An engrossing and harrowing novel (Sunday Times)
[A] brutal, vital, devastating novel…This is a luminous, furious, wildly inventive tale that not only shines a bright light on one of the darkest periods of history, but also opens up thrilling new vistas for the form of the novel itself (Alex Preston Observer)
This thrilling tale of escape from a deep south plantation takes in terror, beauty and the history of human tragedy..This uncanny novel never attempts to deliver a message – instead it tells one of the most compelling stories I have ever read. Cora’s strong, graceful hands touch on the greatest tragedies of our history (Cynthia Bond, Guardian)
It’s so good it’s hard to praise it without whipping out the cliches: it’s an elegant, devastating powerhouse of a book, following a young black woman all over America as she tries to escape the horrors of slavery. When it was published with Oprah’s imprimatur, in August, it was universally acclaimed. It deserved it (Michelle Dean Guardian)
One of the best, if not the best, book I’ve read this year . . . Whitehead never exploits his subject matter, and in fact it’s the sparseness of the novel that makes it such a punch in the gut (Sarah Shaffi Stylist)
My book of the year by some distance…It’s a profound and important novel, but more than anything it’s an absurdly good read, gripping you in its tightly wound plot, astonishing you with its leaps of imagination. If Whitehead doesn’t win every prize going next year, I’ll appear on Saturday Review in my underpants (Alex Preston Observer, Best Fiction of 2016)
Whitehead is a superb storyteller . . . [he] brilliantly intertwines his allegory with history . . . writing at the peak of his game . . . Whitehead’s achievement is truly remarkable: by giving the Underground Railroad a new mythology, he has found a way of confronting other myths, older and persistent, about the United States. His book cannot have enough readers (Telegraph)
It is an extraordinary novel, a rich, confident work that will deservedly win – on the basis of literary merit as well as moral purpose . . . History and human experience as well as an artist’s obligation to tell the truth have shaped a virtuoso novel that should be read by every American as well as readers across the world. And it will be, it should be (Eileen Battersby Irish Times)
An utterly transporting piece of storytelling (Alex Heminsley The Pool)
Bestselling author Colson Whitehead’s novel is a searing indictment of slavery with a detailed inventory of man’s inhumanity to man – and Cora’s flight is a harrowing and shocking trip for the reader (Daily Mail)
A stunning, brutal and hugely imaginative book. It’s a favourite of both Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama. It is painful history re-imagined in a powerful and brilliant way (Emerald St)
Recommended by none other than Obama AND Oprah, The Underground Railroad arrives deserving every last drop of hype that’s come its way . . . There are many twists and turns in Cora’s long, treacherous journey towards freedom and while The Underground Railroad is at times brutal and disturbing, it’s also hopeful and an addictive, compulsive read. After reading it, a corner of your heart will always belong to Cora. An instant classic (Sarra Manning Red)
Reaches the marrow of your bones, settles in and stays forever . . . a tour de force (Oprah Winfrey)
This bravura novel reimagines that same network as a real subterranean railway, upon which a girl named Cora flees the slave-catcher Ridgeway. Throughout, horrific experiences are rendered in lapidary prose, but it’s Cora’s daring that provides the story’s redemptive oomph (Mail on Sunday)
Inventive and hard-hitting (Metro)
It is a bold way of reimagining the slave experience and, in the capable hands of Whitehead, succeeds triumphantly (Mail on Sunday)
Brutal, tender, thrilling and audacious (Naomi Alderman Guardian)
An enchanting tale . . . full of vivid images, learned allusions and astute observations . . . The most important and acclaimed American novel of the past year (London Review of Books)
I stayed up way too late to finish this… It will be haunting me in the best way (Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You)
A fantastical picaresque through the dark side of American history (Daily Telegraph)
Thrilling and unsentimental (Scotsman)
The Underground Railroad is a noble descendant of the great narratives of slavery, and among the very finest of its novels (Wesley Stace Times Literary Supplement)
An audaciously imagined and profoundly moving novel (Eithne Farry Express)
Stunning and unsentimental . . . required reading (Jenny Niven Herald)
A charged and important novel that pushed at the boundaries of fiction (Justine Jordan Guardian, Best Books of 2016)
