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David Conrad’s new prose translation of the Sunjata epic highlights the narrative aspect of the epic while conveying the essential performative quality of his 2004 verse translation. A revised Introduction, a glossary of Maninka terms, a guide to major characters, and maps provide further assistance to first-time readers of the epic.
"After existing orally for hundreds of years, Sunjata was written down in the twentieth century. David Conrad, who recorded a new version of the epic, has now crafted a prose translation that preserves the oral flavor of live performance. The result is a captivating work of literature that will finally give the story of Sunjata its well-deserved place among the great epics of world literature."
—Martin Puchner, Byron and Anita Wien Professor of Drama and of English and Comparative Literature, Harvard University
"Conrad's translation seems to me much clearer and more accessible than [previous] renderings. In addition, Conrad's notes are exceedingly useful. His maps, and his notes on the maps, are terrific.
"The Sunjata epic speaks to the founding of the great empire of Mali. Conrad’s Introduction situates the epic in the world of the Mande, as a people, culture, and group of languages; it also provides the context for the epic, and explains the meaning of a ‘bard,’ origin mythologies, linkage with a founding ancestor, as well as events and their cosmic interpretations.
"[In this translation we can hear] a powerful griot voice, chanting about histories, singing about heroes and genealogies, and reciting poetry on memories, all accomplished in ways to give us an expansive entry into the past of a world that forcefully speaks to the present, inviting wonder and imagination about the possibilities for a greater future."
—Toyin Falola, Jacob & Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities and University Distinguished Teaching Professor of History, The University of Texas at Austin
About the Author:
David C. Conrad is Emeritus Professor of History, State University of New York at Oswego.