The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, the African (Great Classics #79) (Paperback)

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This is book number 79 in the Great Classics series.

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The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, the African, first published in 1789, is the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano. The narrative is argued to be a variety of styles, such as a slavery narrative, travel narrative, and spiritual narrative. The book describes Equiano's time spent in enslavement, and documents his attempts at becoming an independent man through his study of the Bible, and his eventual success in gaining his own freedom and in business thereafter.

Main themes:

Slavery in West Africa and how the experience differed from slavery in the Americas.

The African slave's voyage from Africa (Igboland) to the Americas and England.

The journey from slavery to freedom and parallel journey from heathenism to Christianity.

Institutional slavery can raise the master as above man as the slave is forced beneath, both corrupting the master with power and crippling the slave with the lack thereof.

Facts and Trivia

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano was one of the first widely read slave narratives. Eight editions were printed during the author's lifetime, and it was translated into Dutch and German. The structure and rhetorical strategies of the book were influential and created a model for subsequent slave narratives.

The different kinds of aspects and ideas in his narrative, such as travel, religion, and slavery, cause some readers to debate what kind of narrative his writing is: a slavery narrative, a spiritual narrative, or a travel narrative.

The work has proven so influential in the study of African and African American literature, that it is frequently taught in both English literature and History classrooms in universities. The work has also been republished in the influential Heinemann African Writers Series.

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About the Author


Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745 - 31 March 1797), known in his lifetime as Gustavus Vassa, was a prominent African in London, a freed slave who supported the British movement to end the slave trade. His autobiography, published in 1789 and attracting attention, was considered highly influential in gaining passage of the Slave Trade Act 1807, which ended the African trade for Britain and its colonies. Since the late 20th century, there has been some debate on his origins, but most of his account has been extensively documented. His last master was Robert King, an American Quaker merchant who allowed Equiano to trade on his own account and purchase his freedom in 1766. Equiano settled in England in 1767 and worked and traveled for another 20 years as a seafarer, merchant, and explorer in the Caribbean, the Arctic, the American colonies, South and Central America, and the United Kingdom. In London, Equiano (identifying as Gustavus Vassa during his lifetime) was part of the Sons of Africa, an abolitionist group composed of prominent Africans living in Britain, and he was active among leaders of the anti-slave trade movement in the 1780s. He published his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789), which depicted the horrors of slavery. It went through nine editions and aided passage of the British Slave Trade Act of 1807, which abolished the African slave trade. Since 1967, his memoir has been regarded as the "true beginning of modern African literature".


Product Details
ISBN: 9781539629320
ISBN-10: 1539629325
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date: October 19th, 2016
Pages: 164
Language: English
Series: Great Classics