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Wages Paid

Authors: James Carnegie

Published by Peepal Tree Press

ISBN: 9781845232153

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First published in 1976, Wages Paid is a short but powerful novel set on a sugar plantation in Jamaica during the years of slavery. It is remarkable for its form – brief, separate paragraphs that build up the tensions of the events of one day; the rhythmic, almost ritualistic quality of its language; and its acute sense of the meeting point between outward lives of total constriction and inner mind-worlds in which desires and rationality cannot be suppressed. 

In a world where all persons, including the plantation manager, have become commodities, the body becomes the site of struggle and the mind/brain the only organ that cannot be wholly owned. Sex is at the heart of a paradox. Mr Johnson, the owner, commands the bodies of any of the women he wants, to do whatever he wants; he also owns enslaved men as studs, and women as breeders. 

Not least for what it has to say about gender in the context of slavery and the construction of masculinity, Wages Paid continues to be a groundbreaking novel.

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