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Oroonoko

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3.01  ·  Rating details ·  10,096 ratings  ·  691 reviews
When Prince Oroonoko's passion for the virtuous Imoinda arouses the jealousy of his grandfather, the lovers are cast into slavery and transported from Africa to the colony of Surinam. Oroonoko's noble bearing soon wins the respect of his English captors, but his struggle for freedom brings about his destruction. Inspired by Aphra Behn's visit to Surinam, Oroonoko reflects ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published October 30th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1688)
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Average rating 3.01  · 
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 ·  10,096 ratings  ·  691 reviews


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Bill Kerwin

A 17th century precursor to the novel, "Oroonoko" condemns slavery not so much for its intrinsic evil but because it can oppress a man of true nobility--a man like the African prince Oroonoko.

It is well written, moves briskly, and provides a fascinating contemporary glimpse not only of the slave trade but of the indigenous inhabitants of South America as well.
Jan-Maat
Perhaps the perfect thing to read after Kafka's The Trial, I found this discomforting and curious by turns, the author and the story both are slippery, the boundaries between reportage, myth and fiction unclear and maybe unimportant (in the finest traditions of fiction).

Aphra Behn herself is a mysterious person, presumed to have been born in Kent, maybe Canterbury, it is debated who her parents were though it is a strong probability that she had some. She spent sometime in Suriname, a Dutch colo
...more
Rowena
Jul 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
I quite liked this book and would have probably given it a 5 had it not been for the racist depictions in the book. Behn depicts the protagonist, Oroonoko, as being extremely regal and handsome because of his European nose and straight hair, among other things. I guess since the book was written in the 17th Century, racism and ignorance about Africa and black people was to be expected. Apart from that, the story was pretty good, a tragic love story. The descriptions of Surinam were also beautifu ...more
Fabian
Jan 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I LOVED: that the love story is Vivid & the plot is Alive. But all this matters not when placed on the other side of the spectrum where Misery is Aware and Dismemberment is the ultimate form of Destruction. I was left wowed.

A Must!!
...more
Antonomasia
There are several other reviews on Goodreads (e.g. Jan-Maat’s) which cover the aspects of Oroonoko most often studied and discussed : colonialism, and what it shows about racism in the late 17th century. And of course this is also a major subject of the very interesting introduction in this Penguin edition by Janet Todd, also a biographer of Behn.

Even though I also went into the book aware of the role of social class and hierarchy in it - that the narrator considers it wrong for Oroonoko to be
...more
Aubrey
There's a quiz on this tomorrow that's likely to consist of 'Who was the main character?' and 'What was the climax?' and 'Name three unconnected plot points that demonstrate ______' (It's been a while since my last English Lit class and I'm totally making shit up), so I'll get my digressive What I Think About This Thing out of the way here. Honestly, it was a windfall that this was assigned as short things make me nervous and I end up putting off reading them for ages, so a "Hey sup have a novel ...more
Alex
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: rth-lifetime, 2014
Aphra Behn (AF-ra Ben) was a popular playwright and dabbly novelist in the late 1600s, part of the gap between Shakespeare and novels. Bawdy, free-thinking, perpetually broke, perversely royalist, and probably atheist, she fell badly out of favor in the next few centuries and is now making a tepid comeback - tepid because as much as we'd love to have a radical(ish) female protonovelist in the canon, Behn is only okay as a writer.

Oroonoko has a pretty good plot: the titular archetypal noble savag
...more
Zaphirenia
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: brace2018
Some books you read for what they have to give you and some books you read due to the circumstances under which they were written.

This is a story by Aphra Behn, a woman who lived and wrote during the Restoration in England. Behn was one of the first women to write in order to make ends meet, something not very common in the 17th century. In the early 20th century she was made more popular when Virginia Woolf stated that "all women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn,
...more
Adira
I can sum up my general feelings about this book in a well known quote by Maya Angelou:

"When people show you who they are, believe them the first time."

Oroonoko really could've avoided half of his misfortune if he had learned this principle after he was abducted into slavery by someone he considered a friend. However, he decided he was going to repeatedly try to apply his African moral system into his new surroundings and go by the "honor system" taking everybody at their word. No matter how man
...more
Katherine
Oroonoko is a complicated novel for me to rate.

