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The Interesting Narrative and Other…
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The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings: Revised Edition (Penguin…

by Olaudah Equiano, Vincent Carretta

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 5 of 5
So many twists of fate, crossing the Atlantic slave or free, numerous times. Eventually becoming an author and a gentleman. Eyes glazed over during the late chapter expounding the finer points of 18th century Methodist predestinarianism. Most footnotes in Penguin Classic I think I've encountered, well over 600, though many were on orthography, which seemed like overkill. ( )
  encephalical | Feb 28, 2018 |
Equiano is an engaging sort with an artless yet shrewd means of delivering a fascinating life story--captured as a Niger Basin lad by neighbouring peoples, traded as a slave from village to village until--shit!--he came to the sea and got snapped up by the whites (and the first rule of being a slave is you do not wanna be owned by the white man); then off to the New World, where you add some European cultural mores to your natural acuity, go back to London and then all over the world as manservantslave to a succession of self-interested but mostly unmalicious--sometimes even decent!--masters. You get shipwrecked off the Bahamas, party with Miskito people on a Jamaican plantation, see Smyrna, fail to find the Northeast Passage (1), eventually buy your freedom, and rise in the world as a sea captain and later exec director of a failed slave resettlement effort in Sierra Leone. You do it all under the constant threat of white rapacity and impunity--guys are always taking your bag of oranges or kidnapping you and selling you into slavery again, and it doesn't matter that you're a free man or civil servant or whatever--your only recourse is the kindness of random humane whites. You take advantage of it, cannily presenting yourself as pious, unassuming, soft and possessed of all the Christian virtues, almost too much, almost with a grovel-flourish before a white God, but also with an effort to model the putative British virtues--plainspokenness, bravery, self-regard--and chastise the whites for constantly failing to live up to them themselves in a way that veers between righteous and sanctimonious, even passive-aggressive.


Not a good look at the typical slave experience, but an intriguing depiction of what it took to get ahead in the whitemansiest of all white man's world. And his poetry will cut you to the quick. ( )
  MeditationesMartini | Mar 4, 2010 |
The Interesting Narrative (1789) is one of the earliest "slave narratives", a genre that includes classics such as Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) and neo-slave narratives like Alex Haley's Roots (1976), Toni Morrison's Beloved (1987) and Edward P. Jones' The Known World (2003). What makes Olaudah Equiano's account unique is that is was the first slave narrative to find a wide audience, and it is not hard to understand why - not only is it a good story, but it is very well written, almost literary - it sold so well it was a cornerstone in bringing about public sympathy and support for the abolition of the slavery in England.

Just about everything we know about Olaudah Equiano is from his autobiography. He was born around 1745 in Africa, kidnapped and enslaved at the age of 10 or 11 and shipped across the Middle Passage to the West Indies, and soon after to a Virginia plantation (he was too small to work the sugar cane fields). From there he had the good fortune to be purchased by the captain of a British warship, where he learned English manners, language and customs - and a promise of freedom. But, in one of the great blows of his life, he was tricked and sold back into slavery in the West Indies, where he worked on merchant ships for a number of years, finally able to save enough money (trading fruits and rum between ports of call) to buy his freedom in his early 20s. He then spent years as a freed man working on merchant and military ships traveling extensively around the Atlantic, including a trip to the Arctic. His close calls with death were many, including disease, shipwrecks and run-ins with whites who would beat him to within an inch of his life. Equiano eventually settled down in England, married a white girl, had two children and died a wealthy and respected gentleman, a remarkable achievement for a former African slave in the 18th century.

The Interesting Narrative can be read on multiple levels. It is a fascinating first-hand document of 18th century British mercantilism, showing the Atlantic "Golden Triangle" in action. It is a story of Christian redemption - by following the teachings of the Bible, and those who transgress against it, Equiano explains why things turn out how they do. It is one of the great works of travel literature; exotic locales and death-defying adventures fill the pages. It is a powerful expose of 18th century slavery, unflinchingly detailing the institutionalized horrors and how both victim and victimizer are turned into animals. It is a call for action to end the slave trade.

In the end, we read books like this today with a certain amount of curious detachment, it has been about 150 years since slavery ended - or has it? Some 27 million slaves - more than twice the number of people taken from Africa during the entire 350 year history of the Africa slave trade - today toil in rich and poor countries around the world. Most Americans probably know more about slavery as it once existed, than as it is currently being practiced in their own time, directly touched by the cheap goods we purchase. Reading Equiano's account we can't help but be moved against slavery, all slavery, historical or contemporary, and for that the book has immortal value.

--Review by Stephen Balbach, via CoolReading (c) 2008 cc-by-nd ( )
2 vote Stbalbach | Jan 25, 2008 |
You cannot keep a good man down! This guy always bounced back...His treatment even as a slave was pretty good when away from the W Indies but all slaves, and also free blacks were treated abominably there. Whole chapter about his discovery of grace and personal assurance. Little about resentments... Amazing man, sickening fellow men. ( )
  oataker | Aug 17, 2007 |
Mr. Equiano's story of his own enslavement, life as a slave, and eventual emancipation. Fascinating in its subject and execution, Mr. Equiano's story is one of real life adventure and spirituality that brings both slavery and the British Emancipation efforts to life. ( )
  DCArchitect | Jul 27, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Olaudah Equianoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carretta, Vincentmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Carretta, VincentEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142437166, Paperback)

Completely revised and edited with an introduction and notes by Vincent Carretta

An exciting and often terrifying adventure story, as well as an important precursor to such famous nineteenth-century slave narratives as Frederick Douglass's autobiographies, Olaudah Equiano's The Interesting Narrative recounts his kidnapping in Africa at the age of ten, his service as the slave of an officer in the British Navy, his ten years of labor on slave ships until he was able to purchase his freedom in 1766, and his life afterward as a leading and respected figure in the antislavery movement in England. A spirited autobiography, a tale of spiritual quest and fulfillment, and a sophisticated treatise on religion, politics, and economics, The Interesting Narrative is a work of enduring literary and historical value.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:13 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Relates the experiences of an African prince who was kidnapped into slavery in 1755 and followed his various masters from the Americas to Europe and through the Caribbean.

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