Buchnummer des Verkäufers
In 1699, Louis XIV of France sent an embassy to the most mysterious of oriental sovereigns, the Negus, or King, of Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia).Louis' hope was to lure that country into the political and religious orbit of France. Jean-Baptiste Poncet, young apothecary/physician to the pashas of Cairo, is the hero of this romantic epic embroidering upon the known details of that long-forgotten embassy. Selected by the French consul to lead the mission. Poncet travels through the deserts of Egypt and the mountains of Abyssinia to the court of the Negus, thence to Versailles and back again. Along the way he falls madly in love with the consul's daughter, treats the Negus for a mysterious skin ailment, and gains a disastrous audience with the king of France.
Review: At the heart of Jean-Christophe Rufin's marvelous first novel is a nugget of truth: in the year 1699, Louis XIV of France sent an embassy to the King of Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia). From this small fact Rufin has spun a mesmerizing tale of adventure, romance, and political intrigue that is one part Alexandre Dumas and two parts Rafael Sabatini, with just a dash of Brian Moore thrown in for good measure.
The hero of this epic tale is Jean-Baptiste Poncet, a young French doctor who has been practicing medicine without a license in Cairo. Poncet first comes to the notice of the authorities when the French consul in Egypt receives a secret message from a Jesuit priest commanding him in Louis's name to send a diplomatic mission to the king of Abyssinia. Foreigners--especially Christians--have not been welcome in that country since the Jesuits were expelled 50 years before, and a regular delegation would almost certainly be killed. When the consul, Monsieur de Maillet, hears that the Abyssinian monarch requires a doctor, however, he devises a plan to send Poncet both to cure and to convince the king to send a return delegation to Versailles.
Poncet has his own reasons for agreeing to go on this perilous mission: he has fallen in love with de Maillet's beautiful daughter, Alix. Unfortunately, he knows that "within the Frankish colony in Cairo, he was nothing more--whatever pains he took to hide his ancestry--than the son of a servant girl and an unknown man." The only hope he has of gaining the consul's blessing is to win Louis XIV's favor; bringing an Abyssinian embassy to Versailles might just do the trick. Poncet starts out for self-serving reasons; upon meeting King Negus, however, he comes to admire him, and soon finds himself jeopardizing his own future in order to thwart the political intrigues of his countrymen.
Rufin tells this larger-than-life tale with wit, sophistication, and a wholehearted enjoyment that shines through every sentence of this beautifully translated novel. Jean-Baptiste Poncet, a young man who "had been offered every opportunity for sadness and despair, yet ... had decided long ago that he would never succumb to such feelings," is a hero with heart, intelligence, and charm, and the book's many secondary characters are equally well developed. All in all, The Abyssinian marks a delightful literary debut. --Alix Wilber
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