A Saga of Revolution
Book Review of Reiss' "The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo"
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/01/2014
Year Published: 2014
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20353
A review of Tom Reiss' biography of Alexandre Dumas, a largely underemphasized figure in the French Revolution and the slave trade during the 18th century.
"Thomas-Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie, 14, stepped onto the dock in Le Havre on August 30, 1776. He was listed in the ship's manifest as 'the slave Alexandre,' belonging to a 'Lieutenant Jacques-Louis Roussel.' This was a necessary ruse, because a young mulatto could not simply walk off a boat into France by himself. Antoine had bought back his son's freedom from Captain Langlois and paid for his safe passage to Normandy in the company of an 'owner.'"
So began the journey of this 14-year-old, who would later become General Alex Dumas due to the political, social, and economic upheaval known as the French Revolution. He would also become immortal in fiction in The Count of Monte Cristo, as the real-life prototype for the hero of the novel written by his son, the famous novelist Alexandre Dumas.
Tom Reiss chronicles the life of General Dumas, taking us on a trip through the 18th century; capturing life in Saint Domingue (now Haiti) and France under the Capetian monarchy; analyzing the explosive contradiction of the French monarchy's support of an anti-monarchical rebellion by 13 British colonies in the New World; and following our protagonist as he is catapulted to great heights by the French maelstrom and then brought to new lows by the subsequent Napoleonic political counter-revolution.