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Ourika

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3.57  ·  Rating details ·  1,189 ratings  ·  98 reviews
Based on a true story, Ourika relates the experiences of a Senegalese girl who is rescued from slavery and raised by an aristocratic French family during the French Revolution. Brought up in a household of learning and privilege, she is unaware of her difference until she overhears a conversation that makes her suddenly conscious of her race - and of the prejudice it arous ...more
Paperback, 47 pages
Published January 1st 1995 by Modern Language Association of America (first published 1823)
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Héctor Contreras Miranda is a tinylittle short story, there's nothing to spoil it anywhere because it's not the kind of story that can be spoiled…moreis a tinylittle short story, there's nothing to spoil it anywhere because it's not the kind of story that can be spoiled(less)

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Average rating 3.57  · 
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 ·  1,189 ratings  ·  98 reviews


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Brina
Mar 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Ourika, first published by Claire de Duras in France in 1823, is a noteworthy short story that discusses that place of Africans in French society during the early 19th century. Madame de Duras (nee Lechat) came from an upperclass family that had to flee the country during Robespierre's reign of terror. While temporarily exiled, her father encountered a Senegalese girl about to be sold into slavery, and insisted that the girl, Ourika, come to live with his family. This forty seven page story is b ...more
Jamila
Apr 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To imagine that Ourika is a simply a tale about a woman who is distraught over a man is to severely misread the richness of this novel, which offers a complex regard of race, blackness, womanhood, identity, and intercultural acceptance. With its harsh criticisms of political fervor generated by the French Revolution as well as social behaviors--namely, French upper-class elitism--this was a risky novel for its time. It tells the story of a Senagalese girl who, one day, suddenly realizes she is " ...more
Diane S ☔
Mar 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Thoughts soon.
Laura
Nov 28, 2014 marked it as to-read
Free download in French is available at Project Gutenberg.

Free download in English (pdf file) is available at HathiThrust Digital Library.
...more
Cynda
Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This short story reveals much that is wrong in raising a human child be a pet of her patron and much that is wrong in taking in a child of an out group without making a plan for her adulthood.
Stacia
Considering the time period the story was published (1820s), location (France), author (female), subject (Black Senegalese female raised in a white French household from age two, partially during the Reign of Terror, never realizing her "otherness" until an overheard conversation when she is 15), this very short work based on a true story packs a pretty powerful punch. There's a lot to unpack & analyze here from race, gender, changing society/government, religion, isolation, community, the meani ...more
Lauren
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
First, a tangent that I swear has a point:

For several years, I’ve had a copy of A.S. Byatt’s Possession sitting on my shelf. I planned to read it last year, but shortly before starting, I read an article about books inspired by other books. One of the books mentioned? Possession, which tips its hat to John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which, in turn, tips its hat to a little-known French novella by the name of Ourika.

Naturally, I then decided I could not read Possession until I read t
...more
Jim
Aug 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ourika is the name of this short novel's eponymous heroine, a young Senegalese slave woman who is rescued from s life of drudgery and brought up by a French noblewoman around the time of the Terror. For perhaps the first time in literary history, authorClaire de Duras writes about the life of a black heroine surrounded on all sides by whites.

Young Ourika falls in love with her patroness's son, but Charles marries a sixteen-year-old girl of noble family:
God will bear witness, I was happy for Cha
...more
Aubrey
You confide in people—then they tell you it was your own fault.
The wonderful and the horrible thing about literature is how little a guarantee there is of finding everything there is to offer. It enables the exhilaration of stumbling across whenever and whatever one has access to at any given moment, but it also makes for easy burial of many any author who fell under the glib summary of being "ahead of their time" and was the target of one or more petty white male bitcheries (in the case of
...more
Helynne
This brief, bittersweet novel was a courageous pheonmenon in France in the 1820s. At a time when the abolition movement was gaining momentum in France, the traditionalist and conservative element was busy making new rules to take more rights away from people of African heritage. Therefore, it is astonishing that Ourika was published when it was (1824) and received the (limited) respect it did for its lovely, black heroine, the title character. (I say "limited respect" because white French peopl ...more
Keith Sickle
Sep 30, 2020 rated it liked it
An interesting period piece, and a sad story indeed. Like many French novels of its time, there are plenty of extreme emotions, making it a bit over-the-top to a modern reader.

