Modhurima Guha Neogi

Roots: The Saga Of An American Family

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Modhurima Guha Neogi 
Department of History
University of Dhaka


Book: “Roots: The Saga Of An American Family”
Author: Alex Haley
Pages: 844
অনুবাদিত বই ও অনুবাদক: “শেকড়ের সন্ধানে-গীতি সেন” (৩৬৪ পৃষ্ঠা)


The book “Roots: The Saga Of An American Family” is a real document of the brutal lives of African slaves. The author of the book Alex Haley was an American writer. His full name is Alexander Murray Palmer Haley. He was a writer whose works of historical fiction and reportage depicted generations of African American lives. He is widely known for “Roots” and “The Autobiography of Malcalm X”. There is so much information in the book that it would be so long if I could write about this book in details. So I’ll try to highlight the main point of the book.

“Roots: The Saga Of An American Family” is a novel. It was first published in 1976. It tells the story of Kunta Kinte-a young man taken from Gambia when he was seventeen and sold as a slave-and seven generations of his descendants in the United States. Geeti Sen has translated this novel into Bengali as “শেকড়ের সন্ধানে”. The quality of Sens’ translation is quite readable and Sen narrates the story almost like the English one.

The story begins in the village of Juffure in a deep forest in Africa. A 17 years old man called Kunta Kinte from this village was captured by white slave traders while cutting wood in the forest. His parents’ names were Omoro and Binta Kinte. Ignoring Kunta’s screams, he was naked and chained and shipped across the Atlantic to the America. There were many like him on the ship who were naked and chained and were tortured inhumanly on the ship on their way to America. After a nightmarish journey across the Atlantic on board the British slave ship was landed. Kunta was landed in Annapolis in the British colony of Maryland. Kunta was then sold to a county in Virginia and renamed ‘Toby’. But Kunta couldn’t accept his slavery in anyway due to the nature of his Mandinka (মানডিনকা) nation.

However, he tried to run away four times. When he was captured for the last time, slave hunters cut off part of his right foot to cripple him. He was taken as a prisoner in an unknown country. His life begins again in a completely new environment. At one point, he married to one of his master’s slaves named Bell and began family life. But Kunta was very self respecting. He never forgot his life in Africa, his parents and his loveable Juffure village. So he started a tradition. As soon as a new child was born in his family, he was told about their ancestors in Africa, the African language, the lifestyle in Africa and this tradition continues for generations. Due to the cruelty of slavery, the family members of Kunta kinte were sold separately, but the practise of telling the story of their ancestors continued.

Towards the end of reading the novel, I was very much shocked to learn that Alex Haley, the author of the book, was the son of Bertha George, the successor of Kunta Kinte of the village of Juffure in Africa. As a child, according to family tradition, he was also told the story of his ancestors by his family members and from that he became interested in finding his roots. The black people of the United States are of African descent. They were uprooted from there and sold as slaves in different countries of America. The cruel, real and tragic story of African slaves is told very subtly in this novel.

I cherish how it breathe life into history. The characters are genuine and I can sympathize with their circumstances specially Kunta Kinte’s. Despite so much persecution, he couldn’t forget his roots and he spread his roots through the next generations. The most brutal form of slavery may be to sell members of the same family in different places, so that no one would even get their family back. It’s too much inhumane!

The epic chronicle of family through many generations of cruelty, hardship and suffering. But it’s much more than that really; it’s the history of slavery in America and not only the history, but the reality also. Every page of this novel tells the story of the inhuman, cruel torture of blacks by whites and slave traders. Not only Kunta’s family, but many more American black families we can find which roots are in Africa. Alex Haley seems to have protested against the injustice done to blacks by writing this novel. I was so much enthralled after reading this book.

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