Read The Viceroy of Ouidah by Bruce Chatwin Online


In 1812, Francisco Manoel da Silva, escaping a life of poverty in Brazil, sailed to the African kingdom of Dahomey, determined to make his fortune in the slave trade. Armed with nothing but an iron will, he became a man of substance in Ouidah and the founder of a remarkable dynasty. His one remaining ambition is to return to Brazil in triumph, but his friendship with the mIn 1812, Francisco Manoel da Silva, escaping a life of poverty in Brazil, sailed to the African kingdom of Dahomey, determined to make his fortune in the slave trade. Armed with nothing but an iron will, he became a man of substance in Ouidah and the founder of a remarkable dynasty. His one remaining ambition is to return to Brazil in triumph, but his friendship with the mad, mercurial king of Dahomey is fraught with danger and threatens his dream....

Title : The Viceroy of Ouidah
Author :
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ISBN : 9780099769613
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 112 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Viceroy of Ouidah Reviews

  • Rhys
    2019-05-23 04:48

    Probably the best novel I've read so far this year. I had never read anything by Chatwin before this and I picked it up with the assumption it was going to just be another novel in the 'English' style. How wrong I was! Chatwin writes like a more bloody and concise version of Marquez, with an incredible ability to evoke landscapes, situations and the oddities of people. Imagine a cross between Marquez and Conrad's *Heart of Darkness* with the addition of several big spoonfuls of voodoo imagery!Although only 100 pages long, *The Viceroy of Ouidah* packs in an incredible amount of detail. Chatwin's blend of dreamlike fantasy, nightmarish horror and tough realism is very affecting. The main part of the story concerns a Brazilian slaver who travels to the Kingdom of Dahomey to corner the business. Franciso Manoel the slaver is a bad man but the kings he is forced to deal with are even worse. The fascinating moral ambiguities are always present, and the main motifs of despair, courage, the instinct to survive, love, ambition, lust and remorse are treated in a genuinely profound way.

  • Steve
    2019-05-25 08:38

    A grim, but outstanding story on the evils of the slave trade, with a focus on the African coast. Chatwin crafts a story that is as psychologically probing as Conrad's Heart of Darkness (Kurtz), and as bizarre as Marquez's Autumn of the Patriarch (a mad African king, a city of skulls and heads, women warriors with filed teeth). The common ground for all three is moral corruption. However, I think the "horror" of Chatwin's vision, as opposed to Conrad's, is there seems to be no recognition of descent by Felix da Silva. Unlike Kurtz, da Silva is a poor man who knows hardship and brutality already. He simply gravitates toward opportunity (slave trade, early 1800s), and in time becomes an exceptional tool for the powers that be, back in Brazil. When slavery loses its appeal, da Silva is a man forgotten. I found Chatwin's introduction fascinating, since he originally was thinking about a piece of non-fiction, until bad things happened during a research trip to Benin. Apparently he'd seen enough. And he didn't want to go back. Fiction would be the platform for his story, and it's fiction of the first order.

  • Adam
    2019-05-26 07:54

    A short novella absolutely packed to the gills with imagery and characters. I recognize elements from Marquez (including a definite Hundred Years of Solitude allusion) and Conrad and fans of them will find much to love here, but there is distinctive flavor that must be Chatwin’s alone. There is too much to even hint at in this book, and I guarantee some of the images will inform your dreams and fever visions. It makes sense that Herzog would film this.

