Restless Classics presents the Three-Hundredth Anniversary Edition of Robinson Crusoe, the classic Caribbean adventure story and foundational English novel, with new illustrations by Eko and an introduction by Jamaica Kincaid that recontextualizes the book for our globalized, postcolonial era
Three centuries after Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe, this gripping tale of a castaway who spends thirty years on a remote tropical island near Trinidad, encountering cannibals, captives, and mutineers before being ultimately rescued, remains a classic of the adventure genre and is widely considered the first great English novel.
But the book also has much to teach us, in retrospect, about entrenched attitudes of colonizers toward the colonized that still resound today. As celebrated Caribbean writer Jamaica Kincaid writes in her bold new introduction, “The vivid, vibrant, subtle, important role of the tale of Robinson Crusoe, with his triumph of individual resilience and ingenuity wrapped up in his European, which is to say white, identity, has played in the long, uninterrupted literature of European conquest of the rest of the world must not be dismissed or ignored or silenced.”
“The true symbol of the British conquest is Robinson Crusoe who, shipwrecked on a lonely island, with a knife and a pipe in his pocket, becomes an architect, carpenter, knife-grinder, astronomer, and cleric. He is the true prototype of the British colonist just as Friday (the faithful savage who arrives one ill-starred day) is the symbol of the subject race. All the Anglo-Saxon soul is in Crusoe; virile independence, unthinking cruelty, persistence, slow yet effective intelligence, sexual apathy, practical and well-balanced religiosity, calculating dourness.”
“[Robinson Crusoe] is a masterpiece, and it is a masterpiece largely because Defoe has throughout kept consistently to his own sense of perspective… The mere suggestion—peril and solitude and a desert island—is enough to rouse in us the expectation of some far land on the limits of the world; of the sun rising and the sun setting; of man, isolated from his kind, brooding alone upon the nature of society and the strange ways of men.”
“Like Odysseus embarked for Ithaca, like Quixote mounted on Rocinante, Robinson Crusoe with his parrot and umbrella has become a figure in the collective consciousness of the West, transcending the book which—in its multitude of editions, translations, imitations, and adaptations (“Robinsonades”)—celebrates his adventures. Having pretended once to belong to history, he finds himself in the sphere of myth.”
“Robinson Crusoe, the first capitalist hero, is a self-made man who accepts objective reality and then fashions it to his needs through the work ethic, common sense, resilience, technology and, if need be, racism and imperialism.”
“I thought it that Robinson Crusoe should be the only instance of a universally popular book that could make no one laugh and could make no one cry . . . I will venture to say that there is not in literature a more surprising instance of utter want of tenderness and sentiment, than the death of Friday.”
“Was there every anything written by mere man that was wished longer by its readers, excepting Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe, and the Pilgrim’s Progress?”
About the Author:
Daniel Defoe (c. 1660 - 1731) was an English writer, journalist, and spy, who gained enduring fame for his novel, Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest practitioners of the novel and helped popularize the genre in Britain. In some texts he is even referred to as one of the founders, if not the founder, of the English novel. A prolific and versatile writer, he wrote more than five hundred books, pamphlets, and journals on various topics (including politics, crime, religion, marriage, psychology and the supernatural). He was also a pioneer of economic journalism.
About the Introducer:
Jamaica Kincaid is a Caribbean American writer whose essays, stories, and novels are evocative portrayals of family relationships and her native Antigua. Settling in New York City when she left Antigua at age 16, she became a staff writer at The New Yorker in 1976. Her books include the short story collection At the Bottom of the River (1983), the novels Annie John (1984) and Lucy (1990), the three-part essay A Small Place (1988), the novel The Autobiography of My Mother (1996) and nonfiction book My Brother (1997). Her “Talk of the Town” columns for The New Yorker were collected in Talk Stories (2001), and in 2005 she published Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himalaya. Her most recent book is the novel See Now Then (2013). She is a professor in the department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University and lives in Vermont.
About the Artist:
Born in Mexico in 1958, Eko is an engraver and painter. His wood etchings, often erotic in nature and the focus of controversial discussion, are part of a broader tradition in Mexican folk art popularized by José Guadalupe Posada. He has collaborated on projects for the New York Times, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and the Spanish daily El País, in addition to having published numerous books in Mexico and Spain. He is the illustrator of three books in the Restless Classics series: Don Quixote, Frankenstein, and Robinson Crusoe.