Book #29

Kidnapped by Olaudah Equiano

The searing autobiography of Olaudah Equiano - African slave, sailor, and finally a free man - which fuelled the eighteenth-century abolitionist movement.

A harrowing autobiographical insight into Equiano’s kidnap as a young man, and subsequent life as a slave.

The writing is raw and simplistic, lending feelings of astonishment in response to the situations and behaviours he relates to us. It’s always unsettling to me reading of historical mistreatment such as this. I try to be shocked at my ancestors, but, knowing my ancestors to be what they were (amongst other things - the worst kind of people), I can’t conjure shock, only disgust. I felt deeply for Equiano, finding sections difficult to swallow, but with no surprise in my stomach. 

Penguin have taken sections from the full length autobiography in order to compile Kidnapped, and (despite having never read The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, and therefore being unable to comment on its entirety) I feel they’ve once again botched this by throwing sections in at random, and not taking care over what’s included. I understand a lot of Equiano’s life was spent on the sea, so he will speak a lot of sea voyages, and it’s important these are documented. Despite that, I felt Penguin should have focused more on him as a person, the relationships he built, the struggles he faced, and his feelings, rather than choosing to throw a load of sea battle chapters at us. We weren’t even permitted to read of his ultimate liberation.

I’ll definitely be seeking out The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, as I feel this is an important work from what I’ve read so far, having had strong influences in the abolitionist movement. I also feel, from Penguin’s poor cut and paste job, that I’ve missed learning something of great significance. It’s only more ammunition for my argument that the Little Black Classics range has been a crippling disappointment.