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The Confessions of Nat Turner Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 1968

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Styron's 1967 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel depicting the leader of a slave revolt is the latest offering in Random's "Modern Library." This is the least expensive hardcover edition of Turner currently available.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Styron has brought to bear on the experience of the Afro-American his penetrating intelligence and his immense skills in creating character, writing dialogue and confronting explosive themes" Financial Times "Immensely powerful and compelling" Spectator "Magnificent...It is one of those rare books that show us our American past, our present - ourselves - is a dazzling shaft of light...A triumph" New York Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Signet; First Edition edition (August 1, 1968)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451035968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451035967
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,029,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Styron (1925-2006) , a native of the Virginia Tidewater, was a graduate of Duke University and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. His books include Lie Down in Darkness, The Long March, Set This House on Fire, The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie's Choice, This Quiet Dust, Darkness Visible, and A Tidewater Morning. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Howells Medal, the American Book Award, the Legion d'Honneur, and the Witness to Justice Award from the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation. With his wife, the poet and activist Rose Styron, he lived for most of his adult life in Roxbury, Connecticut, and in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, where he is buried.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

278 of 289 people found the following review helpful By Christopher A. Smith on May 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
If William Styron has done us a disservice it's that he's unleashed upon America the concept of political correctness. The backlash against this book, to a large extent, is what started it all. Some of the criticism is on-target, but much is unfair.
Slaves typically have been depicted in one of two ways: as the simple-minded shuffling watermelon-eating darkie, or as the noble African struggling valiantly against the tyrannical white plantation.
One depiction is overtly racist, and the secondly is unrealistically romantic (and in it's own way demeaning).
What Styron gives us is "none of the above". What he tries to depict is a reality that is often overlooked or not acknowledged: that chattel slavery in the American South was a ruthlessly and crushingly effective system; so effective that throughout its history (from the 1600's through the Emancipation Proclamation) there were only two armed rebellions.
Slavery was obviously a great evil; it is equally obvious that as a mechanism for suppressing the enslaved it was remarkably effective. It follows that this mechanism will have an effect on the suppressed. Chattel slavery was, in many cases, a "breaker of spirits".
The depiction of the slaves in this book is not always positive. What Styron tries to show (sometimes successfully) is that slavery was a heavy weight, and that the slaves who bore this weight were not always noble. This is what many readers have found offensive, and why the book has been labeled "racist". This was not my impression (my background: I'm an African American raised in Texas.)
This is a novel full of ugliness and negative characters. There is not a single fully sympathetic character in the entire book, black or white.
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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Catherine S. Vodrey on September 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
William Styron had the misfortune to publish "The Confessions of Nat Turner" in the late 1960s. The timing was such that Styron had the odd experience of a) being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the book and b) being shunned by many, black and white, for having had the temerity to put himself in the mind of a black slave when he himself was a white Southerner.
The color of Styron's skin doesn't matter anymore than it should for anyone else. "The Confessions of Nat Turner" is a brutal accounting, from Nat Turner's point of view, of the events that led up to the only long-term revolt in the disgraceful history of American slavery. We see the beginnings of Turner's musings when, as a young and extraordinarily intelligent slave, he fights mentally against his enslavement. It's when the dam bursts and he decides to fight physically that his downfall begins. There is a suggestion of perhaps not mental illness, but a messianic complex here in Styron's rendering of Turner. It works, for a character in a novel, but some readers will be taken aback by the fact that Styron makes Turner somehow mentally unstable.
As with all books, the uninitiated reader wants to know: is it a good read? It is. It's propulsive and majestic and the kind of book you don't want to end. Styron handles the ending with great delicacy and restraint. "The Confessions of Nat Turner" is a sustained and detailed portrait of a compelling figure in early American history. It is a masterpiece.
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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful By nathalie cooper on March 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have always admired Styron's bravery in handling difficult subjects. Styron is a novelist in the classic tradition, and is concerned with depth of theme and pyschological motivation--two things that are sneered at in todays academic climate. Yes, it is a problem straying into the political arena--but Styron achieves the important task of humanising Nat Turner--making him real, and not some dusty abstract fictional personage--consigned to the footnotes of History. Racism has many faces, and as I read Styron's novel, I became angrier and angrier, as the palpable, grinding and dehumanising aspects of America's slave legacy was unfolded in Nat's story. The ending was incredibly powerful. I urge people, of all creeds and colours, to read this book and keep an open mind. Styron is NOT a racist, but a HUMANIST.The story he tells has eternal relevance, and is told with integrity and great literary skill. A book should stand alone, but I hope some day that this novel is made into a film. Its story is too important to remain locked within the literary arena.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By W. Sean McLaughlin on August 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a stunningly intense and powerful novel. The novel is written as the final confession of Nat Turner following his brutally violent slave revolt of 1831. The account is fictionalized though relies heavily on historical facts for its basis.
The novel is painfully tragic as Styron masterfully portrays Turner's existence within the deep south during slavery. Styron's novel is filled with many tragic ironies that mirror the strange logic of slavery and oppression. Turner is initially uplifted by the power of religion, but eventually uses the Bible and bizarre visions to justify his brutal revolt. Throughout the novel, Styron is even-keeled, never passing judgment on Turner, ultimately allowing the reader to come to his/her own conclusions. The novel is vivid and necessarily graphic in places as Styron depicts the harsh slave world where violence leads to more violence.
This is an important novel to read, for it gives important insight into how history shaped American race relations. Styron caught a lot of flak for writing this book (he is Caucasian), but ultimately, I believe his detractors are closed minded. His portrayal is simply stunning, and you needn't be white or black to understand Nat Turner's plight, but merely be a human.
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