Hottentot Venus: A Novel

Front Cover
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2007 M12 18 - 336 pages
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.
 

Contents

Part
1
There was no freak show
3
If my story could begin
13
The next day I left
28
The Caesar farm stood
43
I first heard of the Hottentot
56
I found myself standing
72
Part II
87
So this was the man who
174
Despite all of my husbands promises
184
Part III
197
To Baron Georges Léopold Cuvier
199
The sharp light was almost blinding
219
I could feel the Venuss gaze upon me
230
At first I didnt mind
245
When I returned
266

I created a sensation
89
It was Master Hendrick who found
95
I looked up at the sign
110
A month later Reverend Wedderburn sued
125
When I appeared at the Kings Court
138
My dear Cassandra
156
The trial had made me even more famous
160
As always the white man won
277
I had chosen red glove leather
286
Master Tiedeman made his way across
291
Part IV
305
Epilogue
307
Acknowledgments
319
Copyright

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Page 1 - No retrospect will take us to the true beginning; and whether our prologue be in heaven or on earth, it is but a fraction of that all-presupposing fact with which our story sets out.

About the author (2007)

Barbara Chase-Riboud is a Carl Sandburg Prize-winning poet and the prize-winning author of four acclaimed, widely translated historical novels, the bestselling Sally Hemings, Valide: A Novel of the Harem, Echo of Lions (about the Amistad mutiny), and The President's Daughter. She is a winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize and received a knighthood in arts and letters from the French government in 1996. Chase-Riboud is also a renowned sculptor whose award-winning monuments grace Lower Manhattan. She is a rare living artist honored with a personal exhibition, "The Monument Drawings," in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Born and raised in Philadelphia, of Canadian American descent, she is the recipient of numerous fellowships and honorary degrees. She divides her time among Paris, Rome and the United States.

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