Sometimes considered the first English novel, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is 298 years old today.
One of the first novels ever written, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), the classic adventure story of a man marooned on an island for nearly 30 years, is part of our culture.
Booklist Summary: The story begins with the universal quest: the young man in Britain, torn between his safe home and his hunger for adventure, breaks away from his loving father and sails away into the unknown. After a series of harrowing escapes, he’s shipwrecked on a desert island. His lively first-person account shows how his intelligence and education help him survive for many years, and how he uses technology, including guns and tools salvaged from the ship. He sets up home, reads the Bible, finds a parrot as a pet, and even devises a calendar to keep track of time. Then one day he finds a human footprint: “Was it someone who could save me and take me back to civilization? Or was it a savage who landed here?”
Dafoe wrote Robinson Crusoe when he was nearly 60 years old, and it is widely thought that he drew from the real-life experience of a marooned sailor, Alexander Selkirk who survived four years on a Pacific island off the coast of Chile.
Our copy of the 2001 Penguin Classic Robinson Crusoe edited with an introduction and notes by John Richetti includes a biography of the author whose real life was a bit of an adventure. He travelled widely in England and to Europe as a merchant. Dafoe also served as a secret agent at two different points in his life. He was also a political journalist. At one point he was pilloried and spent a year in prison for writing an ironic satire on High Church extremism.
We also have an illustrated juvenile edition of Robinson Crusoe adapted by Malvina G. Vogel. But remember, Dafoe was a product of his time and the racism that would have gone unnoticed in the past, is a startling to modern readers.