Soviet and Russian Studies and History
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In this disappointing biography, Russian scholar and journalist Barnes claims to seek the truth behind the story of Alexander Pushkin's black great-grandfather, Abram Petrovich Gannibal (1696–1781), who was born a slave, raised as a Russian prince and employed by Peter the Great as a military engineer, diplomat and spy. Pushkin's account of his elusive ancestor mutated into an unfinished novel, The Negro of Peter the Great. Traveling to the Logone Delta in Chad, Barnes impressively sleuths Gannibal's likely origins. He entertains with his description of 18th-century Constantinople, where the boy Gannibal was taken as a slave to work as a page in the sultan's harem. But the author becomes pedantic when weighing the evidence for Gannibal's removal by Russian ambassadors, supplying far too much information on Russian foreign emissaries and court politics. Indeed, throughout the biography we periodically lose sight of Gannibal altogether. Despite meticulously tracing his subject's career (even visiting a ruin of one of Gannibal's fortifications), evoking the racism of the Enlightenment and detailing the strife of Gannibal's first, singularly unsuccessful marriage, this biography lacks a historical purpose or thesis, hovering tentatively around a cluster of facts. 16 pages of b&w photos. (June 6)
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The onetime child slave, known in the Russian Empire as Abram Petrovich Gannibal, was an elusive but fascinating character who would count the great poet Pushkin as one of his descendants. Gannibal's early life is shrouded in mystery; Barnes, a journalist and Russian specialist, has done an admirable job of gleaning fact from myth as he traces the strange odyssey of this man who gained celebrity and power across eighteenth-century Europe. Supposedly a native of Abyssinia, Gannibal was rescued from slavery in Istanbul. He became a favorite and eventually adopted son of Czar Peter the Great. He gained fame across the continent as a soldier, diplomat, and the "first black intellectual." As viewed by Barnes, Gannibal was neither a particularly admirable or even likable person, but he certainly lived an interesting life. What makes this saga especially compelling is Barnes' effort to peel back the successive layers of mystery and outright fiction that have surrounded Gannibal's life. This work is an engrossing combination of biography and investigative journalism. Jay Freeman
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Book Description Ecco, 2006. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 1st ptg. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0066212650
Book Description Ecco, 2006. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0066212650
Book Description Ecco, 2006. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110066212650
Book Description Ecco. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0066212650 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW6.1027386