  • Philip
    2019-05-30 08:56

    Bruce Chatwin’s The Viceroy Of Ouidah masquerades as a small book. In 50,000 words or so, the author presents a fictionalised life that has been embroidered from truth. History, hyper-reality, the supernatural and the surreal and the cocktail that creates the heady mix through which strands of story filter. Overall the experience is much bigger than the slim book suggests.We meet Francisco Manuel da Silva, a Brazilian born in the country’s north-east in the latter part of the eighteenth century. We learn a little of his background and then we follow him to Dahomey in West Africa, the modern Benin. He finds a place in society, consorts with kings, encounters amazons and conjoins with local culture. He also becomes a slave trader, making his considerable fortune by moving ship-loads of a cargo whose human identity is denied, as if it were merely the collateral damage of mercantilism. Francisco Manuel survives, prospers and procreates with abandon. He fathers a lineage of varied hue, a small army of males to keep the name alive and further complicate identity, and a near race of females who inherit the anonymity of their gender.But The Viceroy of Ouidah is much more than a linear tale of a life. Bruce Chatwin’s vivid prose presents a multiplicity of minutiae, associations, conflicts and concordances. Each pithy paragraph could be a novel in itself if it were not so utterly poetic. A random example will suffice to give a flavour.“Often the Brazilian captains had to wait weeks before the coast was clear but their host spared no expense to entertain them. His dining room was lit with a set of silver candelabra; behind each chair stood a serving girl, naked to the waist, with a white napkin folded on her arm. Sometimes a drunk would shout out, ‘What are these women?’ and Da Silva would glare down the table and say. ‘Our future murderers.’”Within each vivid scene, we experience history, place, culture, and all the emotions, disappointments and achievements of imperfect lives. A jungle vibrates with untamed life around us. Treachery sours and threatens, while disease and passion alike claim their victims. It is a book to be savoured almost line by line. It provides an experience that is moving, technicoloured, but, like all lives, inevitably ephemeral. Like the outlawed trade that endowed riches, it eventually comes to nought, except of course for those who are inadvertently caught up in its net and whose lives were thus utterly changed if, indeed, they survived.I read The Viceroy Of Ouidah without a bookmark, always starting a few pages before where I had previously left off. Each time, I read through several pages convinced that it was my first time to see them and then I would reach a particularly striking phrase and realise I had been there before. The extent of the detail and complexity of the images present a rain-forest of detail that is completely absorbing. The Viceroy Of Ouidah is thus surely a book worth reading several times.

  • John Winterson
    2019-05-18 06:56

    Again at the risk of appearing shallow, this novel was read in the hope that it would demystify some of the intriguing details of the Herzog film 'Cobra Verde.' It did not. Indeed, it turns out that the film is a loose adaptation of the novel, which is in turn a loose adaptation of history. This is a pity because the true story of the 19th Century Brazilian slaver Francisco Felix de Sousa is yet another example of truth being far more interesting than fiction.In fairness, Chatwin's fictional protagonist, Franciso da Silva, is a credible construction, an unpleasant man forged by unpleasant circumstances in an unpleasant environment. The problem with this is that, by the time he reaches the most adventurous phase of his life, the reader has long ceased to care what happens to him. Indeed, Chatwin seems to have a very negative view of humanity in general and, where other writers can find sympathy for flaws, Chatwin gives us a catalogue of disgust. Even when one has to have compassion for the suffering of some of the characters, one never comes close to liking any of them.The best parts of the central biography are the compelling descriptions of Francisco's early years and his last, both of which evoke some of that compassion even for a truly appalling human being. However, the middle, potentially the most interesting phase, where he builds a slave-trading empire out of almost nothing, is by comparison perfunctory. We are told he befriends a King and then his heir, but we are not told how. There are brief descriptions of his organising abilities, but few details are given, which is a badly missed opportunity, because more on the mechanics of slave-trading and its effects might have let a bit more humanity into the book. Chatwin luxuriates in descriptions of wealth but is less interested in how the protagonist came by it. He seems at times to be a passive recipient of things falling into his lap.This structural deficiency within the central biography is exacerbated by the fact that it begins only after not one but two prologues about Francisco's descendants, written in the wordy 'travel writer' style. Once it starts, the main story's spare early sections contrast favourably with what has gone before, but it is a struggle to get there, even in a very short book like this.

