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A West African Epic of the Mande Peoples

by David Conrad(trans.)
Sunjata by David Conrad
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A pillar of the West African oral tradition for centuries, this epic traces the adventures and achievements of the Mande hero, Sunjata, as he liberates his people from Sumaworo Kanté, the sorcerer king of Soso, and establishes the great medieval empire of Mali.

David Conrad conveys the strong narrative thrust of the Sunjata epic in his presentation of substantial excerpts from his translation of a performance by Djanka Tassey Condé. Readers approaching the epic for the first time will appreciate the translation's highly readable, poetic English as well as Conrad's informative Introduction and notes. Scholars will find the familiar heroes and heroines taking on new dimensions, secondary characters gaining increased prominence, and previously unknown figures emerging from obscurity.

"Thanks to his careful editing and translating of Condé's narrative, Conrad offers a highly readable version of the epic that is about a third of its original length. The translation communicates not only the poetic qualities and the essential events of the Sunjata legend but also the master bard's performance values. Thus, this rendering will fascinate those who already know the story and culture and those coming to the epic for the first time. Conrad provides an excellent introduction to Mande oral tradition, the role of the griot, and the Manding belief system. Though he makes no claim for this as the complete scholarly edition, he does provide helpful scholarly notes, a glossary, and a good bibliography. . . . Summing up: Highly recommended."
—L. W. Yoder, CHOICE

"This is an important resource for college teachers who would like their students to read a text which more fully resembles an oral poem and which communicates a richer, more complex, and more compelling version of the Sunjata story. . . . [This] version . . . is much more worthy to be placed among the great epics of world literature. It is eminently readable for students and instructors who are willing to give it the same kind of attention they give to Homer translations."
—Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Temple University

Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.; September 2004
256 pages; ISBN 9781603845816
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Title: Sunjata
Author: David Conrad
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