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The Pale Abyssinian: The Life of James Bruce, African Explorer and Adventurer Paperback – 5 Mar 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; New edition edition (5 Mar. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006387403
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006387404
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 511,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

’A wonderful story, splendidly retold’ Anthony Daniels, Sunday Telegraph

’Bruce emerges from this penetrating and original study as one of the toughest, bravest, most effective and learned of British African pioneers’ Robert Carver, Times Literary Supplement

’An excellent account of the man and his travels… James Bruce was a larger-than-life character whose exploits deserved retelling and whose reputation sorely demanded rehabilitation. The Pale Abyssinian does both of them proud’ Michael Thompson-Noel, Financial Times

’The purpose of Bredin’s book is to restore Bruce’s reputation, but he does much more than that. He allows us to glimpse the barbarous splendour of a still-medieval Ethiopia’ Giles Milton, Mail on Sunday

’An interesting story dashingly told’ Philip Hensher, Spectator

From the Back Cover

"An excellent account of the man and his travels… James Bruce was a larger-than-life character whose exploits deserved retelling and whose reputation sorely demanded rehabilitation. 'The Pale Abyssinian' does both of them proud"
MICHAEL THOMPSON-NOEL, 'Financial Times'

"The purpose of Bredin's book is to restore Bruce's reputation, but he does much more than that. He allows us to glimpse the barbarous splendour of a still-medieval Ethiopia… after Bruce's departure the curtains of this forbidden kingdom were once again drawn and it was another century before the great Victorian explorers set off in his wake. When they did so they were carrying Bruce's 'Travels'"
GILES MILTON, 'Mail on Sunday'

"An interesting story dashingly told"
PHILIP HENSHER, 'Spectator'

"Bruce emerges from this penetrating and original study as one of the toughest, bravest, most effective and learned of British African pioneers. He mapped and sounded the Red Sea; he was the first European for more than two centuries to get into, then out of, Abyssinia and live to tell the tale… He also located and mapped the source of the Blue Nile, carried back seeds, plants, birds and animals never before seen, and crossed the Nubian desert"
ROBERT CARVER, 'Times Literary Supplement'

"Bruce died in 1974, falling down a staircase in a rush to accompany a woman to her carriage. It was a sad if appropriately courtly end for the irascible charmer whose story Bredin tells so well"
GILES FODEN, 'Guardian'

"Hugely enjoyable"
TABLET

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By José Saavedra on 3 Jun. 2002
This is the story of James Bruce, an extraordinary Scot (like so many of them!)who in a private capacity and at his own expense set out in the late 18th century to discover the source of the Nile, which had been a quest of rulers and geographers from the earliest times of mankind.
He was following in the steps of a Spanish Jesuit, Pedro Páez, who had been there two centuries earlier. Discoveries not being the primary purpose of Páez's mission, the Jesuits had not given much publicity to the feat (although Bruce knew about it).
The book is a thrilling account of Bruce's travels; of his lengthy stay in Northern Ethiopia, then (as almost always) in the throes of civil war, never knowing whether he'd live to see the next day; and of his return to Europe by the difficult and bandit-infested Nubian desert. Whilst in Ethiopia, among other things he was appointed governor of a border state and later given the command of an Ethiopian cavalry squadron.
Bruce had discovered the source of the Blue Nile, which carries most of the water. The world would have to wait another hundred years for Speke and Burton to discover the source of the White Nile. The two make junction in present day Khartoum.
When Bruce returned to England and Scotland, his accomplishments had been so extraordinary that they were not believed! He was only fully vindicated many years later.
Unless you want to read first-hand the lengthy account of his travels in his book "Travels", this one is highly recommended!
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 April 2001
Amazing adventures of a Scotsman descended from Robert the Bruce in the age of Enlightenment. Describes the academic and erotic exploits of the mid-18th century explorer and adventurer as he undergoes the grueling task of tracing the source of the Nile through danger-fraught Abyssinian territory, and his humiliating reception upon returning to Britain. This book restores his lost reputation and puts his achievements in the spotlight again where they belong.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By maeve on 24 Nov. 2002
"A greater traveller than any of us." That is the tribute paid to James Bruce by David Livingstone who, a hundred years later, followed him to the source of the Blue Nile. Abyssinia, when Bruce went there in 1770, was a place of unimaginable brutality and intrigue, from which no European traveller had returned for 200 years.
Bruce, ostensibly in search of the source of the Nile seems to have had a more secret purpose which Bredin’s strictly scholarly account can only guess at. As a freemason, Bruce’s overriding interest was probably in tracking the whereabouts of the fabulous Ark of the Covenant, which supposedly contained the original stone tablets bearing the Ten Commandments.
This is a tale of battles and intrigue, survival, mystery and romance. Bruce is shipwrecked in the Red Sea, leads a troop of cavalry in a medieval battle, finds the lost Book of Enoch, spends passionate nights with the beautiful Ozoro Esther, the love of his life, and finally tears himself away to return to Europe. All the while he humps along an enormous quadrant and a quantity of other scientific equipment, and records observations of such meticulous accuracy they are useful even today. On the last lap home he once again almost loses his life and all his equipment in the Nubian Desert.
By frequent use of Bruce’s journal and by meticulous following up of all obscurities, Bredin makes this book both enthrallingly immediate and convincingly authoritative. Read it.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Negussie A. Abraha on 4 Aug. 2012
One should be careful not to perpetuate misinformation. "Bruce discovered the Nile." "Bruce found the lost Book of Enoch." "A land from where no traveler returned." Bruce did not discover the Nile, or find the Book of Enoch. The Abyssinians led Bruce to the source of the river. Abyssinians have been traveling between the highlands and Egypt since pre-history, since before the formation of ancient Egypt, all along following the course of the river. The Book of Enoch was never lost. Abyssinians had the book in their archives for millennia, and several others not known to Europeans to exist. Abyssinians may not have known that Europeans believed the Book of Enoch was lost. But that does not mean the book was lost. Only two years or so ago, we learned that one of the Ethiopian monasteries posseses the oldest known [illustrated] Gospel.

It is clear that these misinformed views labor from faulty assumptions about "The Dark Continent". Obviously, they ignore well-known facts. Abyssinians maintained contact with Jerusalem and Constantinople at all times. The New Testament recounts the meeting of the apostle Phillip and the Ethiopian eunich, for instance. Abyssinians were present at the Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon back when the Early Church was struggling to find its footing. And as of the 1500s, Abyssinians had a chapel in the Vatican. Bruce just happened to be a lucky European to learn about these things. There was nothing to discover. And he was not the first European to be shown the source of the Blue Nile. The Portugese had been there 200 years before him. (Christovao DaGama, Vasco's son, is buried in that land.) And I am unaware of any traveler who went to that country and never came out alive. Just another misinformation.
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