Leaves the reader with a devastating understanding of the terrible human costs of slavery . . . with echoes of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and with brush strokes borrowed from Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka and Jonathan Swift . . . Colson Whitehead has told a story essential to our understanding of the American past and the American present (Michiko Kakutani New York Times)
The Underground Railroad isn’t the modern slave narrative it first appears to be. It is something grander and more piercing, a dazzling antebellum anti-myth…Whitehead’s prose is quick as a runaway’s footsteps (New York Review of Books)
A book that resonates with deep emotional timbre. The Underground Railroad reanimates the slave narrative, disrupts our settled sense of the past and stretches the ligaments of history right into our own era . . . The story charges along with incredible power . . . The canon of essential novels about America’s peculiar institution just grew by one (Ron Charles Washington Post)
[The Underground Railroad] is really good – good, in fact, in just about every way a novel can be good . . . a grave and fully realized masterpiece, a weird blend of history and fantasy that will have critics rightfully making comparisons to Toni Morrison and Gabriel García-Márquez (Boston Globe)
This book should be required reading in classrooms across the country alongside Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird. If this isn’t Colson Whitehead’s masterpiece, it’s definitely the best book of the year and maybe the most important work of the decade (Chicago Tribune)
Masterful, urgent . . . one of the finest novels written about our country’s still unabsolved original sin (Charles Finch USA Today)
The Underground Railroad has serious ambition, especially within the tradition of literary satire . . . With deadpan virtuosity and muted audacity, Whitehead integrates the historical details of slavery with the present (Los Angeles Review of Books)
Whitehead is a fantastic novelist, one of the best in America today. (Certainly better than Franzen.)… Oprah is right: The Underground Railroad is Whitehead’s best book yet… This is the rare critically acclaimed bestseller that deserves every ounce of its adoration, and more. The hype is real. You can believe Oprah, and its scores of other fans, including some guy who took The Underground Railroad on summer vacation and can’t stop talking about its „terrific… powerful“ portraiture of race in America. That fan’s name is Barack Obama (Seattle Times)
Magnetizing and wrenching . . . Each stop Cora makes along the Underground Railroad reveals another shocking and malignant symptom of a country riven by catastrophic conflicts, a poisonous moral crisis, and diabolical violence. Each galvanizing scene blazes with terror and indictment as Whitehead tracks the consequences of the old American imperative to seize, enslave, and profit . . . Hard-driving, lasersharp, artistically superlative, and deeply compassionate, Whitehead’s unforgettable odyssey adds a clarion new facet to the literature of racial tyranny and liberation (Booklist)
Startlingly original . . . Whitehead continues the African-American artists‘ inquiry into race mythology and history with rousing authority and razor-sharp ingenuity; he is now assuredly a writer of the first rank (Kirkus)
In powerful, precise prose, at once spellbinding and ferocious, the book follows Cora’s incredible journey north, step by step . . . the story is literature at its finest and history at its most barbaric. Would that this novel were required reading for every American citizen (Publishers Weekly)
Colson Whitehead’s staggering, haunted new novel . . . [is] a book that is fully expected to win all the awards this year – Pulitzer Prize, Booker Prize, National Book Award, etc – and it deserves every last one (Chapter 16)
Hard-driving, laser-sharp, artistically superlative, and deeply compassionate, Whitehead’s unforgettable odyssey adds a clarion new facet to the literature of racial tyranny and liberation (Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence, shortlist announcement)
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION 2017
WINNER OF THE ARTHUR C. CLARKE AWARD 2017
LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER 2016
AMAZON.COM #1 BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER AND A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR
‚Whitehead is on a roll: the reviews have been sublime‘ Guardian
‚Luminous, furious, wildly inventive‘ Observer
‚Hands down one of the best, if not the best, book I’ve read this year‘ Stylist
‚Dazzling‘ New York Review of Books
Praised by Barack Obama and an Oprah Book Club Pick, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead won the National Book Award 2016 and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2017.
