Originally published in 1966, Miguel Barnet's Biography of a Runaway Slave provides the written history of the life of Esteban Montejo, who lived as a slave, as a fugitive in the wilderness, and as a soldier fighting against Spain in the Cuban War of Independence. A new introduction by one of the most preeminent Afro-Hispanic scholars, William Luis, situates Barnet's ethnographic strategy and lyrical narrative style as foundational for the tradition of testimonial fiction in Latin American literature. Barnet recorded his interviews with the 103-year-old Montejo at the onset of the Cuban Revolution. This insurgent's history allows the reader into the folklore and cultural history of Afro-Cubans before and after the abolition of slavery. The book serves as an important contribution to the archive of black experience in Cuba and as a reminder of the many ways that the present continues to echo the past.
Miguel Barnet was born in Havana in 1940. A storyteller, poet, and ethnologist, his works include the testimonials The Biography of a Runaway Slave and Rachel's Song (both published in English by Curbstone, 1995), Gallego, La vida real, and Oficio de angel; numerous books of poetry in Spanish; and Akeke y la jutia (Cuban fables). His work has received national and international awards, including the Cuban National Prize for Literature (1994), the International Poetry Award of Trieste (2005), and the Juan Rulfo Prize for Latin American and Caribbean Literature (2006). Since 2004 he has been Distinguished Professor at the National University of San Marcos, Peru.W. Nick Hill has translated a number of Spanish American authors, most recently Mexican poet Jorge Fernandez Granados. Hill's latest book of poems is And We'd Understand Crows Laughing.William Luis is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Spanish at Vanderbilt University and editor of the Afro-Hispanic Review. He has authored, edited, and coedited fourteen books, including Literary Bondage: Slavery in Cuban Narrative; Looking Out, Looking In: Anthology of Latino Poetry; and The AmeRican Poet: Essays on the Works of Tato Laviera. Luis was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2012. Born and raised in New York City, he is widely regarded as a leading authority on Latin American, Caribbean, Afro-Hispanic, and Latino U.S. literatures.
"There has been no book like this before and it is unlikely that there ever will be another like it."-Graham Greene
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