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Ourika: The Original French Text (Texts and…
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Ourika: The Original French Text (Texts and Translations t. 3) (French… (1823 original; edició 2014)

de Joan DeJean (Editor)

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209497,987 (3.23)15
Based on a true story, Claire de Duras's Ourika relates the experiences of a Senegalese girl who is rescued from slavery and raised by an aristocratic French family during the time of the French Revolution. Brought up in a household of learning and privilege, she is unaware of her difference until she overhears a conversation that suddenly makes her conscious of her race--and of the prejudice it arouses. From this point on, Ourika lives her life not as a French woman but as a black woman who feels "cut off from the entire human race." As the Reign of Terror threatens her and her adoptive family, Ourika struggles with her unusual position as an educated African woman in eighteenth-century Europe. A best-seller in the 1820s, Ourika captured the attention of Duras's peers, including Stendhal, and became the subject of four contemporary plays. The work represents a number of firsts: the first novel set in Europe to have a black heroine; the first French literary work narrated by a black female protagonist; and, as John Fowles points out, "the first serious attempt by a white novelist to enter a black mind."… (més)
Membre:mknapil
Títol:Ourika: The Original French Text (Texts and Translations t. 3) (French Edition)
Autors:Joan DeJean (Editor)
Informació:The Modern Language Association of America (2014), Edition: First Edition, 45 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Valoració:
Etiquetes:No n'hi ha cap

Detalls de l'obra

Ourika de Claire de Durfort (1823)

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Ourika by the Bird & Bull Press is just the kind of happy discovery I love as a reader who happens to also love private press books. My favorite private press books are the ones that give me joy in their making: in the paper, the presswork, the design, maybe the illustrations, and all the other small and large features that their creators manifested within their covers. But they also give me some literature to read and an inescapable excuse to spend hours in tactile communion with the book. It is especially delightful to find literature that surprises me in being either outside the classic canon completely or an obscure or unknown (to me) gem within the canon. This particular discovery of Ourika also furthers my desire to read more women authors in fine press and also dovetails into my current efforts to read more literature of or about Africa.

The introduction and epilogue by John Fowles were fascinating. It appears to be one of his favorite books and one that he therefore took much delight in translating. Calling it the “first serious attempt by a white novelist to enter a black mind,” he writes that it is amazing for coming from a very right-leaning royalist and conservative woman in the time of the French Revolution. He goes so far as to say Ourika comes “not only from the right, but the extreme right.” He closes his epilogue with the following paragraph:

I hope the reader here will now share at least some of my affection for this little book. There are a number of striking epigrams buried in its text, and this is one I have always especially cherished: "L’opinion est une patrie." Shared views of life are a motherland. Mankind has only one true frontier, that of our common humanity–be it black, brown or white in face. This is the subversive proposition at the heart of Ourika; and therefore, strange though it may seem, at the heart of the unlikely woman who dared to think black in the whitest of all white worlds.

The history around the author and the book is fascinating, including the real history around the author and the historical fiction around Ourika and her patron Mme la Maréchale de B. The book and its characters even found their way into Fowles writing and dreams. While I have never read his French Lieutenant’s Woman, I do vaguely recall the movie. He implies that both Ourika and his book are examples of a “case history of an outsider, of the eternal étranger in human society.”

Ourika’s dilemma is, of course, no fault of her own but a symptom of the imperfect society she was purchased into, even as she was lovingly raised to be an almost perfect French debutante:

"The crux of the problem lies in the rejecting culture, not the outsider; in the culture that will not concede equality and fraternity, even when it ethos and its behaviours are possessed in every external manner by the would-be candidate for entry."

It is no wonder despair and circumstances sends her eventually to the convent and an untimely death. French Society of that time just was not equipped to deal with her once the novelty of her childhood and adolescence wore off and the patronage of her “family” changed. There was only one solution for de Durfort and Ourika:

"The characteristic solution–characteristic of dominant classes all through the ages, but especially characteristic of the Restauration, with its motto of ‘Throne and Altar’–that Clair thrusts upon Ourika, and which we may read as her public answer to the political problems of the early nineteenth century, is that of ‘consoling’ religion. The diagnosis and the proposed remedy are clear: education is dangerous if it cannot award socially the privileges it proposes theoretically. It is therefore much safer to lead the ignorant into the sheepfold called the Church than to set them loose on the fields of knowledge."

