1001 Reads

Regularly updated blog charting the most important novels of the last 2000 and something years

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

22. Daniel Dafoe - Robinson Crusoe (1719)

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Francisco: This is the first true novel in the English language, and it does show. The leap is immense from something like Oronooko, which was the most novel-like book in the English language that I read before this.

Defoe has a great sense of pacing, and the story develops throughout the book, as a well contructed narrative. This is not to say, however, that the whole book is riveting. It isn't. And in the first 100 pages you start to despair with boredom, which is actually quite appropriate in terms of making you empathise with the main character - you go through the horrible affair of being stranded with nothing to do with him. And you start to get him. Only towards the end does stuff start happening, and some excitement comes along.

Defoe is a good writer, and although not an astonishing piece of work, Robinson Crusoe is quite entertaining, and much more so that whatever else had come before in the English language. For that only it really deserves a place here, as a work which achieves it's purpose: to entertain the reader. A thing did grate on my nerves however, Crusoe is a racist pig and a slaver... don't care much for that... he does however learn to appreciate Friday as a friend and not only a servant.

Something which I also found interesting while reading is the fact that the English language was not normalised, Defoe's spelling is all over the place, he writes the same words in different ways. We'd have to wait for Samuel Johnsson to fix it...

Vanda: I quite enjoyed this book! I'd read it before, as a child (as I think most people will have), in a translated version. I actually remember really trying to hunt it down for a while, although I'm at a loss to know why. There was a time when I was obsessed with desert islands, and had thouroghly enjoyed A Familia Robinson so maybe that was it. Anyway.

Dafoe writes in a deadpan style that almost reaches what Hemingway would do a couple of centuries later. He is not one for pointless embellishments, or reduntant metaphor, and yet he is terribly good at putting himself in the shoes of the characters he creates. Crusoe does have an affinity with wandering around pointlessly shooting at inedible animals, but he comes across as a very human, and, later, a very wise man. You feel his joys and his terrors, and his internal dialogs are the most interesting things I've read in a while, particularly his reasoning of wether he should kill all the cannibals, or not, and why.

If you haven't read this yet, you're missing out, and should really give it a go.

Final Grade

Francisco: 7/10
Vanda: 8/10


Why the fuck is Friday always portrayed as black? Crusoe is stranded near America! Friday is "olive skinned", as described in the book. It makes no sense, as Friday was not a slave but a native American. Probably too many years of stupid British people presuming all "natives" are black.


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