The Frequency of Magic
Raphael earns his living as a butcher in a hillside village in rural Trinidad. He is also a would-be author, but there have been so many distractions to the novel he has been writing for forty-one years that many of the characters have lost patience and gone off to do their own thing. But somehow, miraculously, the novel, as Raphael has planned it in one hundred chapters of a thousand words, seems to write itself...
Anthony Joseph
ISBN number
Fiction, Novel
Country setting
Trinidad and Tobago
United States of America
Publication date
28 Nov 2019

Multi-levelled and diverse in scene, The Frequency of Magic traverses an array of lives connected to the village of Million Hills. Written in exactly 100 chapters of 1000 words, there’s the gritty realism of hill-side life, the speculative imagination of Luke’s travels through mythic landscapes pursued by his nemesis, the carnival figure of the Great Bandit. And there are the psychological odysseys of the musician, a jazz saxophonist, and Ella, an actor, both long separated from Million Hills, working their ways across the USA and Europe. When the paths of these exiles cross, a love affair begins. Ella, though, must wonder whether the saxophonist can love anything but his music.

Time in this richly ambitious novel is both circular and simultaneous, but moving, as Raphael ages, towards a sense of dissolution both of persons and of the culture of the village. But if there is a tragic realism about the passage of time, there is also a constant aliveness in the novel’s love affair with the language of Creole Trinidad with its poetic inventiveness and wit, with the improvisatory sounds of jazz and the undimmed urge of the villagers to create meaning in their lives. Above all, there is Raphael’s belief that in the making of his fiction, however messy and disobedient its materials, art can both challenge the destructive passage of time and make us see reality afresh. 


'For Anthony Joseph, the frequency of magic is the place where creativity flourishes; that perfect balance of intellect and instinct that brings something refreshing into heightened perspective. It is clear from reading the riffing, ludic, chapters of this new volume that Joseph is able to reach that frequency often. As readers, we are incredibly fortunate to have access to this work published with such care and attention by Peepal Tree Press' –Kayo Chingonyi


‘If Mikhail Bulgakov and Ishmael Reed had a godson in Trinidad raised on Rapso and John Coltrane solos then what you’d get is The Frequency of Magic. Here Anthony Joseph manages to push at the the outer edges of the novel form while holding the centre with the most intricate and significant of detail.’ –Roger Robinson


‘In The Frequency of Magic Anthony Joseph presents a world rarely if ever explored for British readers. Magical language, uplifting and down-digging meaning through a choir of image and voice. Beautiful.’ –Tessa McWatt


‘To read The Frequency of Magic is to enter several simultaneous worlds. By turns dark, fantastical, funny, hard, poignant and transformational, this novel’s magic and spirit propel it towards becoming a literary classic.' –Nicole Rachelle-Moore


Drawing by Charles Ray

Cover design by Silvia Gaspardo Moro

Anthony Joseph wearing a hat and silver rings

Anthony Joseph

Anthony Joseph is a Trinidad-born poet, novelist, academic and musician who has been referred to as ‘the leader of the black avant garde in Britain.’ He is the author of Kitch, which was shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, and longlisted for the 2019 OCM Bocas Prize, and a new novel, The Frequency of Magic, and earlier five poetry collections, including the TS Eliot prize-winner, Sonnets for Albert. He was a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellow for 2019/20.
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