One thing that struck me was Ourika's (and therefore the author's) reaction to the massacres perpetrated in Saint-Dominque by enslaved Blacks--it makes her ashamed to be a member of a "race de barbares et d'assassins." But when the dead bodies pile up under the Terror, there's no similar indictment of Whites. Again, it's
...more
Milyd
I had to read it for one of my French class. I found it very interesting. It also sparked a debate on who counts as being "qualified" enough to write about another race's struggles. I felt really bad for Ourika. I totally relate to feeling like we don't belong in a specific category. I wish she could have made peace with her skin color. Apparently there is a play about it? I would love to see it. ...more
Purple Iris
Jul 14, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One of the worst books I've ever read. ...more
Shira
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars
Michael
Mar 08, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very Very good, the French was difficult in parts but the story shone through with a sincerity that is often lacking in classical literature.
Eileen
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars (liked it)
Jenna Gareis
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 200-voices
Ooof this little book packs a big 1823 punch! A young Senegalese orphan, about to be boarded onto a slave ship is purchased by a Frenchman who gives her to a relative. This relative raises her as a beloved little pet. She knows she’s black but not what that means within the context of her adoptive culture. Overhearing a conversation about her limited and sure to be unhappy future, at age 15, she falls into a debilitating depression and self-isolation. What will become of Ourika?

At less than 50
...more
Carolin
3.5 stars. Interesting short story about an African/Senegalese girl, (rescued from slavery), who is brought up in an upper class family, and her thoughts/struggles being an educated black woman in eighteenth-century France.
Rachel Coyne
Aug 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Haunting. This should be a film. So much glorious visuals.
Jackie
Abrupt ending. Unresolved conflicts. Too much time inside Ourika's head. ...more
Sveta
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It was so sad but there are very interesting topics of class, sex, race, and mental health!
Silvia Maresca
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
Would have given it 3 stars if it wasn't for such an abrupt, clichéd ending.
Interesting story though.
...more
Natalie Treybal
Feb 07, 2022 rated it it was ok
White woman uses black voices and bodies to tell her own thoughts / feelings. Rubbed me the wrong way and even besides that overall just did not enjoy the read
Soula L.
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
French Revolutionary period, a young Senegales girl (Ourika) is brought up by a wealthy aristocratic family (after she is rescued from a slave ship where her mother has just died: "des esclaves sur un bâtiment négrier.")

An important historical document about a minority woman's mental health: "les peines qui ont détruit ma santé," that I only became aware of, the other day, in a note about inspiration for John Fowles’ French Lieutenant’s Woman.

Despite the family’s good intentions: after misunde
...more
Héctor Contreras Miranda
Through some extremely vague similarities this story reminds me a lot of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid (and they're also amplified due to the casting of the fore coming Disney Live Action remake which I can't wait to see)
(view spoiler)
...more
Dragana
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The shortest and strangest book I read in a long while. Minus two forewords, which I recommend reading after, it clocks in at just 45 pages. Those are basically, in today's parlance, a personal essay you might find on Medium. But it was written around 1820 and set during the French Revolution. The astonishing bit is the prescience on what today is taught in Gender and Identity Studies, and uncanny observations that seamlessly fit our social media landscape. Please see for yourself; it doesn't ta ...more
Sarah
Feb 03, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A frame narrative, Ourika explores the concept of freedom from the perspective of a woman taken from Senegal to France at the age of 2 who grows up in an aristocratic family prior to the French Revolution. Claire de Duras is credited for providing this perspective for the first time in the French literary cannon; this depiction, however, may have done more harm than good in the aftermath of its publication, as Robin Mitchell explains in "Ourika Mania: Cultural Consumption of (Dis)Remembered Blac ...more
S.A. McNutt
Jun 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is the second time reading through this book which I would imagine reading again in the future. It bears some historical preference, to be read within the context of the time. There is an understanding here that is often overlooked in the colonizing of Africa that this book sheds light on in a way that many fail to understand. Who could not feel compassion for Ourika? Also, I think that the French perspective, which has often governed our modern ideas of politics and justice, this book fits ...more
Zvonimir
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There are few works where you simply can’t help yourself but pay close, as total as possible attention. Ourika is one of them. Claire de Duras is a magnificent writer. And her insight into the psychological insight of her characters is superb. She is what people think Doestoevsky to be. But he is only shallow, a pendulum of melodramatics and fake Stoicism. His characters are vulcanos, of the loudest and most violent kinds. While hers are life, in all its ups and downs, of all colors as well as s ...more
K
May 19, 2022 rated it really liked it
Ourika by Claire de Duras was written 200 years ago, but the heart of this tale remains relevant today--where does one belong, and why do humans so desperately seek to make "others", instead of recognizing commonalities? Ourika is the story of a young Black woman brought to France after being purchased from a slave dealer, and raised in a cocoon in which she saw herself as equal to the others (all White) there. An overheard remark brings her world crashing down, and the rest of this short work c ...more
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500 Great Books B...: Ourika - Claire de Duras - Brina 1 7 Mar 26, 2017 01:42PM  

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Claire de Duras left her native France for London during the French Revolution in 1789, and returned to France in 1808 as the Duchess of Duras. She maintained a famous literary salon in post-Revolutionary Paris and was the close friend of Chateaubriand, who she had met while in exile in London, and who helped her to publish her books.

Ourika was published anonymously in 1823, one of five novels Cla
...more

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