  • Boris Maksimovic
    2019-05-20 07:37

    Ljetos sam na PopArt marketu cijeli dan proveo pržeći se na suncu i prodajući knjige. I ko za inat, na kraju dana naletim na ovu knjigu i toliko mi se svidi da ono malo zarađene siće odmah potroših na nju. Kasnije sam je nekako izgubio pa sam je mjesecima tražio po kući, a i na mjestima gdje sam bio tog dana. A šta me je to privuklo? "Siroče i siromah Fransisko Manoel izrastao je u jednog od onih sentimentalno okrutnih ljudi kakvima je obilovalo njegovo doba. Iz brazilskih zabiti stići će do obale Dahomeja, današnjeg Benina, u zapadnoj Africi i otpočeti trgovinu robljem. Istorijska ličnost, kraljev pobratim i rob, totem i božanstvo jednima, svirepi gospodar drugima, Fransisko Manoel da Silva proživljava ne samo svoj život nego i farsu jednog strašnog vremena". Afrika prosto pršti sa stranica ovog kratkog romana kojeg kao da je Markes pisao. Tradicija magičnog realizma se toliko jako osjeća i u stilu i u načinu građenja priče, a povremeno ima i implicitinih omaža Markesu kao što je rečenica "Mnogo godina kasnie sjetiće se on kako je..." Uglavnom, knjiga je predivna, ako volite Markesa i Ruždija svidjeće vam se. Drago mi je da je konačno došla na red. Valjda tome i služe ovi kratki odmori.

  • Trelawn
    2019-06-10 04:49

    An interesting but dark read. It details the life of Francisco da Silva who eventually ends up as a slaver in Ouidah in Africa. He is not a likeable man by any means but his life was, in many ways, just as tough as the people he traded. The story is told in a disjointed fashion which takes away from it a little. I think a chronological telling would have worked better. This was a strange book in that there was no characters to like. Da Silva is cruel and unlikeable, the local kings are savage and brutal and the Brazilian are cut throat with loyalty to none but themselves.

  • Tia
    2019-05-30 04:53

    This book was complex, hard to understand and grim. It wasn't what I had expected. I'm sure if I understood the language I would've had a better understanding. However, the parts I did understand were good. Francisco had a very diverse and interesting life encountering many strange and appalling characters. Some being his own children. It is a dense read at only 105 pages. I really had to focus. I think I will stop here as I just can't and won't do this book justice.*sorry for the mumbo jumbo review

  • Jovana Vesper
    2019-06-15 06:36

    Brutal, cruel and fantastic book. Bruce's skills to express complete tragicomedy of dom Francisco's life (as well as the lives of his family and the people with whom he came in contact) with short, clear, journalistic sentences is just breathtaking. It is a small book in size but layered with information, characters, psychological profiles and all the absurdity, oddity and wretchedness of slave trade, war, culture and life in Africa.

  • Tony
    2019-06-01 08:56

    THE VICEROY OF OUIDAH. (1980). Bruce Chatwin. **.This book was almost a travel book, and almost a history. Somewhere along the line it got morphed into fiction. It is the story of the man who became the kingpin of the slave trade out of Western Africa and became the wealthiest man in Africa as a result. The book – short as it is – managed to inundate me with names and places that I couldn’t keep in my head – as hard as I tried. The part of the book that was drawn from real life managed to amaze me. The players at the time had so little regard for human life that they lived as if they were the only people in the world. Trading in human lives was a way to make money, so that’s what they did. Along the way, the head traders became less and less human, and we get to follow their decline in this treatment. This is a sad story. A film was apparently made based on this book, but I haven’t found out a lot about it. Now it’s time to go back to Google and learn more about the characters.

  • Wreade1872
    2019-06-18 08:55

    Pretty decent novella. Originally intended to be a non-fiction biography of a famous slave trader. The author felt he hadn't managed to get hold of enough facts so changed a couple of names and published it as fiction.A very rich and vivid descriptive style. But its still essentially a biography an i'm not a big fan of bio's. Many books are more fun to 'have read' than 'to be reading' this is the opposite. Fun to read due to the style but didn't feel like i took away too much from the experience. Also quite short.

  • Meredith
    2019-05-23 10:55

    The two best things about this book: it's very short, and it's over. Depressing and hard to follow. Unfortunate because I really enjoyed another book by this author, On the Black Hill. I might come back to say more about it, but there isn't much to say.

  • Danielle
    2019-05-18 06:32

    Ik heb dit boek een jaar of 20 geleden als eens gelezen, maar er is niets mis met een goed boek te herlezen. Goed geschreven met oog voor detail en een kloppende historische achtergrond van een verschrikkelijk stuk geschiedenis.

