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Brazza, a Life for Africa [Paperback]

Maria Petringa
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

18 Jan 2006
In 1905, scandalous reports of torture in France's overseas colonies rocked Paris. Brazzà was sent to investigate. Born an Italian nobleman, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazzà had spent twenty years exploring equatorial Africa as a French naval officer. His attempts to reconcile African development and prosperity with French colonial policy had already cost him his career. Now his commitment to expose colonial abuses would cost him his life. Already divided by the anti-Semitic currents of the Dreyfus Affair, France was about to discover the reality of its administration in central Africa. The European economy's greed for rubber had created a hidden world of slave labor and violence, with scenes that inspired the "horror" of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Brazzà, A Life for Africa is the first English-language biography of a man who lived an extraordinary life. Pierre Savorgnan de Brazzà was a nobleman, a naval cadet, an explorer, a glamorous idol to 19th-century Parisians, a colonial governor, and a human rights investigator, as well as a husband, father, and friend. By turns thrilling, romantic, and tragic, Brazzà's story blends exotic adventures with all-too-human emotions and experiences.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse (18 Jan 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1425911986
  • ISBN-13: 978-1425911980
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 15.2 x 22.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,451,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

MARIA PETRINGA was born in Boston, USA, and obtained her B.A. with honors in Romance Languages and Literatures from Harvard University. Working as a teacher and translator, she lived in France, Italy, Germany, and Congo-Brazzaville before settling in Paris. There she completed an M.A. with highest honors (Maitrise mention tres bien) in Comparative Literature from the Sorbonne Nouvelle.

Since the mid-1990s she has worked exclusively as a professional writer and journalist, specializing in art and history. She has published in English and French.

From 1997 to 2006, she studied and traveled extensively in the Middle East, including Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Cyprus, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. She has a basic knowledge of both the Arabic and Hebrew languages. Since 1999 she has contributed reviews of Islamic Art exhibits in the West to the Saudi newspaper ARAB NEWS, the Middle East's leading English daily. A selection of these articles may be consulted by entering the searchword "Petringa" at

BRAZZA, A LIFE FOR AFRICA, her first book, combines many of her interests, including the French and Italian languages, the diversity of African cultures, Westerners' adaptation to traditional societies, human rights issues, and conservation and technology in developing countries.

Product Description

About the Author

Born in Boston, a graduate of Harvard and the Sorbonne Nouvelle, Maria Petringa has spent her adult life in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. She has worked as a teacher and translator, and is now a non-fiction writer and art critic. She lives in Paris.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His Place in History 10 Aug 2009
Maria Petringa's excellent biography of the French explorer and colonialist Pierre Brazza at last enables him to take his proper place in Anglo-Saxon historical studies. Italian by birth, Brazza became France's most celebrated colonialist. He was also its most progressive and politically imaginative. Petringa gives us a well researched and exciting account of Brazza's efforts at exploration and government in West Africa. Like Roger Casement, Brazza became a major critic of aggressive commercial abuses in Africa. As a result, he was sacked and humiliated by the French Government. Questions of corporate responsibility remain at the top of today's political agenda. Petringa's important book gives us a new understanding of Brazza's insights. It could not come at a better time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nobility of spirit and degradation of colonialism 28 Mar 2006
By M. Luria - Published on
This biography of Pierre de Brazza gives us an inspiring portrait of a very good man in a very bad time, the age of European colonialism in Africa. Brazza, who explored and administered French Equatorial Africa at the end of the 19th century, tried desperately to civilize the colonialists' treatment of the African natives. He ultimately failed, though his ideals and efforts are inspiring. His failure shows, however, that the "heart of darkness" was not an aberration, that colonial exploitation of Africa was incurably corrupt and cruel, for the French as for the Belgians. Reading this book dispels any lingering sentimentality for this enterprise, provides the reader with a fascinating portrait of an important though (at least in the English-speaking world) largely forgotten man,

and gives us a devastating picture of nineteenth-century imperialism. "Brazza, A Life for Africa" is hard to put down.
5.0 out of 5 stars At Last - an excellent biography of Brazza in English 24 May 2009
By Hugo Slim - Published on
Pierre Brazza is an extremely important figure in the history of the encounter between Europe and Africa. His non-violent approach to colonialism and his belief in fair and mutual trade between Europeans and Africans was exceptional among his more rapacious and self-serving peers in the late 19th century. Maria Petringa's excellent biography Brazza is a superb account of Brazza's consistent challenge to the kind of exploitative colonialism that fast came to dominate Afro-European relations. Petringa tells the exciting story of Brazza's life with great pace and insight. She reveals his particular vision from his letters, diaries and lectures. She follows him compassionately as explorer, national celebrity, colonial administrator and human rights investigator. Finally, she accompanies him disgraced, discarded and dying in Algiers. His final report on atrocities in Congo has been suppressed and France has chosen to pursue the violent and exploitative approach to Empire. Maria Petringa has done a great service by writing such an engaging and important account of Brazza's life in English. I hope it will encourage the English speaking world to give Brazza his rightful place in history and to recover some of his ideas. Like Roger Casement - also largely forgotten until recently - Brazza saw the risks of enormous European injustice in Africa when others saw only profit.
4.0 out of 5 stars Brazza, A Life for Africa 31 Oct 2006
By Patricia R. Clark - Published on
I have lived and traveled in Africa a great deal. I recently acquired a copy of Maria Petringa's book

on Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza and thoroughly enjoyed it. What a fascinating man. This book would make a great movie and I would hope somebody in the industry would pick it up and do just that. It is a good book and I highly recommend reading it. Pat Clark
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging writing provides great adventure 27 Oct 2006
By Carl S. Cockburn - Published on
I took the book along on a short rest and relaxation trip, which was all the more enjoyable because of the time I spent on the Brazza adventure. I knew that the story of Brazza's Central Africa explorations would be interesting but Maria Petringa's excellent account of the man and his mission was engaging and a delightful reading experience.
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventurer's Tale a Good Read 25 Sep 2006
By P. J. Seidel - Published on
As I enjoy reading historic accounts of charismatic figures who blaze trails, both geographically and politically, I found Maria Petringa's book highly informative and very entertaining. It is also relevant to the volatility of today's geopolitical climate.
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