Thursday, August 22, 2013
The Black Count
Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
By the author of the internationally bestselling biography The Orientalist, The Black Count brings to life one of history’s great forgotten heroes: a man almost unknown today yet with a personal story that is strikingly familiar. His swashbuckling exploits appear in The Three Musketeers, and his triumphs and ultimate tragic fate inspired The Count of Monte Cristo . His name is Alex Dumas. Father of the novelist Alexandre Dumas, Alex has become, through his son's books, the model for a captivating modern protagonist: the wronged man in search of justice.
Born to a black slave mother and a fugitive white French nobleman in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but then made his way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy.
He was only 32 when he was given command of 53,000 men, the reward for series of triumphs that many regarded as impossible, and then topped his previous feats by leading a raid up a frozen cliff face that secured the Alps for France. It was after his subsequent heroic service as Napoleon’s cavalry commander that Dumas was captured and cast into a dungeon–and a harrowing ordeal commenced that inspired one of the world’s classic works of fiction.
The Black Count is simultaneously a riveting adventure story, a lushly textured evocation of 18th-century France, and a window into the modern world’s first multi-racial society. But it is also a heartbreaking story of the enduring bonds of love between a father and son. Drawing on hitherto unknown documents, letters, battlefield reports and Dumas' handwritten prison diary, The Black Count is a groundbreaking masterpiece of narrative nonfiction.
-- from the publisher
My "take" - This is an excellent telling of the history of Alex Dumas, A general in the French Revolution who was the inspiration for his son's (Alexandre) novel "The Count of Monte Cristo" as well as the Musketeer novels, I found out that there was much I did not know about the French Revolution and the position of Black men in France which did not allow slavery until Bonaparte took power. I was also unaware that slavery was not a racial thing until it was Americanized but slaves could be of any race. General Dumas was of mixed Black and white parentage and yet was able to rise to a Generalship. Not only was the book well written it kept my interest all the way through. Reiss has done a masterful job of reconstructing a life of a person who died 200 years before he began writing. I have to thank Don M for recommending it to me. (And it was kind of neat to find out that it had won the Pulitzer Prize.