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."