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most; she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans and she is approaching womanhood, where it is clear even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North.
In Whitehead’s razor-sharp imagining of the antebellum South, the Underground Railroad has assumed a physical form: a dilapidated box car pulled along subterranean tracks by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives wherever it can. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But its placid surface masks an infernal scheme designed for its unknowing black inhabitants. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher sent to find Cora, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
At each stop on her journey, Cora encounters a different world. As Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America, from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once the story of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shatteringly powerful meditation on history.
From prize-winning, bestselling author Colson Whitehead, a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Like the protagonist of „Gulliver s Travels, “ Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. „The Underground Railroad“ is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.“
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, an existence made even more hellish by her status as an outcast among her fellow Africans. And she is approaching womanhood, where greater pain and danger awaits. So when Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, Cora takes the momentous decision to accompany him on his escape to the North.
In this razor-sharp novel, the Underground Railroad has assumed a physical form, a dilapidated box-car pulled by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives wherever it can. Thus begins Cora’s perilous journey, as she is pursued by a ruthless slave-catcher named Ridgeway, obsessed both with Cora and her mother, who eluded him years before.
The Underground Railroad is at once the story of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage, and a shatteringly powerful meditation on both history and the unfulfilled promises of the present day.
Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende
Leseprobe. Abdruck erfolgt mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Rechteinhaber. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.
This was her grandmother talking. Cora’s grandmother had never seen the ocean before that bright afternoon in the port of Ouidah and the water dazzled after her time in the fort’s dungeon. The dungeon stored them until the ships arrived. Dahomeyan raiders kidnapped the men first, then returned to her village the next moon for the women and children, marching them in chains to the sea two by two. As she stared into the black doorway, Ajarry thought she’d be reunited with her father, down there in the dark. The survivors from her village told her that when her father couldn’t keep the pace of the long march, the slavers stove in his head and left his body by the trail. Her mother had died years before.
Cora’s grandmother was sold a few times on the trek to the fort, passed between slavers for cowrie shells and glass beads. It was hard to say how much they paid for her in Ouidah as she was part of a bulk purchase, eighty-eight human souls for sixty crates of rum and gunpowder, the price arrived upon after the standard haggling in Coast English. Able-bodied men and child- bearing women fetched more than juveniles, making an individual accounting difficult.
The Nanny was out of Liverpool and had made two previous stops along the Gold Coast. The captain staggered his purchases, rather than find himself with cargo of singular culture and disposition. Who knew what brand of mutiny his captives might cook up if they shared a common tongue. This was the ship’s final port of call before they crossed the Atlantic. Two yellow-haired sailors rowed Ajarry out to the ship, humming. White skin like bone.
The noxious air of the hold, the gloom of confinement, and the screams of those shackled to her contrived to drive Ajarry to madness. Because of her tender age, her captors did not immedi- ately force their urges upon her, but eventually some of the more seasoned mates dragged her from the hold six weeks into the pas- sage. She twice tried to kill herself on the voyage to America, once by denying herself food and then again by drowning. The sailors stymied her both times, versed in the schemes and inclinations of chattel. Ajarry didn’t even make it to the gunwale when she tried to jump overboard. Her simpering posture and piteous aspect, recognizable from thousands of slaves before her, betrayed her intentions. Chained head to toe, head to toe, in exponential misery.
Although they had tried not to get separated at the auction in Ouidah, the rest of her family was purchased by Portuguese trad- ers from the frigate Vivilia, next seen four months later drifting ten miles off Bermuda. Plague had claimed all on board. Authori- ties lit the ship on fire and watched her crackle and sink. Cora’s grandmother knew nothing about the ship’s fate. For the rest of her life she imagined her cousins worked for kind and generous masters up north, engaged in more forgiving trades than her own, weaving or spinning, nothing in the fields. In her stories, Isay and Sidoo and the rest somehow bought their way out of bondage and lived as free men and women in the City of Pennsylvania, a place she had overheard two white men discuss once. These fantasies gave Ajarry comfort when her burdens were such to splinter her into a thousand pieces.
