|Publisher||:||Deriva Editorial, S.L 1 April 2001|
|Number of Pages||:||240 Seiten|
|File Size||:||565 KB|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Michael Allin takes us on a Mike Toddian historical joyride, managing to leap gracefully from the time of the pharoahs to Napoleonic Europe (which is the story's focus) and back again. The central episode of this delight ful collage is the odyssey of a single (although for a time there were two) female giraffe calf which began in 1824 when the Viceroy of Egypt sends her as a gift to King Charles of France to divert the French from Egypt's excesses on the side of the Turks against Greece. Zarafa,though she has the title role, does not really appear for fully a third of the book, but her story is obviously the lens through which we are to view the author's canvas. Western Europe has entered the Age of Enlightenment. That means that the powers no longer make war and subjugate lesser beings for the usual reasons (fun and profit) but rather in quest of ideas and learning and other intellectual pursuits.Having ousted (make that beheaded) their king and queen at the end of the eighteenth century in favor of some sort of popular republicanism, by 1810 the fickle French returned to royalism and reinstated the very family that they had targeted in their bloodbath barely two decades earlier. Napoleon passes from military hero to banishment following a poor won-lost record. The French and other Western powers are newly obsessed with Egyptology and everyone has been happily plundering, brutalizing, enslaving and generally exploitingthe Nile Valley and the wonders of grave-robbing. Egypt itself is preoccupied with its own alliance with Turkey in their rape of Greece, although before too long Egypt decides to change sides and turns on the Turks. Enter Zarafa. Michael Allin clearly knows and loves his subject. He has exhaustively researched Zarafa's journey and takes us from her capture in Africa to her arrival in Paris in 1827after having actually trekked the last 500 plus miles from Marseilles. In this pre-photography era, no one has seen her like and crowds mob her along her route. Allin applies his brushstrokes with great affection, irony, enthusiasm and above all considerable wit and amusement. While the reader is inexorably caught up in the historical sweep of the author's scape, Allin makes certain that we do not miss the greed, sadism, incest, waste, class consciousness and raw power struggle that have fueled these events. What better way to underscore the ugliness that has marked man's time on this planet than to contrast the innocence and charm and beauty of this exotic creature. She seemed to bear a message that, while everyone was captivated by the messenger, no one heard. Zarafa is a jewel and is not to be missed.
I was very disappointed in this book. Reviews of the book proclaim it to be a magical retelling of the story of the charming giraffe, Zarafa, and her odyssey from Africa to Paris. Unfortunately, this is not a correct evaluation of the majority of the book. Allin's book focuses very, very heavily on the political intrigues of the politico-warriors who ruled Egypt, France, and Turkey in the early 19th century. In attempting to set the stage for the world history, climate and culture of the time, Allin goes way overboard with the tales of war, slaughter, slaving, court intrigue, deceptions, petty rulers and such other matters. As a result, the story of Zarafa the giraffe is lost amid the pages.It seems that very little of the book is actually devoted to telling the tale of Zarafa, and what there is about her and her journey is swathed in grisly details of warring and giraffe butcher. All this policical-historical clutter prevents the reader from reaching Zarafa except in only the barest sense. The gore of war and descriptions of heinous acts committed by those in power while on the route up to power overwhelmingly distracts from the tale. The somewhat graphic descriptions of animal slaughter at Roman fetes served no purpose. Gross.Allin gets very wound up in the telling of the historical facts. In fact, he is so wound up in it that much of the book reads like a tangle. I had to re-read numerous paragraphs to try to make the transition from the surrounding paragraphs. There was no linear thread to guide the reader. It seemed like he just decided that a certain fact would be good at a particular point and inserted it without regard for the context of the surrounding text. It was convoluted to put it shortly.Zarafa was apparently a beautiful, gentle creature and this could have been a magical tale. Perhaps if Allin had fictionalized the story more and added more likeable humans the story would do credit to Zarafa's legacy. I am still interested in reading the tale of Zarafa's journey -- it didn't really get told in this book.The only part of the book which is outstanding is the design and styling of the book jacket and the binding for the volume. The book jacket is luminous, the end papers a treat. The font follows the mood. But, why the printer chose margins which necessitated numerous hyphenations on each page is a mystery. The excessive occurrence of hyphenated words distracted from the flow of the story.
If you think about history books as beer, then this one is definitely 'Bud Lite'. You're thirsty to read a good book, so you reach for ZARAFA. You chug it down. Hmm. Definitely liquid but not much of a kick. Well, OK, who could resist buying a book about a giraffe ? Not me, who always loved those weird-looking creatures. But I like well-organized books of history too, and I fear that this is not one of them. It's a kind of "cabinet de curiosités" as found in the France of the Enlightenment, but in the early 21st century, I feel we might expect something deeper, something that gave us a story to hold on to. Perhaps, to return to beer, a drink that would quench one's thirst, not only just wet the whistle. Editing is a problem. The same information is repeated in many places, and on p.140-141 even a line is repeated. This reveals a certain hastiness. Michael Allin must be congratulated on a great idea, a nice collection of illustrations, and some pleasant writing. I would certainly try his next book, because I think he has what it takes. ZARAFA, however, does have certain failings. The book jacket promises "a fairy tale for grown-ups", but fairy tales are not usually so diffuse. You can read this book in a few hours, but if you are looking for information about giraffes, about the historical period concerned in Egypt, France or the Mediterranean, don't expect much here.