  • Em Chainey (Bookowski)
    2019-06-03 03:54

    2.5 ★Öncelikle sizi blogumdaki yeni yazımı okumaya davet edeyim; eğer ki kölelik konusu ilginizi çekiyorsa tabii ki: gelecek olursam eğer, kitap öyküleme tekniği ile yazılmış bir kitap. Yani diyalog çok az. Tanıtımda da belirtildiği üzere " her satırından renkler, kokular ve sesler fışkırıyor" gerçekten de. Yazar köle taciri Felix de Sousa'nın hayatından ilham alarak yazmış bu kitabı. Romanın kahramanı Francisco Manoel da Silva, aslında Felix de Sousa'yı yansıtıyor. Felix de Sousa hakkında detaylı bilgi için: En Büyük Köle Taciri olarak biliniyormuş. Dahomey'deki köleleri pazarlaması ve kocaman bir harem kurarak en az 80 çocuğa sahip olması ile biliniyormuş. Kitaptaki karakterimiz Dom Fransisco da işte aynen bunları yaptı: Kötü bir çocukluğun ardından bir hırsla bu işe atıldı ve çok başarılı oldu. Sayısız kadın ile birlikte olup bir hanedan kurdu. Ve en nihayetinde her insan gibi bu dünyadan göçtü.Kitap kolay ilerlemiyor, bu yönden sıkıntı çektim. Bir de kısa öykü olsa belki daha etkili olabilirdi ancak bu tarz bir kitaba bence öyküleme değil de klasik günlük ya da tanrısal anlatımlı bir kurgu kitap daha çok yakışabilirdi. Diyalog azlığı ciddi anlamda okuma sürecimi olumsuz yönde etkiledi. Ancak hikaye çok ilgi çekici. Üstelik ben bu kitabın yıllar evvel filmini izlemiştim. Filmin adı Cobra Verde; Yeşil Kobra diye çevrilmiş. Film daha güzeldi. Eğer ilgilenirseniz bence filmini izleyin derim.

  • Alberto Jacobo Baruqui
    2019-06-05 05:40

    Un libro distinto. Su escritura es bien particular y la historia otro tanto.Me gusta la manera como da entrada a su historia y como se sincera con el lector para notificar la falta de información dentro de sus investigaciones para dar vida a su historia, que comienza a principios del siglo XIX cuando la venta de esclavos estaba en apogeo.Decidido a hacer fortuna en la venta de esclavos Francisco Da Silva viaja al continente negro, pero el proceso de su fortuna es extraño por lo dispar en formas de pensar y por las costumbres que son aun mas interesantes. A la vez que amasa con inteligencia y perspicacia su fortuna, crece tambien una serie de compromisos, envidias y laberintos que lo hacen desconfiar incluso de su mas fiel ayudante.Acaba en la real miseria nuestro personaje y toca con una prosa muy particular su autor los sentimientos y pensamientos por los que va pasando en ya sin poder Virrey de Ouidah.Un viaje interesantísimo su lectura. AJB

  • Alber Vázquez
    2019-05-29 08:47

    ¿Novela? sin argumento claro, sin trama, sin demasiado interés... Bah, muy poco cosa y Chatwin aburriendo a las vacas.

  • Oceana2602
    2019-06-09 03:47

    Okay, let's face it: as much as I loved Chatwin's travel novels, I never liked his other novels much. They are dry, confusing, stiff. This one is no exception.

  • Benbenben
    2019-05-28 06:47

    Chatwin set out to write a book on Francisco Félix de Souza, a Brazilian who became a slave trader on the coast of what is now the African country Benin. However, he encountered difficulties during his research and therefore decided to write a work of fiction, renaming de Souza to Francisco Manoel da Silva. Chatwin liked to play with fiction and reality, so maybe this inconvenience really came to his advantge.I first learned about this book after watching Werner Herzog's Cobra Verde, starring the iconic Klaus Kinski as da Silva. In the movie, da Silva is a notorious bandit, also know as Cobra Verde, who is sent to the Slave Coast of Africa on what appears to be suicide mission. In the book, however, da Silva and Cobra Verde are two distinct characters, the latter appearing only briefly in the third chapter.I don't usually do this, but I recommend skipping the first two chapters and returning to them later. I say this because da Silva's story doesn't really start until Chapter 3. Chapter 1 describes a family reunion during a commemoration of da Sliva long after his death. It's straining to go through Chatwin's detailled depiction of the scene without knowing why it is such a big deal. Chapter 2 tells the story of da Silva's last surviving daughter, a white woman who lived out her tragic life in Ouidah among da Silva's other mulatto descendants who mostly despised her. It's a fascinating miny story in itself, but its impact, I think, is much stronger if one reads it at the end.That being said, I enjoyed reading this book immensely. It's a rather slim volume, encompassing little more than 100 pages. However, Chatwin recounts this fictionalized version of de Souza's life in such a fascinating way that I could hardly lay the book aside. It's the portrait of an incredibly cruel man, a slave trader, who sent many people to their deaths and condemned even more to horrible lives, yet at the end he is reduced to a crazy old man who has been stripped of everything and for whom one is even inclined to feel pity.