The next time Cora’s grandmother was sold was after a month in the pest house on Sullivan’s Island, once the physicians certified her and the rest of the Nanny’s cargo clear of illness. Another busy day on the Exchange. A big auction always drew a colorful crowd. Traders and procurers from up and down the coast converged on Charleston, checking the merchandise’s eyes and joints and spines, wary of venereal distemper and other afflictions. Onlook- ers chewed fresh oysters and hot corn as the auctioneers shouted into the air. The slaves stood naked on the platform. There was a bidding war over a group of Ashanti studs, those Africans of renowned industry and musculature, and the foreman of a lime- stone quarry bought a bunch of pickaninnies in an astounding bargain. Cora’s grandmother saw a little boy among the gawk- ers eating rock candy and wondered what he was putting in his mouth.
Just before sunset an agent bought her for two hundred and twenty-six dollars. She would have fetched more but for that sea- son’s glut of young girls. His suit was made of the whitest cloth she had ever seen. Rings set with colored stone flashed on his fin- gers. When he pinched her breasts to see if she was in flower, the metal was cool on her skin. She was branded, not for the first or last time, and fettered to the rest of the day’s acquisitions. The coffle began their long march south that night, staggering behind the trader’s buggy. The Nanny by that time was en route back to Liverpool, full of sugar and tobacco. There were fewer screams belowdecks.
You would have thought Cora’s grandmother cursed, so many times was she sold and swapped and resold over the next few years. Her owners came to ruin with startling frequency. Her first mas- ter got swindled by a man who sold a device that cleaned cotton twice as fast as Whitney’s gin. The diagrams were convincing, but in the end Ajarry was another asset liquidated by order of the magistrate. She went for two hundred and eighteen dollars in a hasty exchange, a drop in price occasioned by the realities of the local market. Another owner expired from dropsy, whereupon his widow held an estate sale to fund a return to her native Europe, where it was clean. Ajarry spent three months as the property of a Welshman who eventually lost her, three other slaves, and two hogs in a game of whist. And so on.
Her price fluctuated. When you are sold that many times, the world is teaching you to pay attention. She learned to quickly adjust to the new plantations, sorting the nigger breakers from the merely cruel, the layabouts from the hardworking, the inform- ers from the secret-keepers. Masters and mistresses in degrees of wickedness, estates of disparate means and ambition. Sometimes the planters wanted nothing more than to make a humble living, and then there were men and women who wanted to own the world, as if it were a matter of the proper acreage. Two hundred and forty-eight, two hundred and sixty, two hundred and seventy dollars. Wherever she went it was sugar and indigo, except for a stint folding tobacco leaves for one week before she was sold again. The trader called upon the tobacco plantation looking for slaves of breeding age, preferably with all their teeth and of pliable disposi- tion. She was a woman now. Off she went.
She knew that the white man’s scientists peered beneath things to understand how they worked. The movement of the stars across the night, the cooperation of humors in the blood. The temper- ature requirements for a healthy cotton harvest. Ajarry made a science of her own black body and accumulated observations. Each thing had a value and as the value changed, everything else changed also. A broken calabash was worth less than one that held its water, a hook that kept its catfish more prized than one that relinquished its bait. In America the quirk was that people were things. Best to cut your losses on an old man who won’t survive a trip across the ocean. A young buck from strong tribal stock got customers into a froth. A slave girl squeezing out pups was like a mint, money that bred money. If you were a thing—a cart or a horse or a slave—your value determined your possibilities. She minded her place.
Finally, Georgia. A representative of the Randall plantation bought her for two hundred and ninety-two dollars, in spite of the new blankness behind her eyes, which made her look simple- minded. She never drew a breath off…