The Confessions of Nat Turner

The Confessions of Nat Turner

Paperback

By (author) William Styron

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  • Publisher: VINTAGE
  • Format: Paperback | 432 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 192mm x 28mm | 281g
  • Publication date: 1 July 2004
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0099285568
  • ISBN 13: 9780099285564
  • Sales rank: 169,416

Product description

In 1831 Nat Turner awaits death in a Virginia jail cell. He is a slave, a preacher, and the leader of the only effective slave revolt in the history of 'that peculiar institution'. William Styron's ambitious and stunningly accomplished novel is Turner's confession, made to his jailers under the duress of his God, a first-person narrative that depicts a good man's transformation into an avenging angel. Encompasses the betrayals, cruelties and humiliations that made up slavery - and that still sear the collective psyches of both races.

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Author information

William Styron (1925-2006), a native of the Tidewater region of Virginia, was a graduate of Duke University and a veteran of the 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 and the Legion d'Honneur. 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.

Review quote

"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

Editorial reviews

Few first novels promised so much for a new writer as Styron's Faulknerian Lie Down in Darkness; with only one flawed major book in between, now sixteen years later it is difficult to relate this to the early book except for the emotional charge of some of the writing, most effective when descriptive. In the fulminating first person of Nat Turner, Just before he is to be killed, this reviews at black heat the "ruction" he incited - a mass murder and rape in the Virginia of 1831. "Nigger preacher," self-designated prophet, Nat is primarily a man who for the last half of his thirty-one years has nursed a "pure and obdurate" hatred for white men (and a less pure desire for their women). In the language of the law he's just an "animate chattel" although he had acquired the "lineaments not just of literacy out of knowledge" through one master who had educated him to be emancipated, then sold him because of economic pressures. On the one hand Nat thinks many bitter, contemporary thoughts about the Negro's imputed intellectual, spiritual and biological (but not sexual) inferiority; on the other hand, the novel is full of Yassuh-Massa survival stereotypes and situations from a much older literature (i.e. memories of his mother submitting to the white overseer; of blonde Miss Emmaline sullied and "ravished" by her cousin, etc.). This makes the book uneasy to reconcile - whether as a polemic or a novel; and then again there is no congruence between the Nat Turner who lived and died before the Civil War and the Nat Turner who seems to be a superimposition of the '60's, resurrected in some flagrantly modern scenes. (Kirkus Reviews)

Back cover copy

'Magnificent...a dazzling shaft of light...A triumph' New York Times In 1831 Nat Turner awaits death in a Virginia jail cell. He is a slave, a preacher, and the leader of the only effective slave revolt in the history of 'that peculiar institution'. William Styron's ambitious and stunningly accomplished novel is Turner's confession, made to his jailers under the duress of his God. Encompasses the betrayals, cruelties and humiliations that made up slavery - and that still sear the collective psyches of both races. See also: Darkness Visible

Flap copy

"In the late summer of 1831, in a remote section of southeastern Virginia, there took place the only effective, sustained revolt in the annals of American Negro slavery... The revolt was led by a remarkable Negro preacher named Nat Turner, an educated slave who felt himself divinely ordained to annihilate all the white people in the region. The Confessions of Nat Turner is narrated by Nat himself as he lingers in jail through the cold autumnal days before his execution. The compelling story ranges over the whole of Nat's Life, reaching its inevitable and shattering climax that bloody day in August. The Confessions of Nat Turner is not only a masterpiece of storytelling; is also reveals in unforgettable human terms the agonizing essence of Negro slavery. Through the mind of a slave, Willie Styron has re-created a catastrophic event, and dramatized the intermingled miseries, frustrations--and hopes--which caused this extraordinary black man to rise up out of the early mists of our history and strike down those who held his people in bondage.