The Black Corsair
|Original title||Il corsaro nero|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
The Black Corsair is an 1898 adventure novel written by Italian novelist Emilio Salgari. Set in the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy, the novel narrates the exploits of Emilio Roccanera, Lord of Ventimiglia and his attempts to avenge his brothers, slain by the Duke Van Guld, now Governor of Maracaibo. The Lord of Ventimiglia, known throughout the Spanish Main as the Black Corsair, allies himself with some of the greatest pirates and buccaneers of the era: François L'Ollonais, Michael the Basque and Henry Morgan, vowing never to rest until he attains his vengeance.
Two pirates, Carmaux and Wan Stiller, are rescued by the Thunder, a pirate ship under the command of Emilio of Roccanera, Lord of Valpenta and of Ventimiglia, and feared throughout the Caribbean as the Black Corsair. Once aboard, the two inform the captain that his younger brother the "Red Corsair" has been hanged by Duke van Guld, the Governor of Maracaibo. The Black Corsair decides to sneak into the city to retrieve his brother's body and give him an honourable burial at sea.
Carmaux and Wan Stiller accompany the Corsair to the city, and aided by their friend Moko, manage to steal the body. After a series of adventures the Corsair and his men return to the Thunder with the body. On the night the Corsair buries his brother, he vows to slay Van Guld and all those who bear his name.
En route to Tortuga, the pirates attack and capture a Spanish ship. They find a young noblewoman aboard, Honorata Willerman, the Duchess of Weltrendrem. She is taken captive to Tortuga where she is to await payment of her ransom. Struck by her beauty and spirit, the Corsair frees her and the two quickly fall in love.
The hunt for Governor Van Guld resumes and the Black Corsair and L'Ollonais lead an attack on Maracaibo. Unfortunately the governor escapes and the Black Corsair and his companions must track him through the jungles of Venezuela. There they encounter savage beasts, quick sand, and cannibals. Van Guld proves elusive and to capture him the pirates must make an assault on the city of Gibraltar, Venezuela.
The quest for vengeance stretches over the course of several novels: The Queen of the Caribbean (La regina dei Caraibi), Yolanda, The Black Corsair's Daughter (Jolanda, la figlia del Corsaro Nero), and The Son of the Red Corsair (Il figlio del corsaro rosso).
There have been several film versions of the novel. In the 1920s, director Vitale Di Stefano first brought the Corsair trilogy to the screen with a series of silent films. In 1937, Amleto Palermi directed the first remake of Il corsaro nero and Italian fencing champion Ciro Verratti was cast to play the Black Corsair. In 1944, Mexican director Chano Urueta filmed El corsario negro, the first Spanish language adaptation. In 1976, Kabir Bedi and Carole Andre were reunited to portray The Black Corsair and Honorata in another Sergio Sollima adaptation of a Salgari classic, The Black Corsair. Urueta's and Sollima's films are available on DVD. In 1999 Mondo TV (Italy) created a 26-episode animated TV series "The Black Corsair".
In the late 19th century Emilio Salgari was Italy's foremost writer of adventure novels. He was knighted in 1897 in recognition for his work. The Black Corsair, the Chevalier Emilio, is named after himself. He also pays tribute to the House of Savoy, Italy's Royal family to show his gratitude. Yolanda, the Black Corsair's daughter is named after Princess Yolanda of Savoy.
Salgari used A History of The Buccaneers of America by Alexandre Exquemelin as one of his main references. Van Guld, the Governor of Maracaibo, is based on the real life Governor of Mérida. The attacks on Maracaibo and Gibraltar are based on true events as are the biographies of the pirates that appear in the novel.
Il Corsaro Nero sold 80,000 copies in its first printing, a record in Italy at the time.
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- Read a short Biography on The Black Corsair.
- Tragic Heroes: A Case for The Black Corsair.
- Read the first three chapters in English.
- Read the original text (in Italian).*
- Read a review at Pirates and Privateers.
- Read a review at Vintage Pop Fictions.
- Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.
- Read Decadence for Kids: Il Corsaro Nero in Context by Ann Lawson Lucas