  • Bob Newman
    2019-06-15 04:39

    As an aspiring travel writer who had yet to publish anything, I turned green with envy on reading Bruce Chatwin's novel. In terse, spare prose, he summons up images that seem drawn from photography or haiku rather than from ordinary literature. He presents distant times (late 18th and early 19th century) and places (Brazil and Dahomey) linking them seamlessly with the steamy, sordid present---the paranoid military dictatorship of Benin in the crumbling West African post-colonial 1970s. Every page is redolent of color, smell, sound, and imminent disaster: every scene appears like a bead in a necklace of decay, corruption, cruelty and disaster. There are no wasted moments, no lagging sections. A poor boy from the Brazilian backlands becomes a rich, powerful slave trader in West Africa, but his background betrays him at home, his connections in Africa ultimately do the same. His largely illegitimate family continues into the seedy Benin of the present. My only criticism of this work is that Chatwin chose to concentrate solely on the Brazilian side of things, leaving the Africans as part of the backdrop--more acted upon than actors. Dahomey was a fascinating society and besides the anthropological researches of M. Herskovits, one can read Frank Yerby's "The Dahomeyan", though Yerby's prose pales in comparison to Chatwin's. A far better book, one which focuses on the Dahomeyan connection to Brazil as well, is Judith Gleason's "Agõtime", a possible antidote to the slant taken by Chatwin. Otherwise, this book contains superlative writing on every page, writing redolent with human nature, the mysteries of the soul, and the mundane horrors of much of human history. "The Viceroy of Ouidah" has the power to open periods and locations for readers that have seldom featured in Anglo-American writing. It is a stunning book.

  • amy
    2019-05-19 07:01

    Still super suspicious of what feels like a European's fantasy Africa collaged from carefully collected details. Even if Chatwin did his research and all, in the writing of it he dwells on (e.g.) bodies rather than people, on the aesthetics of colonialism and the Atlantic slave trade, and on attitudes that feel like Orientalism.

  • Greta
    2019-06-04 09:47

    Surprisingly good, considering the subject, and of particular interest to me since the story flows from Brazil to Dahomey in West Africa. The British author, Bruce Chatwin, traveled extensively to see the world and wrote about "true stories. Best book I've read yet by Chatwin and I look forward to more.

  • Rob
    2019-05-31 02:47

    Chatwin foregrounds all the strange, grim exotica in an almost painterly fashion. Chatwin evokes an older age of slow time with the sweep of a legend yet done with anthropological detail. It's a stirring account of a warped, fascinating age with dire human consequences.

  • Justin
    2019-06-10 03:38

    Not a bad book, but certainly forgettable.

