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  • Verschleppt, Verkauft, Versklavt. Deutschsprachige Sklavenberichte aus Nordafrika (1550–1800) by Mario Klarer
  • Alicia E. Ellis
Verschleppt, Verkauft, Versklavt. Deutschsprachige Sklavenberichte aus Nordafrika (1550–1800).
Herausgegeben von Mario Klarer. Wien: Böhlau, 2019. 249 Seiten + 48 Abbildungen. €40,00 gebunden, €32,99 eBook.

Not his first study of this genre, Mario Klarer's Verschleppt, Verkauft, Versklavt, an anthology of European Barbary Coast captivity narratives from 1550 to 1800, is a rich collection that, along with his earlier edited volume, Piracy and Captivity in the Mediterranean: 1550–1810 (2018), does much to propel this often understudied historical and literary category into the cultural corpus. In a lengthy introduction, Klarer offers the reader context for the six autobiographical reports recorded by European men (German, Flemish, and Danish) captured in Islamic North Africa. The introductory text is made complete by the evocative images that frame the captivity narratives. Drawn from an extensive archive of etchings and paintings from libraries, museums, and Klarer's private collection, the illustrations depict privateers and pirates, seascapes and landscapes, maps, title pages of texts, and scenes of the capture and the selling of Europeans. The sections of the introduction are written to allow the individual stories to take shape as ways of understanding the construction and practice of the captivity narrative as a literary type: "Sklavenberichte" as a stand-alone genre in the early modern times; piracy in the Mediterranean; North African slavery; the ransoming of slaves; female slaves; and slave reports and world literature.

In the final section of his introduction, "Sklavenberichte und Weltliteratur," Klarer points out that in the early modern period from the 1500s into the early 1800s, many Europeans published their eyewitness accounts of ransoming or escape in texts written in the vernacular that were popular enough that many editions were issued. Written as retrospective accounts and foreshadowing the modern novel, they represented a source of information about Islam and North Africa for Europeans who would never experience such adventure or danger. Yet not all captive men returned to Europe. Some remained in North Africa and worked on warships. Some had no family money to buy their freedom and so remained captive. Many did successfully escape, and many simply turned their back on Europe and integrated into the North African cultural world with a conversion to Islam. Piracy was not a novel experience. Practiced in many places and at different historical moments, piracy and kidnapping were carried out by the Christian Knights of Malta and North African corsairs. European and [End Page 140] North American women were not excluded and were often victims of abduction. North American stories, often termed "confinement narratives," typically written by women or about women by men, were published with enthusiasm and circulated in the newly formed colonies' popular print culture. One such example that Klarer names is Mary Rowlandson's 1682 publication The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, which details her eleven-week capture by Native Americans during King Philip's War (1675–1678).

The selection of texts in the anthology excludes purely literary works and focuses exclusively on authentic or seemingly authentic slave narratives from North Africa. Klarer makes it explicit that captivity narratives were an essential part of establishing literary and cultural discourses. The volume's introduction begins and concludes with the idea of genre, which emphasizes Klarer's commitment to an evaluation of these reports as a foundation for the development of the novel. What appears to be of utmost importance in Klarer's commentary is his conviction that European accounts of North African captivity influenced the picaresque novel, a subgenre of the early novel that originated during the 16th century and included such titles as Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote (1605; 1615) and Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719).

Klarer's commentary provides the context for the slave reports that Balthasar Sturmer, Emanuel Aranda, Hark Olufs, the Wolffgang brothers, Johann Michael Kühn, and Leonhard Eisenschmied composed after their return home from captivity. Klarer provides a preface for each of the six reports contextualizing the stories as "Erlebnisberichte" and a summary that highlights how these captivity narratives contributed to the growth of the novel. The first report in this collection, the eyewitness...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-2810
Print ISSN
0026-9271
Pages
pp. 140-142
Launched on MUSE
2022-03-17
Open Access
No
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