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Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave by Aphra Behn
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Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave (1688)

by Aphra Behn

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This is a very moving short story about the horrors of slavery. Aphra Behn is one of the first major female English writers and her text is very easy to read and understand. We see Oroonoko as a real human person instead of just being an ordinary slave. He is an African prince who heroically refuses to allow his unborn child be born into slavery. I recommend this novel as it is considered the first novel to be written in English and is one that should not be forgotten. ( )
  eadieburke | Jan 19, 2016 |
Urgh! I seriously struggled with this - for a start all the nouns have capital letters, which yes, I know, was the style at the time, but I just found it distracting. Secondly I honestly had read about a quarter of it thinking it was just an introduction before I realised that actually I was reading the story. Of course, had it been a real book and not the kindle version I wouldn't have fallen into that trap. I kept looking forward to see when it would actually start. I found this dull and overly descriptive- did Behn REALLY need to tell us who everyone was related to? All it really achieved was a sense of confusion - and totally distracted from the story, which actually could have been quite good, although unbelievable. I nearly gave up on many occasions and it's taken me nearly two months to read. Unless you are a glutton for punishment I wouldn't go near it!! ( )
  sashinka | Jan 14, 2016 |
This book was an extremely difficult read; prose in its most jawbreaking style. Thanks goodness it was short, because what should have been a single afternoon's read was instead stretched out over eight uch-I-can't-stand-this-let-me-read-something-else days. Had it been a regular-size novel, I'd still be reading it until kingdom come. I found the ending repugnant, horrific, and morally disgusting, and I'm glad I could move on quickly to the post-1700 books on the "1,001 books to read" list. ( )
  MartinBodek | Jun 11, 2015 |
"Shall we render Obedience to such a degenerate Race...Will you, I say, suffer the Lash from such Hands?",, February 11, 2015

This review is from: Oroonoko (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
As one of the earliest novels in English, it's interesting to see what fiction was like in the 1680s.
This is the tale of Prince Orinooko, only surviving grandson of the rather despotic 100-year old king of 'Coramantien' in Africa. He falls in love with local beauty, Imoinda, but she has caught the eye of his grandfather too, who makes her part of his harem. The first part of the novel, the description of the royal court and related adventures was quite interesting (a rather 'English' imagining of the place, I think, with its French tutor and European courtly ideals: "refined Notions of true Honour, that absolute Generosity, and that Softness, that was capable of the highest Passions of Love and Gallantry.")
Then the two lovers are separately sold into slavery and here one must suspend disbelief, as our hero's new owner in Surinam, aware of his slave's qualities, "began to conceive so vast an Esteem for him, that he ever after lov'd him as his dearest Brother" and "he was received more like a Governor than a Slave." However, that doesn't mean life is going to be easy, as Orinooko comes to the belief that "there was no Faith in the White men or the Gods they ador'd...a Man ought to be eternally on his Guard and never to eat or drink with Christians, without his Weapon."
How Orinooko's observations cause him to act forms the concluding part of the tale.

Despite being 330 years old, this is perfectly readable, though I have to say it didn't exactly 'grab' me as a read .
However from an historical point of view, it's of interest both to see the development of the novel, and to observe how the Black race was portrayed as against Victorian opponents to slavery like Harriet Beecher Stowe. While the latter gains her readers' sympathies by focussing on Uncle Tom's Christianity and long-suffering, and creates a rather child-like character, Aphra Behn shows a man who repudiates all Christianity stands for and who is 'all man' in his fearlessness - "a Prince, whose Valour and Magnanimity deserved the Empire of the World" and "Who struck an Awe and Reverence." ( )
1 vote starbox | Feb 11, 2015 |
Oroonoko by Aphra Behn is the 17th century story of an African Prince and his beloved, both sold into slavery separately, then reunited on a slave plantation in Surinam. The story is a narration by a Englishwoman colonist, and asserted to be true. The story of love, conflict with tribal traditions, enslavement, reunion, and rebellion is a compelling narrative, despite the 17th century prose style. ( )
  BobCulley | Sep 11, 2014 |
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I do not pretend, in giving you the history of this Royal Slave, to entertain my reader with adventures of a feigned hero, whose life and fortunes fancy may manage at the poet's pleasure;
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140439889, Paperback)

When Prince Oroonoko’s passion for the virtuous Imoinda arouses the jealousy of his grandfather, the lovers are cast into slavery and transported from Africa to the colony of Surinam. Oroonoko’s noble bearing soon wins the respect of his English captors, but his struggle for freedom brings about his destruction. Inspired by Aphra Behn’s visit to Surinam, Oroonoko reflects the author’s romantic views of native peoples as being in “the first state of innocence, before man knew how to sin.” The novel also reveals Behn’s ambiguous attitude toward slavery: while she favored it as a means to strengthen England’s power, her powerful and moving work conveys its injustice and brutality.

A new single-volume edition of this early anti-slavery novel
Includes introduction, carefully modernized text, chronology, suggestions for further reading, and explanatory notes

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:53 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"When Prince Oroonoko's passion for the virtuous Imoinda arouses the jealousy of his grandfather, the lovers are cast into slavery and transported from Africa to the colony of Surinam. Oroonoko's noble bearing soon wins the respect of his English captors, but his struggle for freedom brings about his destruction. Inspired by Aphra Behn's visit to Surinam, Oroonoko reflects the author's romantic view of native peoples as in 'the first state of innocence, before man knew how to sin'. The novel also reveals Behn's ambiguous attitude to African slavery - while she favoured it as a means to strengthen England's rule, her powerful and moving work conveys its injustice and brutality." "This new edition of Oroonoko is based on the first printed version of 1688, and includes a chronology, further reading and notes. In her introduction, Janet Todd examines Aphra Behn's views of slavery, colonization and politics, and her position as a professional woman writer in Restoration."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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W.W. Norton

An edition of this book was published by W.W. Norton.

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