  • Feliks
    2019-06-06 05:51

    Gorgeous, lush, sultry, steamy, ribald, unexpurgated, frank, salty. Bold. Ferocious. God damn, I wish there were more books like this today. Instead of the chickensh*t, sanctimonious, cowardly, feeble milksop-scribblings we have to endure in the 'PC' era. Yep. There's really no contemporary book I'm aware of (other than this gem) which embraces all the awesomeness and vileness of being human. Celebrates it! As one ought to! To hell with people's prurient sensibilities, to hell with the easily-offended, to hell with weaklings!Everything in 'Viceroy' is vivid and rank and gruesome and salacious and unrepentant. In the timeperiod described by this hilarious historical romp, 'dastardly deeds' used to be routine; embarrassment used to be frequent, betrayal and revenge were deal out with savagery, and everything smelled wonderful. Nothing is held back in Chatwin's homage. Everything that is (today) considered scandalous and forbidden is raised aloft by him for justifiable praise. Deflowering of virgins? It's here. Piling up the skulls of your enemies? It's here. Whores, pimps, firing squads, bastards, philanderers, lepers--it's all here.Th effect is more like a tone-poem than a novel. There's a musical quality...the flashing vocabulary, the serendipity of the phrases is more poetry than prose. You read this book for the quality of the writing, the sheer delight of the pyrotechnics on display. Its a short novella of less-than-120 pages; but by page 70 you will find you still can't detect a unifying plot. But it doesn't matter. Instead, this book has another aim altogether. It simply celebrates the exotic-ness of how rich, unique, and lively all human society used to be, before modernization and globalization. Its essentially just a wild series of strung-together images and anecdotes from an imaginary 1800s--loosely fashioned about a fictional potentate--which eventually becomes a riot of zany supporting characters, bizarre incidents (beheadings, rapes, slave-wars) plus a gazillion technical notes on native tribes, customs, feasts, music, dress, and lovemaking. Its a kaleidoscope. The mysterious titular character is referred to often, but figures in the story very little. After a while you can't even keep track of who-is-who. What flows before your eyes instead are just fiery, amusing, rapid little riffs of shocking/blunt/earthy 'asides' and scandalous tale-telling. Coy, 'precious' bits of assorted village-gossip and snippets of family history. Chatwin has a supreme dexterity with foreign phrases and vocabulary words to dazzle you with. In the course of one paragraph he will introduce you to three new plants you never heard of; five foods you would love to taste; references to several unfamiliar scents and textures; women's garments; lizards; trees; flowers; customs; climates.Yep. You read this tale to be reminded of the sheer fun that books used to yield up; the fun in reading for the sake of reading. Its not a serious book; nor sententious, nor tedious. Its tripping, lilting, and lyrical. Rollicking along on short pithy perfumed sentences designed to delight-in-themselves, rather than lead anywhere.Words! Words! Bravo!

  • Andrea Fiore
    2019-05-21 04:48

    Bruce Chatwin avrebbe apprezzato queste parole di Elias Canetti: "Quando si viaggia si prende tutto come viene, lo sdegno rimane a casa. Si osserva, si ascolta, ci si entusiasma per le cose più atroci solo perché sono nuove. I buoni viaggiatori sono gente senza cuore”. In questo caso anche se parliamo di un romanzo e non di un resoconto di viaggio, lo sguardo e soprattutto il timbro sono proprio quelli del viaggiatore: la morbosità a cui alludeva Canetti, il gusto per l'aneddoto, e soprattutto l'abilità nel bilanciare descrizioni dettagliate con la vaghezza (oscurità?) della suggestione e del non detto."I bovini fissavano senza stupore i loro uccisori.«Come i santi» disse Francisco Manoel.Conosceva, molto meglio del prete, il significato del martirio di Cristo e della liturgia delle spine, del sangue e dei chiodi. Sapeva che Dio aveva creato gli uomini per metterli alla tortura nel deserto: ma le sue sofferenze lo avevano indurito di fronte a quelle degli altri. A tredici anni portava alla cintura un coltello col manico di agata, regolava con cura i suoi baffetti e non gli dispiaceva, ogni tanto, assistere a una bastonatura alla berlina."

  • Peter
    2019-05-31 07:50

    Weinig diepgang, veel stereotypen. Chatwin had overduidelijk Garcia Marquez gelezen, maar waar die laatste vanuit zijn eigen leefwereld schreef komt het verhaal van Chatwin als bedacht en bijeengeraapt over.

  • Lisa
    2019-06-02 05:35

    Bruce Chatwin wrote of places and this book was about Dahomey, the country now known as Benin. As I read it, I forget that Mr. chatwin is not a native of the place he writes about. He manages to adopt the rhythm off Dahomey and of Brazil, which also figures prominently in this book. Like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book, the generations blur lines from one to the other making this hard to follow at times. But really interesting to read.