I think Virginia Woolf was correct in stating that Aphra Behn's career as a whole was more important than any particular work, but I suppose I still have to rate the novella as it stands. I will start by saying that it's historical context seems to be extremely important in understanding before reading it, and for a few reasons. First, Aphra Behn is considered to be the first woman to make a career for herself* (and without a pseudonym!) from writin
...more
Kathleen
From the first professional woman writer, published in 1688, this is a story about the enslaved grandson of an African King. We are treated to numerous descriptions of his beauty, and the limitlessness of true love, yet not spared the details of his torturous life or gruesome end.

I have now obeyed Virginia Woolf’s famous directive to women to “let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” I was pleased that, while this story reflect
...more
Andrea (Catsos Person) is a Compulsive eBook Hoarder
This book got off to a rather dull, though interesting beginning, but improved as I continued to read.

The author was ahead of her time in more ways than one.
Dream
Jul 02, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: quartered
Aphra Behn's Oroonoko is theorized in style and format to possibly be one of the first novels in English, connecting the worlds of Europe, Africa, and America in a tale that is common in plot but uncommon in character. Written by the so-called "bad girl" of her time, Behn's novel explores firs the foreign world of Coramantien and its royalty. The title character of the Royal Prince then finds himself with soldiers and war captains with the natives of Surinam, and then with its colonists. Separat ...more
Peter
A book more for historians then the usual novel readers some interesting parts but ultimately dull.

Only giving this two stars, why? so obsessed with letting everyone know it's a woman writer, which is completely unnecessary. It's like having an author named David and saying he's a man writer! Subsequently, in the need to state this they have spelt the authors last name as Benn instead of Behn. They need to pay attention to what needs to be put on the back cover rather than worrying about "we mus
...more
Liam
Oct 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
( 1.5 STARS )

Incredible story but I feel like the narrative made it a really slow read and therefore I couldn't enjoy it as much as I probably would have done if it was written more like a novel or if I watched it as a film.
Vaishali
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
And the debate about Oroonoko goes on. It's true that the authenticity of locations is suspect (tigers in Surinam?), and that intercultural relationships form sugary caricatures. However Behn redeems herself with the mutiny scene (see below) and the punishment scene. If Behn were a cook, she'd make a meal not to feed you, but display her spices: royalty, harem intrigue, true love, exotic locales, and murder. More is done with far less ingredients in, say, Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Oroonoko/Caesar's
...more
Mounaim kamel
May 05, 2015 rated it it was ok

It is a story of an African prince and his beloved wife Imoinda, who are captured by the British and brought to Surinam as slaves.

Because of Oroonoko’s high social status as a former prince, superior education, and spectacular physical appearance, Oroonoko is never sent to work. He was asking for his freedom over and over while they feed him with lies, Oroonoko realizes he will never be free…

I don’t want to say more, all i can say is that i had mixed feeling for the book and the character since
...more
kaelan
May 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is important to realize that at the time Oroonoko was written, our modern concept of the novel simply didn't exist. This perhaps excuses several of the more glaring 'problems' with this work.

I mean: yes, it's a very uneven piece of literature—despite an absence of chapter breaks (perhaps they haven’t been invented yet?), the text fluctuates wildly between tedious exposition (sadly, this applies to the entire first half of the text), exhilarating proto-travel lit (Behn was a seasoned traveler
...more
Sarah
Wow, this is one of the most uncomfortable pieces of work I've come across in months. I mean this in the best way.

