The Abyssinian

Jean-Christophe Rufin

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10 November 2000
432 pages

Jean-Christophe Rufin yokes the elegant language of the French enlightenment with the storytelling of Alexandre Dumas to create a splendid parable of liberty, religious fanaticism and the possibility of happiness.

'Set in 1700, towards the end of the reign of Louis XIV, it follows the fortunes of a brave apothecary, a talented but unofficial doctor, who is talked into leading an embassy from Cairo to Ethiopia . . . Rufin maintains a perfect balance between impatient detachment and compassionate curiosity. The Abyssinian, like Thackeray's Vanity Fair, carries the weight of history with good-humoured finesse' The Times

‘An ambitious first novel, dashing, abundant and, when necessary, vividly theatrical’ Times Literary Supplement

‘[A] remarkably assured first novel . . . Rufin’s writing is elegantly readable’ Independent

‘It is old-fashioned enough to be delightful, and new enough to be moving’ Glasgow Herald

‘Rufin offers the reader at least three different novels in the space of a single book: a tale of diplomatic intrigue, a voyage of discovery to a virtually unknown civilisation, and a chronicle of the adventures and loves of his irrepressible hero’ Daily Telegraph