inevitable to think about the ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theories, a doctrine that leaders such as donald trump (which appears in this book), Marie Le Pen or Santiago Abascal. This premise holds that Caucasian Americans and Europeans are being ‘replaced’ by non-white immigrants, due to the massive influx of people from other origins and the decline in the white birth rate. This, they affirm, endangers our identity and culture, as if it were a watertight compartment about to collapse without remedy. Everett plays with this concept, making fun of it in a histrionic way, thus exposing the ridiculousness of the approach.
360 pages. 22.90 euro.
Translation: Javier Calvo
Editorial: of conatus
Author: Percival Everett