Book review – a Slave narrative

I just got back from Mauritius. And this is something I also copied to my Facebook. Sorry for duplicating ! I am a bit busy!

I am reading an interesting book, appropriate for reading it in the hot African country. Slave narrative, written by an African man who was kidnapped, age about 10, and sold into slavery, eventually, he buys his freedom, moves to England, writes this book. It was first published in 1789.

If you do not want to read it, I found a summary:

Written by a man born in Africa, slave since childhood, this is an intelligent honest person, navigating through life, slavery, learning English and many skills, becoming a Christian and abolitionist. The language is simple and archaic, and there is a certain charming naïveté, combined with a smart brain. I liked his arguments for better treatment of slaves, which later changed to conviction that any slavery is bad. There is a development in the character, who grew up in Africa where slavery was part of life, black slave owners.

It made me think about racism, and how I hear all those prejudiced idiotic generalisations about Muslims, Gypsies (Romany), Black people, Chinese etc.

It is not only white people who are racist. I heard racist anti-Chinese remarks by the Indian Mauritian guide, and from what heard there is a lot of racism between Indian and black people in Africa.

Reading about the horrible conditions of slaves reminded me of the war and the Holocaust. Many of my relatives were treated by the Nazis similarly to the slaves in this book. The degradation, cruelty, treating them as if they were vermin.

Those Nazis, like the white slave owners, did not consider their victims truly human.

For me, Olaudah Equiano is a hero- a man who starts as an 11-year-old illiterate “savage” and becomes an articulate adult, freeing himself from slavery, enduring terrible hardship, and yet remaining kind, optimistic, forgiving. I am sure some black people would dismiss him as an “Uncle Tom character”. I do not think they would be right, despite certain things – for example he buys his own freedom, de-facto recognising slavery as an institution. But to criticise it would mean we do not realise people belong to their epoch and cannot be judged by contemporary standards.

This I worry about the fact that the tribalism, nationalism, and hostility to people who are “not one of us” is growing, rather than getting smaller. Having said that, I know plenty of people who are tolerant, open, non-racist. So, I am sure there is hope.

Of course, I read good books about slavery written by white people, or people who are not contemporary- like Toni Morrison. This is different, and very powerful. It talks with a voice from 18th century.


One thought on “Book review – a Slave narrative

  1. Reblogged this on Lance Greenfield and commented:
    Thank so Lucie for sharing this review, and especially for supplying the link to the summary of Vol. 1 which appears in “Documenting The American South.” I urge followers of my blog to take five minutes, for that is all you need, to read the summary. It is very interesting. I don’t have time to promote the book in its entirety to the top of my tbr list, so the summary serves excellent purpose.

    I loved the reference to Equiano’s first encounter with snow whilst in England. It reminded me of the time in my own life when I was at school in North Wales. There were a couple of Kenyan boys in my division (house) who woke up one morning to observe a heavy snow storm through the window. They screamed with excitement. “Hey! Look at all them insects!” Running outside in their pajamas, they were soon yelping and dancing in the snow. “Sheet man! It is SO cold!”


    Back to the seriousness of “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano.” Please at least read the short summary on the link. It is well worth a small slice of your valuable time.


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