Cover image for The migration of ghosts
The migration of ghosts
Melville, Pauline.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury ; [New York] : Distributed to the trade by St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Physical Description:
209 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London, 1998.
The President's exile -- Mrs Da Silva's carnival -- The duende -- Lucifer's shank -- Don't give me your sad stories -- The parrot and Descartes -- The fable of the two silver pens -- The sparkling bitch -- Erzulie -- Provenance of a face -- The migration of ghosts -- English table wuk.
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Spirits are on the move in Pauline Melville's fabulous short story collection. A South American president revisits the scenes of his ruthless rise to power-shortly after his own funeral. A transformed and sparkling city of London sets the scene for a company chairman's nemesis at the hands of his wife. In Andalucia, the spirit of the "duende" inspires an elderly widow to dance a death-defying flamenco. We meet splendacious Mrs. da Silva, sixty-five year old matriarch of Rebel War Band, as she boogies at a carnival. The ghost of Dante's Virgil, leading his pilgrim along perilous paths, is brought to mind as one friend guides another on her final journey.

Author Notes

With a sense of mischief and tremendous skill, Pauline Melville weaves a magnificent tapestry featuring Guyanese and European tales. Her wit and delight in language are apparent on every page, and her storytelling is irresistible. She lives in London.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Melville's short stories exist outside of the sort of time we know and anguish over in our machine-ruled culture. They move to a more organic, subtly female rhythm set to a river's flow, or the roll and sway of the generous hips of the bronze women Melville so admiringly describes as they sashay down a road in a Guyanese village, or dance at carnival with all the curving energy of the fertile earth undulating through their bodies. There is magic in these tales, and spirit, and the primal forces of earth, air, and water glow in rich contrast to the rigid structures that embody the white race's version of civilization: the towers of London, the iron tools of industry, the bars of prisons. As she did in her award-winning novel, The Ventriloquist's Tale (1998), Melville slyly contrasts the cultures of Europe with those of South America. This conflict underlies all of her bewitching and cleverly satirical tales, including the title story, a portrait of a marriage between a Brit living in Brazil and his Macusi Indian wife. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

A magnificent sense of pacing is the first of Melville's skills that impresses the reader of this mesmerizing collection. The second is her gift for voices: like the brightly plumaged title character in "The Parrot and Descartes," she has an amazing range, from West Indians in London celebrating carnival, to the self-conscious, resentful Macusi Indian brought by her literal-minded British husband to a wedding in London, to the irritable Canadian wife whose husband has been sent to Guyana for two years to serve as unofficial liar for a mining corporation. Magic realism is the label most readers and critics will paste on Melville's work (she won the Whitbread award for first novel for Ventriloquist's Tale and the Guardian Fiction Prize for her first collection of short stories, Shape Shifter); it is an appropriate but incomplete description. The dozen stories spill over with musical chaos and sly humor. The parrot's genetics insure that every word he hears will sink "ineradicably into his memory." In 1611 when he is brought from the shores of the Orinoco to Europe for a royal wedding, he hears one of the worst productions ever of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Like the characters in the play, like the parrot itself, Melville's people are dislocated both in time and place. In the carnival, a devil with red horns talks on a mobile phone to his wife, who is in labor at a nearby hospital, and a retired postal officer dressed in his dead wife's pink sweater and hairnet works up the courage to make a date with a career widow. In "Lucifer's Shank" a woman dying slowly of bone cancer selects Dante's Inferno as her guidebook. In "The Sparkling Bitch" the unsympathetic Charles Hay notes that the more transparent the buildings in London, the shadier the dealings inside "this new phantasmagoria of commerce." Meanwhile, Hays's trophy wife is dying, unnoticed, from sympathy with a skeletal beggar she met on the way to Lagos. The magic in Melville's eccentric tales is neither good nor bad, white nor black, but the magic of the teeming pluralness and the many possibilities of life. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Melvilles powerful imagination and pellucid observations are evident in stories set in Africa, South America, and the Caribbean or about former residents of those places now living in England. In a blurring of dream and reality, the collection opens with an exiled Amin-like dictator wandering in confusion through the streets of London, reliving past slights and reveling in the cruel reprisals exacted on his enemies. Equally memorable characters people the entire collection. Mrs. Da Silva, an obese Trinidadian, having survived her husbands death and her fiancs desertion, recovers her sensuality and sense of self dancing in the annual Caribbean carnival and finds love again. Dona Rosita, in The Duende, is a proper widow who breaks out of her long-established routine to uncover a buried passion to dance the flamenco. An unnamed narrator in the deeply touching Lucifers Shank supports a friend through her slow, sad battle with cancer. From a whimsical parrot paying court to famous men from Shakespeare to Descartes to a group of Guyanese women wryly deconstructing the funeral of Princess Diana, Melvilles range of characters will astonish. For anyone who missed the dazzling The Ventriloquists Tale (LJ 8/98), these stories should guarantee that they sit up and take notice. Highly recommended.Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Kingston, Ontario (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.