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The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte… (2012)

de Tom Reiss

Altres autors: Christian Rugstad (Traductor)

Altres autors: Mira la secció altres autors.

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaConverses / Mencions
1,38311010,311 (4.05)2 / 204
Explores the life and career of Thomas Alexandre Dumas, a man almost unknown today, but whose swashbuckling exploits appear in The three musketeers and whose trials and triumphs inspired The count of Monte Cristo.
  1. 40
    Georges de Alexandre Dumas (Artymedon)
    Artymedon: A novel over race relations by Alexandre Dumas who was inspired by Alex Dumas General of the French Revolution and former slave to create his fictional character Georges as narrated by Tom Reiss.
  2. 20
    The Black Jacobins de C. L. R. James (Artymedon)
    Artymedon: The three revolutions that created our modern world are the American the Haitian and the French Revolution. The story of the Black Count is the point of intersection between the three in that they tried and did for a short time create a society based on the principle of equality for man regardless of race, birth or religion. It is also the key for the lecture of Alexandre Dumas' important works [[The Count of Monte-Cristo]] and [[Georges]], the later treating the question of race. That the real father of Dumas, a general of the French revolution be less known that his illustrious son author of the "Three Musketeers" is explained by how the reaction to the French revolution and the counter coup of the Thermidorians followed by that of the strong man of the sugar lobby, Napoleon, reestablished slavery in the Antilles. It is also the story of how and how it failed to do so in St Domingue, where the Black Count was born a slave, prompting the independence of this nation as black and mulatto only Haiti followed by its economic blocade by the rest of the world. Tom Reiss not only writes wonderfully be he also researched his subject in the Castle of Vincennes France and in the Dumas archives in Villers-Cotteret because this extraordinary Black Count, unlike Edmond Dantes, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, really existed.… (més)
  3. 31
    El Comte de Montecristo de Alexandre Dumas père (marieke54)
  4. 00
    Monsieur de Saint-George: Virtuoso, Swordsman, Revolutionary: A Legendary Life Rediscovered de Alain Guede (goddesspt2)
  5. 01
    Mes mémoires de Alexandre Dumas (LamontCranston)
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biography/history (French revolution). Alexander Dumas the novelist's dad (Alex Dumas) was a legendary general (and man of color) whose life inspired parts of the Count de Monte Cristo. Now there's one more book I need to read. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
Truth is cooler than fiction, a surprisingly large percentage of the time, and a well-written biography can prove more inspirational than any number of superhero stories. This account of the meteoric rise and unfortunate fall of a nearly unknown contemporary of Napoleon's uncovers a fascinating life story that also sheds new light on some of the most famous literature in history. Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, father of novelist Alexandre Dumas (whose The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo would take major plot points from his actual life), began life as the half-black son of a minor French aristocrat in the Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue, had a tremendously successful career in the French military during the tumult of the Revolution, and then had the misfortune of getting on the bad side of his legendary Corsican contemporary. Along the way is a compelling illustration of the power of a true system of equality to overcome injustice and foster talent, as well as the bitterness that ensues when that promise is broken.

It's an interesting perspective on the 19th century struggle between England and France for European hegemony to consider that in some ways, the wrong side won the Napoleonic wars. While Napoleon himself was certainly not the ideal monarch, the ideals of the French Revolution that he promoted (and modified, not always to the better) to this day retain much of their appeal. Liberty, equality, and fraternity - what could be simpler, or more inspirational to the millions confined by the Ancien Régime or the European social order more generally? Since the British won, most history gets refracted through their lens, but at the time, the Revolution possessed an immense political advantage over both England and the forces of reaction more broadly: it spoke to the disadvantaged. Revolutionary France's efforts to overturn centuries of antiquated legal restrictions and simultaneously offer new opportunities to people of talent are still worthy, despite all the best efforts of Edmund Burke and his coterie to condemn them. Had France not been continuously threatened by England and the other European countries arrayed against it in various constellations of coalitions, it's likely that the Revolution's more fanatical and fervid elements would have been tempered by conciliation and deliberation, and that its lapses and reverses would have been softer.

Dumas' personal story reflects and embodies these background ideological currents. He was born during the reign of Louis XV in what's now Haiti to a French father and a slave mother. In contrast to the social ostracism the product of this kind of union might have faced in a British colony (for example, see the chilly reception Sally Hemming's descendants received from the Thomas Jefferson estate), to a remarkable degree Dumas was able to live a conventional life as the young scion of a minor noble. He joined the Army just before the Revolution as an enlisted soldier, rather than as the officer that nobles typically began as, yet immediately began making a name for himself once political upheaval allowed for the rapid promotion that characterized the Republican era. This was helped by the advanced civil rights laws of the new government, which in many respects would not be equaled by other countries until well into the 20th century. Dumas was a well-liked and respected leader, so much so that he was promoted from a private to general-in-chief of an entire army, the first, and to date only, man of color in Europe to do so. Not until Colin Powell in the US would his achievement be matched.

