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Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Confessions of Nat Turner

After quite some pause (I've been really busy with my inter mediate exams in Germany, work and studying in general here) I've finally finished another book (and found the time to post something here again). The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron was a really entertaining book (can one use the word entertaining when talking about the description of the actions of a mass murderer?) that I would recommend to anyone interested in American (especially Southern) history or simply looking for a good (not too complicated) new novel. I personally didn't really like the first quarter of the book, but it really grew on me in the latter half.

It recounts the life and death of Nat Turner who led the single biggest slave rebellion that ever occurred in the USA, a topic which I embarrassingly enough did not really know all that much about. It is is supposedly based on the real life's Nat Turner confessions written down by some kind of lawyer shortly before his trial and subsequent death. Nat Turner was basically a super intelligent human being (who taught himself how to read and write for example) who through a profound religiousness decided to rot out sin in his vicinity which for him meant slaughtering white people. Now, this of course is a harrowing concept, yet based on the situation of the slave back in the early 19th century one wonders whether some of his approach was not quite sound actually. Anyway (I am totally buzzing and beginning to get tired as well, it is 5 o'clock here), really fascinating and recommendable book. As usual some criticism will follow though:

What bothered me at times was the way black people were portrayed throughout the novel (I did not bother checking whether the author is/was black or white), this sometimes tended to lend credence to the idea of a black inferiority. While I am aware that the average slave would have been atrociously uneducated that does not mean that the majority would have been stupid, which is the impression one gains through Styon's descriptions sometimes.

1 comment:

Richard Horner said...

I haven't read this, but it sounds interesting. Just to mention, a book that illuminated the horrors of slavery in the US to me was _Beloved_. While it employs magical realism-type literary devices borrowed from Garcia-Marquez and other top Latin American novelists in a manner that to me is awkward compared to the Latinos' work, its graphic descriptions of the total humiliation of slave by slavemaster is very powerful.