Bakhita A novel of the Saint of Sudan

Véronique Olmi

Book - 2019

"Inspired by the true story of a former slave who became a saint, this poignant novel explores how a human being can survive the obliteration of her identity, and how kindness and generosity can be born out of profound trauma. She recalls little of her childhood, not even her own name. She was barely seven years old when she was snatched by slave raiders from her village in the Darfur region of southern Sudan. In a cruel twist, they gave her the name that she will carry for the rest of her ...life: Bakhita, "the Lucky One" in Arabic. Sold and resold along the slave trade routes, Bakhita endures years of unspeakable abuse and terror. At age thirteen, at last, her life takes a turn when the Italian consul in Khartoum purchases her. A few years later, as chaos engulfs the capital, the consul returns to Italy, taking Bakhita with him. In this new land, another long and arduous journey begins--one that leads her onto a spiritual path for which she is still revered today. With rich, evocative language, Véronique Olmi immerses the reader in Bakhita's world--her unfathomable resilience, her stubborn desire to live, and her ability to turn toward the pain of others in spite of the terrible sufferings that she too must endure"--

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Subjects
Genres
Biographical fiction
Novels
Historical fiction
Published
New York : Other Press [2019]
Language
English
French
Physical Description
362 pages ; 24 cm
ISBN
9781590519776
1590519779
Main Author
Véronique Olmi (author)
Other Authors
Adriana Hunter (translator)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Award-winning French author Olmi presents a fictional retelling of the life of Saint Josephine Bakhita, a former slave who became the patron saint of her native Sudan. Abducted as a child from her village, she is sold into slavery and given the name Bakhita (Arabic for "lucky one"). Beaten and abused by a series of masters, she is finally sold to the Italian consul in Khartoum and eventually accompanies his return to Italy. No longer called a slave, she is nevertheless given to the family of a friend. She takes care of their young daughter and accompanies her to a convent school. But it is Bakhita upon whom the Canossian sisters make a lasting impression, and when the family leaves Italy for Africa, she defies their orders and stays, first as a convert and then as a sister. Olmi adheres closely to the facts of Bakhita's life, but unlike the serialized Storia Merivigliosa ("wonderful story") published during Bakhita's lifetime, Olmi's tale provides a glimpse into her interior life, revealing the woman within the saint. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Prix Goncourt finalist Olmi's second book to be translated into English (after Beside the Sea) tells the gut-wrenching story of a Sudanese slave who became the Catholic saint Josephine Bakhita. At the end of the 19th century, a seven-year-old girl is abducted from her village in the Darfur region. Named Bakhita, "the lucky one," by her captors, she is forced across the desert alongside a chain gang. Sold and resold, she is terrorized by her owners, beaten and abused, her skin inhumanely tattooed. Still, she cares for any child thrust into her arms. When she is 13, a benevolent Italian in Khartoum buys her, and she begs him to let her go with him to Italy. There, after being given to a woman and serving as a nanny, she is sent to a convent in Venice, where she is baptized, eventually becoming "the nun who wears her story on her skin like stigmata." Olmi's prose soars when recounting Bakhita's suffering and inner life, leveling off some after she is freed and in Italy. More than the sum of its parts, Bakhita's story, and the author's gripping wordplay, convey the unspeakable brutality of slavery and one woman's irrepressible will to live. (Apr.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"Inspired by the true story of a former slave who became a saint, this poignant novel explores how a human being can survive the obliteration of her identity, and how kindness and generosity can be born out of profound trauma. She recalls little of her childhood, not even her own name. She was barely seven years old when she was snatched by slave raiders from her village in the Darfur region of southern Sudan. In a cruel twist, they gave her the name that she will carry for the rest of her life: Bakhita,"the Lucky One" in Arabic. Sold and resold along the slave trade routes, Bakhita endures years of unspeakable abuse and terror. At age thirteen, at last, her life takes a turn when the Italian consul in Khartoum purchases her. A few years later, as chaosengulfs the capital, the consul returns to Italy, taking Bakhita with him. In this new land, another long and arduous journey begins--one that leads her onto a spiritual path for which she is still revered today. With rich, evocative language, VéroniqueOlmi immerses the reader in Bakhita's world--her unfathomable resilience, her stubborn desire to live, and her ability to turn toward the pain of others in spite of the terrible sufferings that she too must endure"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

This poignant novel, inspired by the true story of a former slave who became a saint, follows a young woman named Bakhita who, after enduring years of unspeakable abuse and terror, finally finds her life taking a turn for the better when she is led down a spiritual path that changes her life forever.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Inspired by the true story of a former slave who became a saint, this poignant novel explores how a human being can survive the obliteration of her identity, and how kindness and generosity can be born out of profound trauma.She recalls little of her childhood, not even her own name. She was barely seven years old when she was snatched by slave raiders from her village in the Darfur region of southern Sudan. In a cruel twist, they gave her the name that she will carry for the rest of her life: Bakhita, "the Lucky One" in Arabic. Sold and resold along the slave trade routes, Bakhita endures years of unspeakable abuse and terror. At age thirteen, at last, her life takes a turn when the Italian consul in Khartoum purchases her. A few years later, as chaos engulfs the capital, the consul returns to Italy, taking Bakhita with him. In this new land, another long and arduous journey begins--one that leads her onto a spiritual path for which she is still revered today.With rich, evocative language, Véronique Olmi immerses the reader in Bakhita's world--her unfathomable resilience, her stubborn desire to live, and her ability to turn toward the pain of others in spite of the terrible sufferings that she too must endure.