The First Century After Beatrice: A Novel by Amin Maalouf Hardcover – Jun 1995
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From Publishers Weekly
One wouldn't normally choose an erudite, publicity-shy Parisian entomologist to narrate a story about gender and population politics set in the first decades of the 21st century. But that's what the Lebanese-born Maalouf does in this elegant novel, in which a popular drug that ensures women will give birth only to boys has sharply reduced the world's female population and cut fertility rates. The industrialized nations, seeking to curb Third World population growth, have encouraged the drug's use in poorer countries, which collapse economically. Men everywhere, frustrated sexually and deprived of normal family life, turn to violence and delinquency. An American televangelist launches a massive airlift of impoverished newborn girls from Brazil, Egypt and the Philippines, transporting them to Europe and the U.S., where ethnic protest riots subsequently erupt. Because of his love for crusading journalist Clarence Nesmiglou, his live-in female companion, the nameless narrator campaigns against the drug. But when their daughter, Beatrice, becomes pregnant at age 25, she wants a boy. Maalouf, who has lived in France since 1976, expertly constructs a dire allegory that is as much about the amorality of science as it is about sexism. His choice of narrator is perfect, for his writing is most eloquent in those passages in which the aging entomologist, accustomed to the study of insect species, expresses his hopes for his own.
Copyright 1995 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
If someone is going to tell a story about the end of the world, we can glean some comfort from the fact that it is told in a voice as refined and delightful as Amin Maalouf's - Independent on Sunday --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
The narrator criticises the people "back then" at the start of the twenty-first century, as the tragedy began to make the news, for their indifference and removal from the subject, but sadly that is the reaction he provoked his this reader with his detatched, news soudbite-esque telling of the tale. ("And then, there was rioting in [insert name of fictional African country here].")
The very best passages in this novel are when the narrator speaks of his companion, Clarence, and his daughter, the eponymous Beatrice, and here the prose is shining with tenderness and love. Towards the end, events begin to threaten his loved ones directly, and the peril begins to feel real, but the danger never truly materialises.
In the end, this comes off more as an intellectual exercise in what-if than a living, breathing fiction.