Madison Smartt Bell is a critically acclaimed writer of more than a dozen novels and two collections of short stories, as well as numerous essays and reviews in the New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, the Nation, the New York Times Book Review, and others. His epic trilogy of novels about Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution, published from 1995 to 2004, provides a visceral sense of the pain, terror, confusion, and triumph of revolution.
All Souls’ Rising, the first novel in the trilogy, was a finalist for the 1995 National Book Award and the 1996 PEN/Faulkner Award and won the 1996 Anisfield-Wolf Award for fiction, which honors books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures. The novel has been called “one of the most sophisticated fictional treatments of the enduring themes of class, color, and freedom” by the San Francisco Chronicle and “a work of breathtaking stylistic expertise on a large scale” by the Baltimore Sun.
“I was attracted to the story, not just because of the anarchy and violence prevalent throughout,” Bell says in an interview with the Times Union, “but because it really is a depiction of what it means to be human. Albeit it’s a lesson we in America and Europe have neglected to acknowledge, and continue to ignore.”
Bell was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for fiction in 1991 and a Strauss Living award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2008. In 2002 his novel Doctor Sleep was adapted as a film, Close Your Eyes, starring Goran Visnjic, Paddy Considine, and Shirley Henderson. Forty Words For Fear, an album of songs co-written by Bell and Wyn Cooper and inspired by his novel Anything Goes, was released by Gaff Music in 2003.
Born and raised in Tennessee, Bell has lived in New York and London and currently resides in Baltimore. He has a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a master’s degree from Hollins College. He has taught in various creative writing programs, including the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Johns Hopkins University’s Writing Seminars. Since 1984 he has taught at Goucher College, along with his wife, the poet Elizabeth Spires.
Behind the Moon (2017)
Toussant Louverture: A Biography (2007)
The Stone that the Builder Refused (2004)
All Souls’ Rising: A Novel of Haiti (1995)
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Video: Bell Discusses His Early Writing Influences