An old tree on Martinique centers douard Glissant's novel Mahagony , a rich meditation on the ever-evolving social and political effects of the island's troubled history. Though the mahogany tree has a deeply rooted past, Martinique's people were deprived of natural continuity--brought to the new world from Africa, enslaved, and kept in a state of illiteracy. Rather than looking to ancestral roots in Africa, however, Glissant's story features multiple, geographically fixed narrators grappling with their place in a wider world in which they are more closely related to other Caribbean islands, Latin America, and the plantation culture of the American South. In each section, Mahagony explores place, moving back and forth in time as the narrators, each with their own pasts and voices, work toward a new history that neither denies that slavery brought them to their island home nor blames every failure on that fact. Together, these voices reconstruct the stories of three unknowable characters, two of whom are folk-hero maroons of oral history. The third is a contemporary, familiar young man who becomes unknowable when he kills and then vanishes without a trace--his probable death unacknowledged by any record. In exploring the unknowable, the characters attempt to untangle the collective memory of Martinique and to create a conscious history--not one composed of facts but one that unearths the mechanics of misrepresentation to get at the fundamental, enduring truths of that history, as perhaps only the mahogany tree knows it.