THE AFRICAN by Harold Courlander


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Hwesuhunu is the African, uprooted and transplanted as Wes Hunu, slave in the pre-Civil War South. It's a careful, considered novel, far removed from any Mandingo sensationalism. The author, an expert on African folklore and religion, has really tried to depict the differences in attitude, feeling, self-esteem etc. between the man who was reared as a free man in self respect, now trapped, and the man born into slavery. He succeeds to a remarkable extent because these are precise characterizations. Where he fails lies in the structure of the story itself which he has hinged upon a myth, lore that Hwesuhunu remembers about the man who chased an antelope into the land of the Dead and is doomed never to return. The novel tries to become an epic, starting with Hwesuhunu at twelve a man, happily working in the dokpwe of his village. Before it's over there's been a shipwreck, a brief battle against French overseers on an island, recapture, years of slavery on a plantation, escape, a stay with a friendly tribe of Indians, a journey to Freedom Island, last refuge of escaped slaves in the swamps ruled by a brutal bully, insurrection, and again, Wes wanders on. It's overweighted by events but nonetheless, the quieter moments, the relationships, and the contrasts between the Africans and their tempered brothers have a great deal of honesty.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1967
Publisher: Crown