Sunjata: A West African Epic of the Mande Peoples

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Sunjata: A West African Epic of the Mande Peoples
Edited by David C. Conrad and translated with the assistance of Djobba Kamara and Lansana Magasouba
Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 2004

A centuries old pillar of West African oral tradition, this epic describes adventures and achievements of male and female Mande ancestors led by the charismatic hero Sunjata who vies for power with Sumaworo Kanté the sorcerer king of Soso, and establishes foundations of the medieval empire of Mali. Publisher and reviewer comments:

David C. 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 of Fadama, Guinea. 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.

"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

"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] … 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

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