Reiss is good at describing what made him appealing. He was physically imposing, attentive to his men, personally brave, an implacable Republican, yet also charitable towards enemies. During the savage fighting in the Vendée, so memorably dramatized by Victor Hugo in Ninety-Three, Dumas did much to avoid the excessive brutality that characterized many of the other Republican troops. Likewise, in Italy he restrained his soldiers from the looting or wholesale appropriation that did so much to turn initially enthusiastic liberated populations into armed resistance. As Dumas moved from posting to posting - the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Vendée, Northern Italy, and finally to Egypt - he left behind a trail of admirers and friends, with one important exception.

Napoleon does not come off well in the book, in his relationship to his fellow generals, his overall strategic vision, or his personal qualities. This is fair enough, as the man's flaws were certainly readily apparent to his contemporaries - any man whom Beethoven un-dedicates a symphony to probably richly deserves a critical eye. In Reiss' telling, Bonaparte considered Dumas as a rival because of the striking physical contrast between them, Dumas' inconvenient loyalty to the ideals of the Revolution, and his own cynical opportunism and self-aggrandizement. While it's of course difficult to tell what difference it would have made to history if Dumas has done more to counter Bonaparte's maneuvering, there are enough contrasts in their actions in Italy and Egypt to make it clear that in terms of "morality" (always a tricky criterion when it comes to revolutionary generals), Dumas was the superior man. Napoleon's name will remain immortal thanks to his later exploits, but it's difficult to avoid feeling contempt for him, especially in comparison to Dumas' self-sacrifice and refusal to engage in flattery.

And yet his story did not end well. Abandoned in Egypt after Napoleon's sudden return to France, Dumas was forced to hitch a ride home on a merchant vessel. Riddled with leaks, the ship put ashore in an unconquered part of Italy, where Dumas spent the next several years a captive of the anti-French government and a continual victim of poison and plots. This part of his life was most clearly recapitulated in The Count of Monte Cristo, and while his son's dramatization of the captivity in that novel is superior from a literary standpoint, Reiss is still able to convey the ignominy and heartbreak of his isolation. Even worse, when he finally made his way home, Napoleon not only ensured that his family received no support from the government, but also removed to repeal the expansive civil rights protections of the early Revolution and launched an invasion of Haiti to restore slavery there. Dumas even had to beg for an exemption from new laws preventing blacks from living too close to Paris. He died early from complications due to his captivity, leaving his son to attempt to spread the word about him through his novels.

There are many reasons to read history: inspiration, entertainment, education, or the sheer pleasure of history. While The Black Count can read a little too much like a love letter at times, and occasionally fails to provide important context for Dumas' actions (compared to something like Twelve Who Ruled, it has a much more narrow focus on one single person), it's an excellent biography of a shockingly unknown figure whose life illustrates both the amazing potential of the French Revolution as well as its eventual tragedy. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
A remarkable book. I had so little knowledge of how heroes died for true égalité ( )
  wickenden | Mar 8, 2021 |
Fascinating story and an exceptional man, fleshed out here from semi-obscurity, and a vital exploration of a long-buried era in the struggle for civil rights. Reiss employs a nice blend of thorough research, historical context, epistolary narrative, and the fiction and memoirs of Thomas-Alexandre's famous son. I could do with fewer of the military specifics, but the details are key to demonstrating Thomas-Alexandre's character and competence, and in setting up his ultimate downfall (seriously, screw Napoleon). ( )
  CarrieT | Feb 17, 2021 |
Fascinating history of how the son of a wayward French plantation owner and his enslaved Black mistress in Santo Domingo could rise to become a general in the chaotic times of the French Revolution, and then find himself imprisoned and betrayed after the debacle of Napoleon's Egyptian foray. I had not appreciated that Alexandre Dumas the writer was a mulatto who overcame poverty after his family was ostracised due to his heritage. His father the general was a committed republican who seized opportunity during the all too brief period when France abolished slavery and pursued the ideals of equality. Alas, he suffered a sorry fate that epitomises how that horrible little tyrant Napoleon crushed the values of the republic and brutally reinstated racial discrimination (which the establishment to this day still struggles to acknowledge). The book itself is perhaps a bit too in love with its subject though (and the author is quite self-regarding) and could have done with more context. Reminded me that I have to read The Black Jacobins someday. ( )
  cabron55 | Feb 2, 2021 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Tom Reissautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Christian RugstadTraductorautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Michael, PaulNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Weber, SamAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
White, EricDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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It was nearly midnight on the night of February 26, 1806, and Alexandre Dumas, the future author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, was asleep at his uncle's house. He was not yet four years old.
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Explores the life and career of Thomas Alexandre Dumas, a man almost unknown today, but whose swashbuckling exploits appear in The three musketeers and whose trials and triumphs inspired The count of Monte Cristo.

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