It is Paris, 1815. An extraordinarily shaped South African girl known as the Hottentot Venus, dressed only in feathers and beads, swings from a crystal chandelier in the duchess of Berry’s ballroom. Below her, the audience shouts insults and pornographic obscenities. Among these spectators is Napoleon’s physician and the most famous naturalist in Europe, the Baron George Cuvier, whose encounter with her will inspire a theory of race that will change European science forever.
Evoking the grand tradition of such “monster” tales as Frankenstein and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Barbara Chase Riboud, prize-winning author of the classic Sally Hemings , again gives voice to an “invisible” of history. In this powerful saga, Sarah Baartman, for more than 200 years known only as the mysterious lady in the glass cage, comes vividly and unforgettably to life.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of History eBook: Hottentot Venus|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group|
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|Parent title||Hottentot Venus|
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The natural history of living beings poses, above all, complications the mind has no conjectures on which to base a previous state. Nothing explains the origin and the genesis, which is ever a mystery by which all human efforts have not achieved anything plausible. -Baron Georges Leopold Cuvier, Letter to the Emperor Napoleon on the progress of science since 1789
Great Eland, the English month of January, 1816. There was no freak show today because it was New Year's Day, and it was my birthday. It was the coldest Paris winter anyone could remember and the city was blanketed in snow, ice creaked on the Seine and hundreds of skaters glided over its surface. The bells of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame tolled to celebrate King Louis's gift of three hundred and twenty francs to feed the freezing and starving poor of the city. I imagined my friends, other freaks of nature, other things-that-should-never-have-been-born, gathering on the cobblestone courtyard of 188 rue St. Honore getting ready to make their way to Warren's Nest Tavern to celebrate the day. Miss Ridsdal, thirty inches tall and thirty-five years old, Miss Harvey with her perfectly white knee-length silken hair and pink eyes, Mr. Lambert, a twelve-foot giant, Count Boruweaski, a two-foot midget, and Miss Duclos, the lovely bearded lady.
As for myself, I was much too sick to join them. My master, Sieur Reaux, had left early to celebrate with the other circus managers at a large dinner, but I was too ill and too ill used even to care. I burned with fever and my chest seemed clogged with a mysterious mass that all the coughing in the world could not relieve. I ha...