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Sunjata

Sunjata

A West African Epic of the Mande Peoples

Translated, with Introduction and Notes, by David Conrad
From a Performance by Djanka Tassey Condé

2004 - 256 pp.

Format ISBN Price Qty
Cloth 978-0-87220-698-4
$46.00
Paper 978-0-87220-697-7
$19.00
Examination 978-0-87220-697-7
$2.00

Quick Overview

"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

OR

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To download an audio excerpt (in MP3 format) from Djanka Tassey Condé's performance of the Sunjata epic, please visit the Sunjata title support page by clicking HERE.

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.

 

Reviews:

"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

 

"Conrad offers a great deal for students and instructors, with a solid Introduction which provides the context and history of the epic, a note on Mande nomenclature, maps, an epilogue, and a glossary of important names and terms. This is truly one-stop shopping for the Sunjata epic. I think Conrad's book will be a classic."
     —Konrad Tuchscherer, St. John's University

 

"Conrad provides a poetic translation that reads easily, includes most major themes and episodes, and carries well the narrative sense of the epic. . . . This version is exactly right for most college courses."
     —Curtis A. Keim, International Journal of African Historical Studies

 

"This Hackett edition provides a 'reader-friendly' text specifically targeted to the non-specialist. It is well-annotated with introductory material, indexed contents, good notes, maps, a helpful character summary, and glossary of common Mande terms. The plot has fewer gaps than many other versions and a lot of attention is paid to explaining character motivation. Tassey Condé, the jeli ngara (master bard) recorded by Conrad is the last of a famous family of bards in Fadama, northeastern Guinea. Even in translation, Tassey Condé is a splendid storyteller and Conrad includes the running responses of 'naamu-sayers' who encourage and accompany Tassey's performance with short comments. The effect is almost like having a rhythm back-up to drive the performance."
     —Michele Delattre, University of California, Berkeley

 

"The most easily teachable of the versions I have read . . . [an] important new version of a major literary achievement."
     —Paula Berggren, Baruch College, CUNY

 

"An excellent resource for students and teachers of literature, language, history, and anthropology by the foremost authority on Mande tradition"    
     —David Robinson, Michigan State University

 

About the Author:

David C. Conrad is Emeritus Professor of History, State University of New York at Oswego.