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Ourika

(PETITE #2)

by
3.54  ·  Rating details ·  901 ratings  ·  69 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, an Imprint of Modern Language Association of America (first published 1823)
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Average rating 3.54  · 
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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
Recommended to Laura by: Dagny
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.
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
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
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
Shira
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars
Eileen
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars (liked it)
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.
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.
Susan
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
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
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
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
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
Enxhi
Mar 09, 2020 rated it liked it
An interesting read, surely, which also happens to be a very ugly example of what eurocentrism has done for humanity: starting from the inner annihilation of a human being because of racial categorizations (which are no less than social constructs - a man is a wolf to another man indeed), to all the reasons why this book has received attention (did Europe had to read European works in order to understand that other civilizations matter, too?).
Suzanne
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a fascinating little book. I've never read anything like it. Written 200 years ago, it really resonates today. Of course the scholarly foreword and introduction both help with the context. Thanks Lauren for sharing this with me!
Dee
Oct 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Called by many an "abolitionist tale", I felt that it didn't live up to the name. If anything, there were parts where I felt the author was romanticising slavery. While it was a revolutionary text for its own time, it's far from an anti-slavery text.
James Coleman
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
An excellent example of Romantic literature and definitely a thought-provoking piece on identity and the place of women/blacks/minorities in society during the French Revolution. Duras's projection of isolation within a society is incredibly striking as well.
Anna Robinson
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Read as part of a women's literature module at university. The story of a girl alienated in aristocratic French society because of the colour of her skin. Insightful book that gives a glimpse into the status and perception of women in 19th century France.
E.L.H.
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read it in one sitting, 4.5 stars. Was crying. Pretty much all that needs to be said.
Madeline
Apr 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: assigned-reading
This book is, as we say in the literary world, Kind Of A Big Deal. It's the first novel (ok, so it's really more of a novella) set in Europe to feature a black heroine, and the first story narrated by a black female protagonist. The mere fact that Duras wrote this book right after the French Revolution is kind of amazing, AND it's based on real events.

Ourika is from Senegal originally, but she was adopted/purchased by a Frenchman when she was two years old. He brought her to Paris to live with
...more
Kevin Orr
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
An interesting historical context lead me to this read. Published discreetly and read by only 40 or Parisian women at first, it soon became a widespread success in France. Duras' story-within-a-story is well-written and poignant, and her character's experience in the Reign of Terror provides an interesting thought experiment. Overall, the most profound element lies in the main character's inability to cope with a quagmire that plagued many of minority persons of the period... Their explicit dist ...more
Sarah Elizabeth
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short but not sweet, Ourika is named for its protagonist. Ourika is a black woman adopted by a French family, living through the Reign of Terror in France as she discovers her own difference. She is from Senegal, she is black. Ourika faces lifes challenges with an added challenge of her own: how can an educated black woman live in the society she finds herself best fitted for. Duras succinctly and compellingly enters the mind of her protagonist, a character who's fate seems to resemble the autho ...more
Carolyn Heinze
Jun 14, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one, really
Hm. Well. Nothing against the rich, but this is one of those examples of a bourgeoise having the right connections to get something published. Was intrigued by the story and its length - at 75 pages, I thought that maybe it would be a nice, simple, tightly-written story. Set against the backdrop of the Revolution, she could have done so much more with the material. But this book is just whiny, and about as subtle as a hurricane. Apparently, Mme de Duras (not to be confused with Marguerite) was k ...more
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500 Great Books B...: Ourika - Claire de Duras - Brina 1 6 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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