Publisher: Vintage Classics
Length: 417 pages
About: Memoirs of death row slave
Style: 1st person
Where: US (Virginia)
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 man who had been reading my confessions aloud now paused and turned and stared at me, obviously relishing the pause, his own sparkling gaze, the total effect. His face was filled with hatred
and disgust. I returned his gaze without faltering, though with no emotion.
"It should be, and will be, widely read and discussed.... Mr. Styron, white and Southern, has made the leap into a Negro's mind re-created out of history and has given coherent voice to a
catastrophe we hardly knew had happened."
New York Times, 10th March 1967
Not so good:
But the book’s deepest deception is the most sought-after lie in all literature. The leader of a murderous rebellion who is at the same time a most gentle and sensitive fellow, and the slave
masters who thus appear through his eyes in the full regalia of their self-justifcations, alike provide ficticious proof that a man’s actions have nothing to do with his true nature, and so lift from
the reader’s shoulders the burden of responsibility. I doubt that it is possible to write a more harebrained, insensitive, not to say impertinent book about human suffering.
The Times, David Levine, May 4th 1968
About the author
William Styron was born on June 11, 1925 in Newport News, Virginia. His father was a shipyard engineer who suffered from depression and his mother passed away when he was only thirteen. Moving
from school to school, he eventually ended up at Duke University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts. The next year he enlisted in the Marine Corps, where he became a first lieutenant during
World War II. After leaving the service, he moved to New York, where he supported his fledgling writing career working at McGraw-Hill Publishing. He also began taking classes with Hiram Haydn at the
New School for Social Research. William Styron died on November 1st, 2006. He was 81 years old.