First and foremost, Oroonoko is full of problematic language concerning race, but I think this really has to do with the time Behn was living in. She really tries to be progressive in her depiction of Oroonoko himself and his beloved Imoinda, but 18th-century treatment of language is naturally different than what we are used to now. So while this fact does prevent me from giving thi
...more
Alice Lippart
May 18, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Quite an interesting read, though has some views from the time period that for me at least, were a bit distracting. But otherwise good.
Manny
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
This fascinating little novel was written in 1688, a generation before Daniel DeFoe, who is typically considered the first modern novelist in English, and written by a woman no less. The novel follows Oronooko, an African prince who is tricked into slavery by so called “Christians.” At its core, the novel is about the nature of kingship, which was the big political issue of its day, the Restoration period of English history, but in doing so Aphra Behn creates a narrative of the indignities of sl ...more
Jill
Aug 28, 2020 added it
Read for a lit class! Find it hard and weird to try and rate this, but it was a thought provoking story
Czarny Pies
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Undergraduates and other masochists.
Shelves: english-lit
Aphra Behn's superb "Oronooko" is book that is quite ghastly to read but which has rightfully won a place on the undergraduate curriculum. In this politically correct century "Oronooko" has two great qualities. First, it is a very early novel by a woman writer. Second, it appears to be the first work of prose fiction to squarely address the issues of slavery and the harmful effects of European colonialism on the third world.

Published in 1688, "Oronooko" can be seen as a precursor to Voltaire's
...more
Amber Tucker
Dec 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Meh
Well, that was... not really worth it.

A little exaggeration on my part, I suppose. It's kind of tedious and the ending? It's tragically significant, but also, I found, needlessly gory and yet ostensibly titillating at the same bloody (that's not just an expletive) time. And, needless to say, imperialism and racism are written all over it – unless you try to read between the lines, which can be done to some extent, and which I've tried to do. I don't want to dismiss the whole thing right off.

St
...more
Rosemary
Nov 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-books
An odd book. Behn's view seems to be that it's OK for people to be enslaved as a result of war (as they were in all races and cultures), but not to be traded and exported. Also that it's wrong to enslave a prince of any tribe, race or culture (they would usually have been ransomed) but OK for the common people. Prince Oroonoko therefore has her sympathy and even support to escape, if he can make it.

The story might be criticized as racist and in some ways it is - e.g. the 'beautiful' and 'noble'
...more
Duane
This is not a great novel, but it does have it's literary significance. Aphra Behn (1640-1689), is considered the first female English novelist. And this novel provides a rather dark look at English colonization in the 17th century. The story is about Oroonoko, a Royal African prince, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South American country of Surinam. A sad and tragic tale as most slave stories are. Published in 1688.
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
Published in 1688... published in 1688... published in 1688. This was a chant in my head as I tried to get through this novel. I did not enjoy it at all. I found it full of racism (for example: Oronooko was considered handsome because he had European features!) and the prose was dull. I also did not find the characters particularly well-developed.
Eddie Clarke
*Really* want to give this 4 stars but this tale has issues. A completely fascinating stew of clashing genres, styles, and social attitudes written by a woman at the dawn of the age of imperialism and the Atlantic slave trade (and indeed, the English Novel itself). Oroonoko’s tale is pure romantic whimsy but weighted savagely with apparently directly observed details of the brutality of slavery. It’s short, fluently written and swift to read. I was pleasantly surprised that such early prose (168 ...more
Nadosia Grey
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ethnic
Many critics have pointed out the narrative persuasiveness of this work. I’m not sure how they draw these conclusions. Even the first time reading this work I knew that the narration was terribly off in the sense that there was a certain unreliability present. If Behn should be commended for this work, it’s precisely for the effort of trying to synthesize dramatic conventions into the novel—something I think she doesn’t quite achieve.

Contradictory descriptions
Even when Oroonoko is first being
...more
Melissa
Feb 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Although labeled Historical Fiction by most, this tale of a noble prince of Africa, his tragic love story, and the ignoble realities of slavery read much more like a fictional accounting of people and places the narrator knew, with many of the “characters” existing in that place and time and contemporaries of the author, with perhaps some license given to the noble savage narrative of the story. But fiction or not, pulled from pieces of reality or completely imagined, the inhumanity of slavery a ...more
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Reading 1001: Oroonoko - Behn 11 19 Feb 17, 2018 08:14PM  

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Aphra Behn was a prolific dramatist of the English Restoration and was one of the first English professional female writers. Her writing contributed to the amatory fiction genre of British literature. Along with Delarivier Manley and Eliza Haywood, she is sometimes referred to as part of "The fair triumvirate of wit."

In author Virginia Woolf's reckoning, Behn's total career is more important than
...more

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