A high-seas tale of plucky buccaneers, savage Spanish colonialism and the most fearsome captain of the Caribbean, translated into English.
An icon of Italian and Spanish literature, Salgari’s novel is one of the greatest archetypes of the genre and boasts recognition from such luminaries as Jean-Paul Sartre, Umberto Eco and Jorge Luis Borges as the book that captured the imagination of their childhood. The Black Corsair—a brooding, if not melancholic, pirate—is obsessed with avenging the deaths of his pirate brothers, the Red and Green Corsairs, who have been slain by the ruthless and traitorous Duke Van Guld, governor of Maracaibo, after he betrayed their alliance in a battle against the Spanish. Driven from his Italian estate, nobleman Emilio Roccanera, Lord of Ventimiglia, is transformed into the renowned and much-feared Black Corsair who vows to track the duke across the globe, traversing the jade waters of the Caribbean—from the pirate haven of Tortuga to the nearly impassable jungles of the Spanish Main—in his effort to enact vengeance. Aiding the corsair in his journey are his faithful compatriots L’Ollonais, Michael the Basque and Henry Morgan, each more than willing to sacrifice his life to the cause as per the code of the Brethren of the Coast. Though pirate lore would have you believe all pirates are scoundrels of dastardly deeds, the Black Corsair’s aristocratic background makes him a gentleman at heart, which attracts the attention of a fair-haired duchess whose family ties will ultimately test the limits of the Black Corsair’s sanity in his blood-lusting quest. Though the story suffers from brief periods of tedium as it plods along and makes frequent and obvious use of foreshadowing, the book is eminently readable and great fun. It’s easy to see why this novel has captured imaginations for more than 100 years, as it’s a perfect example of escapist pleasure for both children and adults. As for translation itself, the language is clear and concise, and Lorenzutti nicely maintains the tempo and pace of the original, making for a fast-paced reading experience. This work is faithful to the original and does a great service to reintroduce this classic to a new generation of readers.
A true page-turner and classic adventure story, Salgari’s tale of exotica is a welcome diversion.