Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Black Count

My audiobook-of-choice for my daily commute these days is The Black Count, the biography of the father of Alexandre Dumas. This book will be of particular interest to fans of Dumas the writer. It not only gives the background of the Dumas family, it also shows quite clearly how the father (who died when the son was very young) inspired many of the son’s classic works. This book makes clear how Dumas took many of the legends and anecdotes about his father and reworked them into his historical novels, including ‘Georges’, an 1843 fiction work in which the protagonist is a man of mixed race, ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ and ‘The Three Musketeers’.

Someone who can inspire the stories and characters in The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers clearly must have had an eventful life, and General Alex Dumas did. He lived through (survived) very turbulent times. The Black Count is well-researched, and very successfully evokes 18th century France.

The default mode in my brain when it comes to French history seems to be one of disappointment. A great country, their continuation of the American Revolution morphed into a bloodbath, and the great hero of the age, Napoleon Bonaparte, became an egotistical dictator. But this book also reveals France’s role of being at the forefront of promoting progressive attitudes towards race, at least immediately following the Revolution. All in all, The Black Count is a fascinating read.

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