  • Chris Gager
    2019-06-18 02:37

    My next book. Got the title from writing trivia questions from Halliwell's movie book. My edition is hardcover with a different picture. On "my" cover the guy is unshaven. My edition also has 155 pages...I'm well past midway in this short novel. So far its been reasonably engrossing, a story hyped-up by the author's ultra-modern treatment. This is actually historical fiction and tells the a story that might be missed among all the big stuff. That's a good thing. I love the bit about all those devout Portuguese-Brazilian Christians going off to the brutal murder and enslavement of Africans for $$$$$. Certainly there's a lot of "Heart of Darkness" in this tale and the author's prose is very reminiscent to me of Denis Johnson. Not necessarily a bad thing but at some point one might consider the possibility that all that "style" is overwhelming(or pumping up) a thin story.- At the start the book is confusing - temporally speaking. Then it simplifies .- Ushant? Couldn't find in my atlas. Wiki says it's the island at the far SE of the English channel - close to France-Brittany.- Overload at the beginning of fancy Catholic words. As with many young and modern writers(Michael Chabon for instance) there's a lot of fancy/obscure word slinging. Who has the biggest vocab??? One doesn't find that in Dickens!Finished this mini-mini-saga last night. The author may have gotten bored with the subject because he rushes through the last twenty or so years of Francisco's life. The book is entertaining but no classic despite the fancy writing(mostly vividly descriptive and mostly enjoyable). Not sure what the takeaway is other than time marches on. I'm not great on "meaning" anyway! 3.5* rounds down to 3*...- Another book connection - "Bend of the River"...

  • Julián
    2019-06-16 09:58

    Narra la historia de un traficante de esclavos, brasileño y blanco, que se instala en el puerto de Ouidah, desde donde despacha la mercancía que le facilita el rey de Dahomey. El protagonista, basado en un personaje real, nace en medio de la miseria en el sertao brasileño y, dando tumbos y sobreviviendo de milagro, llega a Bahía. Entabla relaciones con una familia poderosa que le propone hacerse cargo del tráfico de esclavos en Ouidah, en la costa del golfo de Guinea. Allí padece los caprichos del rey y de su sucesor, sobrevive a sus desvaríos y a la prohibición del tráfico de esclavos y engendra multitud de hijos. Después de una vida de calamidades, intenta regresar a Brasil, pero acaba sus días tristemente sin posibilidad de salir del continente africano.Las primeras páginas tratan sobre la celebración del 117 aniversario del fallecimiento de Francisco Manoel da Silva por sus numerosísimos descendientes. Son quizá la peor parte del libro, con profusión de personajes, del jaleo de una celebración, las excentrencidades de unos y de otros… Parece un batiburrillo del tipo que quizá García Márquez narre con más gracia. Pronto pasa a contar la vida de este personaje y las calamidades que pasa. Esta parte es mucho más interesante y más ordenada.Por el camino, uno se entera de las guerras continuas que mantenía el rey de Dahomey con otros pueblos, sus extravagancias y carácter belicoso, la venta como esclavos de los pueblos derrotados, los intentos de ingleses, franceses y portugueses por dominar el país, la llegada al país de libertos brasileños que llegan intentando hacer realidad el sueño de sus abuelos para encontrarse rechazados en un territorio hostil y salvaje, la rebelión de esclavos encabezada por líderes musulmanes en Bahía en 1835…

  • Stig
    2019-06-15 05:39

    Dazzling novel about a Brazilian slave trader who settles in the Kingdom of Dahomey in West Africa where he spawns an enormous family of mulatto Da Silvas. Lots of brutality, of course, and Francisco da Silva is by no means a nice man, but you do end up feeling some sympathy for him in the final part of the book where everything falls apart for him. But there is more to this short novel than just the story of Francisco da Silva. The first part is a brief, but sadly precise account of life in 1970s revolutionary Benin, depressingly familiar stuff from that decade in Africa. The members of the Da Silva clan - by this time spread out all over West Africa - meet to celebrate a Requiem Mass for "the Founder". His youngest daughter, now well over 100 years old, is on her deadbed, and her life - also tragic, of course, after a very brief love affair - is shown in flashbacks. There is a lovely sense of decay about this book. A really good read!