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Title Page from "The Interesting Narrative of the Life of O. Equiano", 1789

This is the story which gives the collection its pulsating heart. It is a real adventure, a rattling good yarn, in which disasters alternate with triumphs, and where Olaudah has no inhibition about revealing himself, examining his own motives, sometimes berating himself for falling short of his own standards, delivering firm but generous judgements about the panoply of characters he encounters. It is easy to understand why the book was a best seller in its time, but reading it now, and in the context of Caribbean Views, is equally fascinating. Olaudah’s identity is not outlined by his suffering as a slave, and his oppression turns out to be merely one part of his experience. Instead his book presents a whole person, whose intelligence, observations, and clear moral arguments, consistently illuminate the other characters and events in the collection.

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