Stanley: The Impossible Life Of Africas Greatest Explorer Hardcover – Mar 27 2007
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"By uncovering the truth behind the myth, Jeal paints a sympathetic portrait of the ultimate self-made man."-Rebecca A. Clay, Wilson Quarterly -- Rebecca A. Clay "Wilson Quarterly" (11/01/2008)
About the Author
Tim Jeal is an acclaimed novelist and biographer, whose Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer was published by Faber in 2007 and was a BBC Radio Four 'Book of the Week'. Stanley was named Sunday Times Biography of the Year, and, in the US, won the National Book Critics' Circle Award in Biography for 2007. Tim's memoir Swimming with my Father was published by Faber in 2004 and was also a BBC Radio Four 'Book of the Week' and was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley Prize for autobiography. In September 2011 Faber will publish Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure, which, thanks to much original research, will shed fascinating new light on the 'Search for the Nile' and its colonial consequences. In 1973 Tim Jeal's Livingstone (1973) was selected as a 'Notable Book of the Year' by the New York Times Book Review and one of the 'Best and Brightest of the Year' by the Washington Post Book World. Livingstone formed the basis for a BBC TV documentary and a film for the Discovery Channel. It has never been out of print. Nor has Tim Jeal's Baden-Powell (1989), which was a 'Notable Book of the Year', and was chosen by Channel 4 for its 'Secret Lives' strand. In 1975 Tim was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize.
Top Customer Reviews
Author Tim Jeal has done a great justice to Stanley, who make no mistake, loved Africa and Africans.
Everybody remembers Dr. Livingstone, lost in the heart of Africa, but found by Stanley, an ambitious journalist for the New York Herald. Livingstone, the great hero of east Africa, was an utter failure as an explorer, and a failure as a missionary. His discovery made headlines around the world. But Livingstone chose to not return to England, where the truth would have been learned and died thirteen months later, a saint to his family and his nation.
Stanley's two other expeditions are largely forgotten, but the Trans-Africa Journey and the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition were far greater achievements. What Stanley did was almost impossible to believe: he traveled, for the first time, from one side of Africa to the other. And then back. The continent was "opened up" by him and his African men. And Stanley, in order to boast in his dispatches of how important his Trans-Africa Expedition was, lied about the number of members. He actually had far less men, which makes his accomplishments even more astounding. The white English officers on the Emin Pasha Relief were for the most part wretched leaders who had no respect for their porters and bearers. After massive hardships, they made it back to "civilization", their health ruined, their crimes buried. Half the Africans died en route.Read more ›
Of course, most of you cannot realize how high praise this is, but that's okay. Some of you will identify 😀
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Stanley was born John Rowlands in Wales in 1841, and was abandoned by his promiscuous teenaged mother; his father is not known. He had a workhouse upbringing, changing his name after shipping to New Orleans. He served in the Confederate and Union armies, and became a reporter, successfully selling an editor on his project of finding Livingston who had left to find the source of the Nile in 1868. He had a subsequent expedition across the continent and down the Congo River, and then one reversing this route. The obstacles of the journeys were appalling; Jeal's descriptions of dangerous animals, starvation, infections, and threats from natives make for riveting but uncomfortable reading. Stanley was glad to be on an expedition, but described himself as having "a careless indifference as to what Fate may have in store for me." Jeal writes, "This fatalism - and the sense that his deprived childhood had left him with precious little to lose - helped him endure misfortune, since it could never surprise him as it did more fortunate men." Stanley admired and respected the African natives, but especially on his final expedition, his officers could treat them with disdain or horrific abuse.
Such events blackened Stanley's reputation, although they were largely beyond his control and completely beyond his own moral uprightness. His reputation has suffered the most by his agreement to work in the Congo for the duplicitous King Leopold of Belgium. Leopold fooled Stanley and most European leaders into thinking that he was taking over parts of Africa merely to eliminate slavery and promote trade, but unleashed astonishingly atrocious horrors of occupation upon the area. Jeal shows that Stanley did not steal land from the chiefs in the Congo, as critics have accused him, and he would not press land deals on behalf of Leopold if they were unfair to the natives. Stanley believed in colonialism, but he had no interest in making his fortune in Africa; his personal fortune was, as he had always planned, from his post-expedition books, which were bestsellers. He was a shrewd judge of the characters of African natives, but he was a naïf in dealing with others; his romantic life consisted of an earnest searching for a partner, repeated jiltings, and finally a late marriage with a politically-striving woman who forced him to into Parliament (he hated it) and kept him from returning to Africa. His faults and misfortunes were many, but he had repeated success in overcoming them, only to fall into a postmortem reputation as a brute and a racist. Jeal's illuminating book is a corrective, and tells an engaging, exciting story of a key figure in the opening of Africa.