Octavian Nothing is an African American youth whose circumstances, as the first volume begins, could scarcely be more unusual.
He has fallen in with a peculiar group of Boston scientist-philosophers known as the Novanglian College of Lucidity. The Novanglians "devoted themselves to divining the secrets of the universe," as the young man writes in the journal that forms much of Anderson's novel. One of the secrets they're trying to divine -- by experimenting on Octavian -- is "whether the capacities of the African are equal to those of the European." To this end, they bestow upon him an elite education in the arts, sciences and classical languages.
Which would be paradise, except that his scholarly benefactors have neglected to mention that they own him.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Dept. of Attention Must Be Paid #2
A profile of young adult author M.T. Anderson. Got to read Octavian Nothing. (Washington Post)