The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation

1, The Pox Party

eBook - 2010
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National Book Award Winner!
This deeply provocative novel reimagines the past as an eerie place that has startling resonance for readers today.

It sounds like a fairy tale. He is a boy dressed in silks and white wigs and given the finest of classical educations. Raised by a group of rational philosophers known only by numbers, the boy and his mother - a princess in exile from a faraway land - are the only persons in their household assigned names. As the boy's regal mother, Cassiopeia, entertains the house scholars with her beauty and wit, young Octavian begins to question the purpose behind his guardians' fanatical studies. Only after he dares to open a forbidden door does he learn the hideous nature of their experiments - and his own chilling role in them. Set against the disquiet of Revolutionary Boston, M. T. Anderson's extraordinary novel takes place at a time when American Patriots rioted and battled to win liberty while African slaves were entreated to risk their lives for a freedom they would never claim. The first of two parts, this deeply provocative novel reimagines the past as an eerie place that has startling resonance for readers today.

Publisher: [United States] : Candlewick Press, 2010.
ISBN: 9780763651787
0763651788
Branch Call Number: eBook hoopla
Characteristics: 1 online resource
text file
Additional Contributors: hoopla digital

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l
lisahiggs
Feb 20, 2012

The Latin for “slave” – servus – as rendered in English literally is “the spared one”; slaves being those taken prisoner in battle, who should, therefore, by all rules of engagement, have been slain. In antiquity, slaves possessed no rights as citizens because, though spared, they were accounted dead, and as the dead, could not be admitted as living men; and so, for generations, the dead toiled and bred in Rome; the dead taught Rome’s children the secrets of philosophy; the dead built Rome’s great monuments and tombs; until the Romans themselves joined the dead, and all that remained were tombs, and monuments, and half-remembered tombs.

l
lisahiggs
Feb 20, 2012

And then they imprisoned me in darkness; and though there was no color there, I still was black, and they still were white; and for that, they bound and gagged me.

l
lisahiggs
Feb 20, 2012

I should not be sorry, did the Lord sweep the savages further to the west; but I doubt His divine will shall ever be expressed through Virginians.

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narutouzumaki485 Jul 12, 2012

awesome book can't wait for the next book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

l
lisahiggs
Feb 20, 2012

Octavian’s life might be astonishing, but his story is not. Anderson tells us that Octavian has an astonishing life, but he doesn’t show us. Octavian himself doesn’t even know his life is any different than other people’s, other boys’, other blacks. Even when he figures it out – when he finds out that he’s actually a slave and not the beloved prince of a household, and suddenly made to act accordingly – nothing really changes in his demeanor, he seems quite unastonished actually.

There is a barrier between us and what might be good about this novel. There could be something astonishing here, but it’s hidden under other people’s letters driving the plot instead of the main character’s actions, in breakneck plot changes that don’t seem to bother the characters too much, and behind mysterious forbidden doors that, once opened, just result in a dry lecture by a man who changed his name to a number for very little reason and later changed it back just the same.

When you have to call your story “astonishing” in the title, it’s very likely not to be so.

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