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The Marvelous Adventures of Pierre Baptiste: Father and Mother First and Last Including: The Tribulations of Bondage in the Sugar Isles, Pierre's Escaby Patricia Eakins
Synopses & Reviews
The first-person narrative of a savant slave, Patricia Eakins's The Marvelous Adventures of Pierre Baptiste is one of the most imaginative novels in many years. From the opening pages, the reader is swept up by the linguistic fireworks of Eakins's autodidactic protagonist as he recounts "the tribulations of bondage in the sugar isles," his escape and how he was marooned, and his subsequent trials and adventures. Making expert use of historical convention and with an ear for rhetorical authenticity, Eakins has given us a compelling novel that bridges not only human cultures but the chasm between human and animal.
Here then is the account of the life and times of an African man of letters "whose ambitions were realized in strange and unexpected ways, yet who made peace with several gods and established a realm of equality and freedom and bounty in which no creature lives from another's labor." Pierre Baptiste emerges as an embodiment of all that is lost in a racist culture.
Author's web site: http://www.fabulara.com
Author interview with Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/show-interview/e-p-akinsatricia/002-5686271-2394036
Frigate: The Transverse Review of Books edited by Patricia Eakins
Reading Group Study Questions
1. What do you make of the fact that a twentieth-century European-American female is writing in the person of an eighteenth-century African-American male? What implications are there for prose style and character creation?
2. Pierre considers himself a "philosophe," a "savant." He dreams of communing in France with the eminent natural historian, Buffon. Despite Pierre's creation of a "cyclopedic histoire" of New- and Old-World African lore, can an argument be made that Pierre's adoption of Enlightenment values is a betrayal of his fellow slaves?
3. What does Pierre Baptiste's narrative seem to be saying about erotic love and conjugal relationships?
4. The idea of the parasite is central to this novel. In what ways does the foregrounding of that concept affect your sense of the relationship between "culture" and "nature"? Between "nature" and "nurture"?
5. The scientific and spiritual discoveries of Pierre Baptiste have led him to believe that humans and animals are part of the same spectrum of being as gods. He also believes that animals are possessed of spiritual powers. Yet Pierre Baptiste is colonized by creatures whose birth robs him of powers of speech. Can this paradox be reconciled with Pierre's escape from slavery, which had previously relegated him to the status of chattel beast?
6. What is your understanding of Pierre's utopian project? Is it the same as the author's? How does it relate to any utopian projects you might have?
7. What does Pierre's treatment of Pamphile when he washes ashore on Pierre's island say about Pierre? Would you have treated Pamphile the same way? Why or why not?
8. What is the nature of the spiritual transformation Pierre sustains? In what ways are his metaphysics like or unlike your own?
9. Can you imagine a different ending for this book? How would the story be different if it had been told from the point-of-view of Pélérine Vérité? Of Rose? Of Pamphile?
10. If you had to be marooned on a desert isle with someone, would you be pleased if it turned out to be Pierre? If so, why? If not, why not?
A worldwide trend toward democracy is surely one of the more remarkable phenomena of our times, even if the movement twoard that goal may often be haphazard and elusive. Past history will provide a healthy skepticism concerning the likelihood of democracy being reached in the near future in many parts of the world, as well as a preparedness for the possibility that many countries apparently close to the "institutional divide" are going to slip back rather than cross it soon. Nevertheless, the past 2600 years, or even 5000, yield the reassuring message that during that long period freedom has improved its extent significantly, with respect both to geographical breadth and institutional depth.
This book is the first to attempt to describe the history of the growth of freedom on a world scale within one single set of covers. It sets out not to redefine freedom nor to discvoer freedom where no one else has, nor to argue that freedom is the proud possession of one country or tradition or people. Its purpose instead is to show how certain elements of free society made their appearance in an amazing variety of places, from ancient Sumeria and China to medieval Japan, modern Czechoslovakia and Costa Rica, in areas both inside and outside of the Western European and North American tradition that will probably be familiar to most readers of the English language edition of this book.
The whole story, with its fits and starts, triumphs and tragedies, deserves the thoughtful reflection of everyone who in the wish to establish and protect freedom would avoid needless disappointment and despair and desires to act intelligently to attain the attainable. But even for the quietest, the person who has no faith in human action to improve man's lot, the story is worth pondering, for along with failure and misery it holds much that is noble and uplifting, tells of much gain for humanity through patient suffering and self-sacrifice, and catches a vision of liberty for all in the present an dpossible future that was inconceivable at the dawn of history.
The first-person narrative of a savant slave, Patricia Eakins's The Marvelous Adventures of Pierre Baptiste is one of the most imaginative novels in many years.<P>From the opening pages, the reader is swept up by the linguistic fireworks of Eakins's autodidactic protagonist as he recounts "the tribulations of bondage in the sugar isles, " his escape and how he was marooned, and his subsequent trials and adventures. Making expert use of historical convention and with an ear for rhetorical authenticity, Eakins has given us a compelling novel that bridges not only human cultures but the chasm between human and animal.<P>Here then is the account of the life and times of an African man of letters "whose ambitions were realized in strange and unexpected ways, yet who made peace with several gods and established a realm of equality & freedom & bounty in which no creature lives from another's labor." Pierre Baptiste emerges as an embodiment of all that is lost in a racist culture.
About the Author
Patricia Eakins is the author of The Hungry Girls and Other Stories, which was hailed by the New York Times Book Review as a "work of imaginative brilliance." She lives in New York City.
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