0335 | Oroonoko | Aphra Behn

0335 | Oroonoko | Afra Behn

Context: Began the mammoth task of scanning all our unscanned office documentation while reading this.


This is a short story about a king abducted from his tribe in Surinam into slavery, about the his character and the tragic events of his demise. It differs from much else published at the time: three notable ways.

Firstly, it’s written by a woman. Nothing of significance now, she was one of the very first female novelists in the late 17th century. Secondly, it’s set in Surinam. I defy you to find another work that is wholly set in that country. Thirdly, and also very significantly, it’s remarkable for the way it portrays its black subjects as sensitively as it does for that era.

I wasn’t entirely gripped by the narrative. It’s a little too old to be a 21st century page-turner. But I did realise early on that I was reading a novel by a woman who saw the world very differently from her peers. I wonder if this has something to do with her own experiences there. I wondered also if she even had a love interest there that perhaps served as her inspiration.

So, an extremely significant book in the history of the development of the novel. Not one I’d read again but glad I did so.


I do not pretend, in giving you the history of this Royal Slave, to entertain my reader with adventures of a feigned hero, whose life and fortunes fancy may manage at the poet’s pleasure; nor in relating the truth, design to adorn it with any accidents but such as arrived in earnest to him: and it shall come simply into the world, recommended by its own proper merits and natural intrigues; there being enough of reality to support it, and to render it diverting, without the addition of invention.


Thus died this great man, worthy of a better fate, and a more sublime wit than mine to write his praise: yet, I hope, the reputation of my pen is considerable enough to make his glorious name to survive all the ages, with that of the brave, the beautiful, and the constant Imoinda.


0335 | Oroonoko | Behn | 64% | Good

Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement Read more about how I come up with my ratings

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