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Biography of a Runaway Slave, Revised Edition Paperback – 1994


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this 1968 title, Cuban poet, novelist, and anthropologist Barnet recounts the life of Esteban Montejo, a former slave who became a fugitive living in the wild and later served as a soldier in Cuba's war for independence. Barnet received the information firsthand through interviews with Montejo in his 105th year (he lived to 113). Though on the surface this is the story of one man, on a larger scale it serves as an account of how African culture was introduced to the Caribbean through slavery. This is the first paperback edition of the volume.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"...a powerful account of a vanished world...invaluable." -- Newsweek

"...as authentic a voice of history as you are likely to hear." -- National Catholic Reporter


"He [Esteban] is the radical truth so many of us are still so reluctant to face." -- National Catholic Reporter
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 217 pages
  • Publisher: Curbstone Press (1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1880684187
  • ISBN-13: 978-1880684184
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #399,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Robert M. Levine on June 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
Miguel Barnet, eduated in Havana at an American school, came to discover his Cuban heritage later in life. His tour-de-force was The Life of a Runaway Slave, the as-told-to-biography of Estaban Montejo, an earthy, candid man who had runaway from the sugar fields and who had fought in Cuba's wars for independence. One thing readers must remember is that Barnet intevriewed Montejo when the latter was 103 years old, in a nursing home, in 1963 when the interviews were started. Oral history is difficult enough and this great time-lag makes the task of the interviewer even more dificult.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By mcewin on June 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
The singular virtue of this riveting story is the re-creation of the mind of a 103-year-old man, Esteban Montejo, remembering his life through a series of changes of slavery, emancipation, revolution, the Spanish-American War, which few of us can imagine. This the translator does with great passion, great humor, and great honesty. The story has been rendered with great delicacy and a flavour the catches Creole rhythms. Recalling being disciplined by an officer during the revolution for leaving his post without permission, Esteban remarks, "I was saved, but I still go around thinking about that man's mother." Later, recalling the past and looking to the future, he remarks, "I don't want to die so that I can fight all the battles yet to come. I won't get into the trenches or use any of these modern weapons. A machete will do for me."

The present text is apparently a reworking of a 1966 text by the same translator, which was used in German translation by the avant-garde composer Hans Werner Henze as the 'libretto' for his stage work "El Cimarron", for vocalist and a small chamber group. El Cimarron has also been performed in English, using Barnet's original text.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Meme Nottoday on May 13, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book gives great insight into a slave's life and his attitudes before and after freedom. He also tells about living in the woods as a runaway. Well worth the money.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By lcoxson on June 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
The actual slave of the Biography of a Runaway Slave is ex Cuban slave Esteban Montejo. Montejo's life story is uniquely interesting because it speaks to life on and off the plantation. Montejo's candid retelling of his life under slavery introduces the reader to details about slavery and slave populations erased in general discussions of slavery. When Montejo recalls the Chinese indentured servants and slaves who distanced themselves from other slaves, the Congolese and the Lucumis and their respective spiritual practices, as well as the fights between the two, the shortage of women that caused men to be with men (as well as communal acceptance of this), the barter system between area whites, non-slaves, and slaves, and the roaming escaped slaves and the free black communities he encounters during his time in the woods he forces the reader to re-examine common notions of slavery. His story offers a nice supplement and/or counter (depending on your own politics) of current literature on slavery (i.e. Brent, Equiano, Douglass, Prince, Blassingame,etc..). My only concern with this text is that it was originally titled autobiography and has since been retitled biography. While this may explain the occassionally abrupt topic changes in the text, I wonder if there is more to it. Even though memory games make autobiographies suspect (ya' know- biased), biographies heighten the concern about the presentation of the material. Yeah,I know everyone has an agenda. You still need to find out what it is to know if you agree or not.(I'm going to start reseaching Barnet and why it is a bio and not an auto anymore.)Nonetheless. . .happy reading because it's a great text.
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By Jorly T Jonney on December 10, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Good Work. Thank you.
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