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Slave Old Man

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  547 ratings  ·  138 reviews

From one of the most innovative and subversive novelists writing in French, a "writer of exceptional and original gifts" (The New York Times), whose Texaco won the Prix Goncourt and has been translated into fourteen languages, Patrick Chamoiseau's The Old Slave is a gripping, profoundly unsettling story of an elderly slave's daring escape into the wild from a plantation in

Hardcover, 176 pages
Published May 2018 by The New Press (first published April 1st 1999)
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Jackie Malsich I wrote a whole paper for a class on this! Like the other response, the slave old man is transitioning back to a recognizable personhood. I found that…moreI wrote a whole paper for a class on this! Like the other response, the slave old man is transitioning back to a recognizable personhood. I found that the deeper got into the living forest, the more he was rejuvenated. The lifeblood and spirit in the forest went into him as well(less)

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Finalist for National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction

Translated from French, this is the tale of an elderly slave's escape through the lush rain forest on Martinique. The old man is hunted by the Master and his hound. Will he survive? Will he evade the hound that is relentless in its pursuit of the man?

This book is heavy on metaphors and is told through an almost stream of consciousness. I will admit, I am not a fan of stream of consciousness story telling. So, parts of this just didn't
Brown Girl Reading
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of Caribbean Literature
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Slave Old Man is unlike anything I have ever read before. Set on a plantation in Martinique during the time of slavery, it chronicles the “marooning”, the running away, of one old, seemingly elderly, slave who has had enough. This man remembers the voyage from Africa, the horrors on the ship, the years of work. Now he will run.

And with that this short novel becomes a fever dream, a magical and horror filled journey into a primeval place, the Great Woods. The writing is not linear in the same way
Chamoiseau's mythic tale centers on "the most docile of the docile" - an old man who runs the sugar syrup production at a plantation in colonial Martinique. Quiet, keeps to himself, wise and observant. He has seen the many other slaves' attempts at escape from the plantation, always ending with the Master and his mastiff bringing back the runaways and exacting horrible punishment on these people to deter others from trying the same thing.

Establishing this history and scene, the old man attempts
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
The U.S. publication of "L'Escave vieil homme et le molosse," kept the "slave old man," yet omitted "and the mastiff," from the title which I found perplexing, but Chamoiseau's novel sings in translation and Linda Coverdale provides an essential afterword and notes that help illustrate how Chamoiseau is drawing from Edouard Glissant and expanding his themes in this novel, especially that of "collective memory," Condensed Romantic prose, rich in imagery and Creole originations keeps the reader ...more
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
For those readers who love the power of prose, Slave Old Man is an astounding achievement — exhilarating, hallucinatory, primal, electrifying, and just plain delicious.

It’s a slim tale whose size belies its big message, an old man—considered “the most docile among the docile” of the slaves, slips from a Martinique plantation with the plantation owner’s savage mastiff in close pursuit. The forest becomes almost mythical: an “old man slave running through the Great Woods, not toward freedom:
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Bravo to the NBCCA for choosing this as a 2018 Finalist, a novel unlike most found on an American awards list.

For me, style and language are the powers that drive this story of a runaway slave pursued through the forest by his 'Master' and a vicious ‘monster’ mastiff. The writing is original, dazzling, dream-like and very poetic. It is prose that enforces the folktale quality of the book, propels the reader forward and heightens the experience of the chase through a dense and dangerous
Aug 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, netgalley
The slave old man, whose real name was lost long ago, has lived out his days on this sugar plantation in Martinique, apathetic and virtually invisible. One morning he does not report to his job because he has run off into the Great Woods to try to escape from slavery. He is pursued by his master who "clothes his absolute power in white linen, and a pith helmet gives him the allure of a conquistador fallen from a fold in time". He has a mastiff used to hunt down fugitive slaves. Ironically, the ...more
Paul Fulcher
Stories of slavery do not interest us much. Literature rarely holds forth on this subject. However, here, bitter lands of sugar, we feel overwhelmed by this knot of memories that sours us with forgettings and shrieking specters. Whenever our speech wants to take shape, it turns toward remembrance, as if drawn to a wellspring of still-wavering waters for which we yearn with an unquenchable thirst. Thus did the story of that slave old man make its way to me. A history greatly furrowed by variant ...more
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
On the surface, Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated from the French and Creole by Linda Coverdale, is a straightforward story of the struggles of an old slave as he escapes from a Martinique plantation. Chased by a vicious dog and his master, the slave enters a lush rain forest where nature runs rampant, providing fodder for hallucinations and wild imaginings.

But this is anything but a straightforward story. One could argue it is not really a story at all but a thrilling piece of
Viv JM
5 astonishing stars!

This book blew me away. I am not sure I have ever read a book with such amazing use of vivid and immersive language and imagery as this and the fact that it is translated makes that even more of an accomplishment. What a deserving winner of the Best Translated Book Award. Highly recommended.
Nancy Oakes
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
beautiful, beautiful book; this one definitely deserves a second read. I completely lost myself in this novel, not just because of story but also because of the writing; kudos to the translator, Linda Coverdale. Just bloody gorgeous.

more to come
Jun 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: in-translation

Beautiful prose but also so dense that, paired with the feverish tone of the narrative, I often found myself completely lost. Maybe there's a beautiful parallel there with the giant allegory that is this novel.
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-reviews
Told in poetic, challenging and often hallucinatory prose, Slave Old Man is a powerful read. Linda Coverdale has intricately translated Patrick Chamoiseau’s novel from the original French and Creole into lyrical English. Coverdale’s respect for the original text is apparent and I really enjoyed reading her detailed annotations.

