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Thursday, 13 February 2014
BOOK REVIEW: SOLOMON NORTHUP-TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE
A Long Write To Freedom.
The Academy Awards are about to polish off their Oscars for director Steve McQueen and his cast and crew of '12 Years A Slave', last years classic film and arguably one of the greatest movies of its moment and all-time. Great in a 'Schindlers List' necessary educational way. A film that you can't call enjoyable but one that you need to see to really take a trip through histories harrowing moments, so we can all learn from it. It's the kind of film they could show in school...when the times right. In looking for a subject to write about a movie on slavery, McQueen's wife found 'Twelve Years A Slave', the 'Narrative of Solomon Northup, citizen of New-York, kidnapped in Washington city in 1841, and rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana'. This is history that is recognised today in all it's previous past over value that will last for generations and centuries to come in the future. Just like '12 Years' is a movie we all need to watch, 'Twelve Years' is a book we all need and with a beautiful wrote foreword in a book that now sees the light of every major bookstore, McQueen with this-and his film-wants to give Northup the attention and the appreciation he deserves. As one of the most inspiring figures of freedom for all, in all time.
Martin Luther King Jnr, Nelson Mandela and now Solomon. Some of the greatest men in history have been honoured the right way at the beginning of this year and they should be remembered throughout still. After Idris Elba portrayed the great Madiba in the 'Mandela-Long Walk To Freedom' movie based on the autobiography of the same name, Chiwetel Ejiofor portrayed Solomon perfectly based on his moving memoirs. The film that kept the script by the book did more than just justice to this man and now his story can be seen around the world for everybody to hear. Now, however it's only right we read all about it and pay due respect to the man that's inspired an iconic movie, because after all it's his movie. It's time to see all about the real story from the horses mouth. Additional detal of harrowing accounts like how if a slave picked less cotton than the day before they would be lashed, whilst if they picked even more they'd be expected to match that quota with the following days work. The story of how a freeman was-with horrific cruelty-kidnapped and sold into slavery, where he was brutally humiliated and beaten into the sickest submission before he found his lasting emancipation over a decade later. After 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' on slavery came Northup's novel addition to the bookshelf and library of life history.
More than a great film acting like a documentary, moving you to tears of heartbreak, its so harrowing to actually see it all there in black and white. Accompanied with small sketches and wrote in the old style of its time, we still can feel every emotion and occurrence of Solomon's sharing. An accomplished writer (who for over a decade of his life couldn't even obtain a quill, ink or parchment) with the help of editor David Wilson, despite the abhorrent subject matter Northup writes beautifully, with magical metaphors matching dark descriptions. This is a freedom song of triumph over trial that feels like a religious reading in it's hope for finding something more holy in this life then the work of a devil. From the good of his fellow slaves, to one 'believe it or see it' kind slave master (William Ford played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the movie) and some notes on the violin there are some beautiful moments captured here with reverence like the landscape of his living that hides the real horror haunting beneath. From it's New York birth beginnings to his kidnapping in Washington that took him to the cotton fields and plantations of Louisiana, this is a real account of what America was like when these States really weren't United and there was no American dream. From whippings to beatings, this is the dark side of humanity that needs more light shed on it so we can see just how bad it is and see that discrimination-in even the smallest ways-is wrong in these modern days where racism is still alive but in a more casually, caustic cruel way that is obnoxiously overlooked.
If you think this movie is "great" then you should really learn from Solomon Northups words. Way back in 1853-truly a different time-this book sold 30,000 copies and was considered a bestseller. Now you can expect it to be read into the millions like a Hemingway or Harper Lee vintage classic. Believe that this book about freedom from inequality is just as important as the time and tide classic of one of the greatest selling and acclaimed novels of all-time, 'To Kill A Mockingbird'. Reading both to begin this year,( 'Mockingbird' being read after watching the movie and before reading this book), I can tell you that nothing draws you in to every word, proclamation and utterance then Solomon's writing. As raw and real as it gets this unflinching, unforgettable memoir will stay with you like that lump in your throat you haven't been able to get rid of since Brad Pitt's production team brought the story to worldwide viewing in the cinema. One day the film will be in every home either via DVD or regular television scheduling and the book should be too. It's just that necessary an education. These 200 pages are more than just a coffee table read their an inspirational scribe of struggle and survival that will stay with you no matter how quickly you read it like 'The Old Man And The Sea'. Still with this book the coldest shiver will run down your spine as you run down its. After 100 years of fading into obscurity this book now deserves more than just a legendary movie. Its legacy deserves our time. As the adaptation of his story survives, 100 years later Solomon Northup and his message for the people are free again. TIM DAVID HARVEY.