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The First Century After Beatrice [Hardcover]

Amin Maalouf , Dorothy S. Blair
2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Nov 1993

A French entomologist, attending a symposium in Cairo, finds a cruious kind of bean being on a market stall. It is claimed the beans, derived from the scarab beetle, have magic powers; specifically the power to guarantee the brith of a male infant - and when the entomologist does some research in to the matter, discovering the incidence of female birth has become increasingly rare, he is left in no doubt that the world has entered intoa critical phase of its history.

As this beloved daughter Beatrice approaches maturity, the entomologist and his partner question the validity of gender bias, and attempt to redress the growing imbalance before it reaches irreversible proportions. But in the poverty and famine of the South, where male children can mean the difference between survival and starvation, the popularity of the scarab beans is already taking devastating effect.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Quartet Books (1 Nov 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0704370514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0704370517
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,781,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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.

About the Author

international edition of the leading Beirut daily an-Nahar, and editor in chief of Jeune Afrique. He lives in Paris with his wife and three children. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great...! but Maalouf has written better 23 Aug 2004
I have read a fair few of Maalouf's novels and I have enjoyed every single one of them and have him top of my favourite authors list.
He is a truly gifted author, always writing beautiful and hypnotic tales, mixing fact with fiction. With The First Century After Beatrice, he doesn't let us down on these points. A very scary scenario, based along demographic change - through the simple idea (based in fact) of the affect of certain beans causing more males to be born than females - is skilfully and brilliantly presented to us, through excellently intertwined plots based through the individual protagonists and then at the global level around them.
It sounds... for lack of other words in my vocabulary... a wierd idea to build a novel around, but Maalouf does it incredibly well - grabbing us into the story and gripping us as we read it. I don't believe that any other author could do this to such a subject.
He makes the scenario transpire as incredibly scary and when we think about it, when one looks to the one-child policy in China (and the subsequent increased proportion of male-to-female in the population), he allows and helps us to open our eyes to such policies and such social trends and desires. This skill is something that Maalouf oozes in and demonstrates in all his work.
You may wonder why, after having said such good things about this work, I have only given the novel three stars. I have simply done this because I am judging it by the other novels he has written. Though I enjoyed this greatly, had I not read other books by him previously, I may not have continued to be so eager to buy his next piece. Maybe it is because I was left decidely uncomfortable by the realness of the scenario that unfolds.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By sfmc
This is a beautifully written book, lyrical, perceptive, original, unnervingly insightful, and a page-turner as well. A shy affectionate Egyptian entomologist meets an ambitious beautiful journalist who has a daughter with him. They are devoted to each other, but the journalist's career keeps her traveling around the world while he raises the daughter he always wanted, Beatrice, and the larger plot unfolds - everyone in the world who wants only sons is suddenly able to have their wish, and the resulting imbalance in the gender ratio worldwide has catastrophic cultural, social and political effects, all disturbingly believable.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Scarabs and Sex Ratios 3 May 2009
By Pablo K
An appealing enough conceit, somewhat deflated by a tiresome narrative style and some cack-handed attempts at political metaphor. The basic motif is promising - female birth rates start dropping across 'the South', apparently without cause. Our narrator and his wife, Clarence, get curious and eventually trace the now extensive imbalance in sex ratios to the machinations of an unethical scientist and some misogynistic local mythologies. All this is related in retrospect, after the passing of the biological storm, and is linked by a series of personal scenes with Clarence and Beatrice - their daughter and the symbolic centre-point of the piece.

Peppered with some arresting aphorisms, not all of which are totally original ("...the time-honoured art of great teachers - that of making you feel you have always had in you what they have just that moment taught you"), 'The First Century After Beatrice' ultimately fails to transcend a series of not-so-subtle political messages about liberal guilt, demographic anxieties and the wrong-headedness of the 'North-South divide'. Some of this works, if in a rather trite way, but it also comes across as a little confused.

To make matters worse, the narrative views the fertility crisis from above and from afar, making the speculative trauma all too clinical and abstract. Clarence and Beatrice fail to really offer emotional counter-points to these pseudo-intellectual reflections. Gender dystopia works much more convincingly in the imagined scenarios of Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' or the political militancy of Joanna Russ' 'The Female Man'. Maalouf's speculative fictions eventually show themselves to be rather thin and empty, just as their supposed messages about humanity fail to resonate.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I never reported it because I was away for longtime and only a few weeks ago I noticed that it was missing.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, dreadful, terrible 15 Feb 2008
This is probably one of the worst books I have ever read. Although the themes may sound interesting it is totally boring and dull. Basically it is all about a sad lonely man who somehow manages to find himself a wife and beget a daughter before the whole world turns upside down and hardly any women are born because people have been eating magic beatles. The sad stupid old man and some of his boring friends think that they can save the world by creating a league of intellectuals who moan about things. After a period during the daughter's adolescence which has some pretty incestuous overtones, the girl's mother nearly gets killed by maniacs in a third world country. Some of the other boring characters die, the daughter gets married, has a child of her own and the book ends. Thank God! The only good thing about this book is that it is only 150 pages. Avoid.
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