The Known World (Paperback)
|Author: Edward P. Jones|
|From the Publisher:|
Henry Townsend, a black farmer, bootmaker, and former slave, has a fondness for Paradise Lost and an unusual mentor William Robbins, perhaps the most powerful man in antebellum Virginia's Manchester County. Under Robbins's tutelage, Henry becomes proprietor of his own plantation as well as of his own slaves. When he dies, his widow, Caldonia, succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart at their plantation: slaves take to escaping under the cover of night, and families who had once found love beneath the weight of slavery begin to betray one another. Beyond the Townsend estate, the known world also unravels: low-paid white patrollers stand watch as slave "speculators" sell free black people into slavery, and rumors of slave rebellions set white families against slaves who have served them for years.
An ambitious, luminously written novel that ranges seamlessly between the past and future and back again to the present, The Known World weaves together the lives of freed and enslaved blacks, whites, and Indians and allows all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multidimensional world created by the institution of slavery.
About the Author:
The unusual main characters in this debut novel are a family of freed black slaves who hold slaves themselves. As the novel tells the stories of former slave Henry Townsend, his wife Caldonia, a man who hunts runaways for a living, and the various slaves on Henry's Virginia farm, a picture emerges of pre-Civil War America and the complexities of race, responsibility, and the institution of slavery. As the author stated in a Publishers Weekly interview: "I was trying to find out how these people survived in these horrifying conditions....I want to write about the things that helped us to survive: the love, grace, intelligence and strength of us as a people."
"[A]n impressively researched, challenging novel debut....The particulars and consequences of the 'right' of humans to own other humans are dramatized with unprecedented ingenuity and intensity, in a harrowing tale that scarcely ever raises its voice....This will mean a great deal to a great many people. It should be a major prize contender, and it won't be forgotten." 07/15/2003 New York Times Book Review
"[Jones] write[s] about history not as if it were over and done with, but as if anything could happen in the chaos of the moment....Jones writes with a sense of narrative foreboding undercut by the erratic nature of events, and the result is a portrait of a society that is seemingly immutable but...tentative and fragile....THE KNOWN WORLD is an achievement of epic scope and architectural construction, which nonetheless reads like a string of folk tales...--tales told by a conjurer who distracts you so well that you never know what hit you." - John Vernon 08/31/2003 New Yorker
"Jones has written a book of tremendous moral intricacy: no relationship here is left unaltered by the bonds of ownership, and liberty eludes most of Manchester County's residents, not just its slaves." 09/01/2003 Times Literary Supplement
"An author who writes about slavery without preaching to his readers or standing in judgment over his characters is rare, and with that restraint and broad imagination Edward P. Jones has produced an extraordinary piece of American fiction." - Jonathan Fasman 10/10/2003