Slave Old Man follows an escaped slave as he is chased through the jungles of Martinique by a devilish hound and his master. As the old man runs deeper into the forest,
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Chamouseau’s novella is an allegory rich in allegories. The prose is poetic and can actually be challenging to follow when the Old Man begins to hallucinate during his run through the woods. This is a story about a slave fleeing a plantation with a deadly hound at his heels, but most of the turmoil and conflict takes place within the minds of the slave and his master. Both are forced to come to terms with their past and by the end of the story are markedly different as a result of those ...more
(3.5) Chamoiseau is a social worker and author from the Caribbean island of Martinique. Translator Linda Coverdale has chosen to leave snippets of Martinican Creole in this text, creating a symphony of languages. The novel has an opening that might suit a gloomy fairytale: “In slavery times in the sugar isles, once there was an old black man.” The novel’s language is full of delightfully unexpected verbs and metaphors. At not much more than 100 pages, it is a nightmarish novella that alternates ...more
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved it. So powerful. Extremely primal. It felt mythical, biblical. Elemental to the basic atoms of being human/animal/etc. It’s devastating and thrilling and quite a ride that stays with you after you finish.

I had some initial trouble getting into it: it’s definitely poetry as prose. The language and word choice (so many alliterations!) was so lush it took me time to accilmiate. I think some of that was also from the French - English translation: sentence structure was very French. But with
Bob Lopez
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Longlisted for the 2019 Best Translated Book Award, this is the second book on the list about the Caribbean and the Creole movement (the other being Dezafi). The many impressionistic images read like poetry to me and it is a strong MAYBE to make the Shortlist.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
With advance praise from Derek Walcott, I reveled in this masterpiece that delivers a vivid meditation on the degradation of the human spirit at the hands of colonialist white terrorism!
Alan Teder
A haunting vision in a perfect translation package
Review of the English translation hardcover (2018) of the French/Creole original L'Esclave vieil homme et le molosse (The Slave Old Man and the Mastiff) (1999)

This story of an escape into the bush is an immersive tale that is by turns poetic and haunting with a conclusion that does somewhat enter into magic realism and meta-fiction. What bumps it into a 5 rating are the thorough backgrounds that are provided by translator Linda Coverdale. These
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-extra
My copy is called "The Old Slave and the Mastiff" and the cover is not quite the same.
An elderly, docile slave leaves his body and escapes his condition, and is then hunted through the forest by his master and a mastiff. Both the old man and the dog take on an almost supernatural form.
There are two ways to interpret this story. A modern rational explanation would suggest that the old man dies and the master and mastiff are pursuing the idea of freedom and the legends growing up around the old
I am sure I cannot do this book justice. On a sugar plantation in Martinique an old slave makes a snap decision and runs/shuffles off to freedom. He is pursued by his master and a massive mastiff.
At one stage (and in the middle of a paragraph) as the slave moves further into the jungle the narration changes from "he" to "I". The main part of the story is the battle of the old man with the jungle, the mastiff with the jungle and the old man with the jungle.
It's a deviously clever short tale on
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“Everybody winds up hating him. Then venerating him. Then hating him again. Then forgetting him. Then wondering how old he is. Then treating him the way one treats wretches from whom one no longer expects anything.” Patrick Chamoiseau’s novel is full of vivid and striking prose. I was not sure what to think before starting, but the translation has been done beautifully. The story itself grips you and does not let go—I ended up reading it in a day! Powerful, hearing the voice of the old man slave ...more
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A dense, beautiful book, and an absolutely phenomenal translation.
This was a 4.5 read for me.

Thoughts coming shortly
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Martinican writer Chamoiseau touches bones, and imagines the life of a slave old man, who, while refusing to occupy a part of the oral Creole literature, nevertheless embodies it as he flees the plantation into a primeval forest in search of a nameless freedom, all the while pursued by his Master's dog. To understand the slave old man's passage is to parse the complexity and fluidity of Creole and French--paradoxically that which reveals and conceals his location.
A. Redact
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
everyone should read this immediately
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Slave Old Manby Patrick Chamoiseau, translated from French and Creole by Linda Coverdale, is a novel rich in sublime language, highly evocative imagery, and a heart-in-mouth narrative. It is set in Martinique in self described 'slavery times,'and follows a 'slave old man' fleeing a sugar plantation on which he has spent his life. The plot itself is quick paced and immediately draws the reader in, but what bowled me over was the use of language. I would recommend reading the translator's note ...more
Shall I Download A Black Hole And Offer It To You
Sometimes a book finds you. OK, this book might not have done that, necessarily, but after seeing it on four different shelves in my local library - New Releases, Foreign Authors, African-American History (?), and finally in the C-section, I figured I should probably read the damned thing.
How happy I was to find out this book is amazing. I love language and how it is used, and this book is a perfect example of language as artistic form. Every word is to be tasted and savoured and remembered. So
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Patrick Chamoiseau is a French author from Martinique known for his work in the créolité movement.

Chamoiseau was born on December 3, 1953 in Fort-de-France, Martinique, where he currently resides. After he studied law in Paris he returned to Martinique inspired by Édouard Glissant to take a close interest in Creole culture. Chamoiseau is the author of a historical work on the Antilles under the
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