Apparently, we are still struggling with this dilemma in some ways 200-plus years later.

The most striking feature of this book as an object is the paper and presswork. The paper is Green’s Hayle from the now defunct Hayle Mill and features no less than four watermarks. I hadn’t thought I had seen such an abundance before, (and I love watermarks!), but after looking through my other books I found that Barbarian Press’ "The Seasons: 4 Bagatelles" also used a Hayle paper for "Under Vermilion Wheels: Poems for Autumn" and features slight variations on the same four watermarks. That book’s review can be found on my blog below. The paper for Ourika still has that delicious aroma of mouldmade paper forty years after its printing. And it was simply delightful to feel the paper with each turn of the page.

The use of blue ink in the ornamentation for the title page and the first chapter is a beautiful touch that adds elegance to this slim volume and ties in the with blue of the marbled paper boards and the blue leather of the quarter binding. The edges of the boards are the main place my copy shows its age, as there is a bit of rubbing along the edges of the boards. There is a bit of sunning to the spine of my copy as well.

Overall, this is a delightful book both for its literary significance, the commentary of John Fowles, and for the design, craft, and beauty of the edition. Bird & Bull Press focused its output more on the craft of printing, paper-making, and book design, but when Henry Morris published some literature, it seems he went towards very eclectic selections like Ourika. Kudos to them for bringing Clair de Durfort to my attention. I wish more private presses would print women writers!

AVAILABILITY: While the Bird & Bull Press is no longer in operation, copies of this edition can occasionally be found on the 2nd-hand market.

For the complete review, including photos of the physical book, visit my blog The Whole Book Experience at http://www.thewholebookexperience.com/
  jveezer | May 20, 2018 |
This is probably one of my top 5 favorite books and it is hard to pin-point why; part of me thinks that it is the unrequited/unexpressed love of Ourika for Charles, another due to it's concise writing, being able to express so much in barely 50 double spaced pages, and yet another part for the forward by John Fowles, which stirred feelings of a kindred soul for the written word.
  VeritysVeranda | Sep 29, 2013 |
Ourika is a Senegalese girl, rescued from slavery to be raised by a Parisian noblewoman, and coming to a sudden realization of her ‘otherness’. Set against the background of the French revolution, the twinned terrors plunge her into a deep depression. Regarded as one of the first internal portraits of African character in fiction, Ourika is both beautiful and melancholic.

"I should have liked to be transported back to my uncivilized native land and its savage inhabitants – less frightening to me than this merciless society that declared me guilty of a crime it alone had committed." ( )
  janemarieprice | Apr 18, 2010 |
Ourika is a black, slave baby who is taken in my a wealthy French woman, who raises her as her own. She was 15 before she realized that her race will always be an issue and falls into a deep depression that lasts almost her entire life.

This book was very moving and eye opening. The lessons that Ourika learns could apply to most people in their lives. ( )
  cal8769 | Jun 20, 2009 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Durfort, Claire deautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Fowles, JohnTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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Títol original
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This is to be alone, this, this is solitude!--Byron
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I was brought here from Senegal when I was two years old by Chevalier de B., who was then governor there.
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Wikipedia en anglès (2)

Based on a true story, Claire de Duras's Ourika relates the experiences of a Senegalese girl who is rescued from slavery and raised by an aristocratic French family during the time of the French Revolution. Brought up in a household of learning and privilege, she is unaware of her difference until she overhears a conversation that suddenly makes her conscious of her race--and of the prejudice it arouses. From this point on, Ourika lives her life not as a French woman but as a black woman who feels "cut off from the entire human race." As the Reign of Terror threatens her and her adoptive family, Ourika struggles with her unusual position as an educated African woman in eighteenth-century Europe. A best-seller in the 1820s, Ourika captured the attention of Duras's peers, including Stendhal, and became the subject of four contemporary plays. The work represents a number of firsts: the first novel set in Europe to have a black heroine; the first French literary work narrated by a black female protagonist; and, as John Fowles points out, "the first serious attempt by a white novelist to enter a black mind."

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