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Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
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Oroonoko (1688)

by Aphra Behn

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English (25)  French (1)  All languages (26)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Oroonoko is the most well-known work of Aphra Behn, the first woman to make a living from writing, and is hailed as one of the first novels.

Oroonoko is a tragic love story and the betrayal and enslavement of a noble black prince. Behn chronicles the dehumanizing atrocities of slavery against him, yet endorses slavery as a whole - she only laments that it happens to royalty.

The writing was better than I expected; yet clearly still developing the novel form. There are many run-on sentences and confusing meaning, although overall it is quite easy to follow.

This story is a worthy read for its historical significance. ( )
  Gezemice | Oct 29, 2018 |
The African prince Oroonoko is kidnapped by slavers and taken to Surinam.

This was written in the early days of English involvement in the Atlantic slave trade as a protest. Oroonoko is very much a noble savage ill equipped to deal with treacherous white men. Although the African section is something of a fantasy, the Surinam section draws on Behn's stay there when she would have had the chance to see how the plantation owners treated their slaves.

I found the story mildly interesting but it didn't really grip me. I suspect it's mainly read these days by those interested in the history of women's writing or slavery and race relations. ( )
1 vote Robertgreaves | Aug 27, 2018 |
Although labeled Historical Fiction by most, this tale of a noble prince of Africa, his tragic love story, and the ignoble realities of slavery read much more like a fictional accounting of people and places the narrator knew, with many of the “characters” existing in that place and time and contemporaries of the author, with perhaps some license given to the noble savage narrative of the story. But fiction or not, pulled from pieces of reality or completely imagined, the inhumanity of slavery are vivid and sadly accurate. ( )
  RivetedReaderMelissa | Mar 22, 2018 |
Troubling and gory, Oroonoko's tragic fate will haunt the modern reader in this hallmark of early writing from a female author. ( )
  Birdo82 | Jan 15, 2017 |
I did not read this edition--I read only Oroonoko and the sections of the intro dealing with Behn's life and this story, in this edition [b:The Novels of Mrs. Aphra Behn|4670078|The Novels of Mrs. Aphra Behn|Aphra Behn|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/book/50x75-a91bf249278a81aabab721ef782c4a74.png|4720504].

I am struggling with this story, and am also a bit confused. If this is "the first emancipation novel" as claimed by the introduction in my edition, why does the introduction also claim it really is based in truth, and that Behn spent several years (up to age 18) in Suriname? I find it very hard to believe that it is based in truth, because what slaveholder would permit a slave to not work (king or otherwise?). Yet other parts--the punishments and the entrapment--certainly seem as though they could be based in truth.

But maybe that small detail does not matter. Was this really "the first emancipation novel"? I have not read widely enough from this time period to have a definite answer. But is it even an emancipation novel? Or is it a romantic story about how African royalty look different and are smarter than "regular" Africans? Is it a don't-enslave-the-royalty novel? Or is it a blame-the-Africans-for-slavery novel, since they sold their enemies and captives? Or is this simply as close as one could get to an emancipation novel at the time--and expect it to be read?

Maybe I need to do more reading on the time/place to answer any of these questions for myself. I know next to nothing about the history of Suriname. I have read none of her other short novels, and do not know her style (but some skimming implies a lot of romanticism, I really don't want to read the rest of these stories). The intro to my edition is over 100 years old, and perhaps more of her history has been uncovered in the last 100 years. ( )
1 vote Dreesie | Apr 12, 2016 |
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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, [the editor] examines Aphra Behn's views of slavery, colonization and politics, and her position as a professional woman writer in the Restoration.-Back cover.… (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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