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ancient history

Cleopatra: A Life

Stacy Schiff.
Publisher Little Brown/QPB  
Format paperback, QPB
Product Dimensions 8.25 x 5.5 x 1 inches
ISBN 9781611297195
Pages/Publication Date 369/2010
Daedalus Item Code 40493
This item is not available.
(One of the New York Times Ten Best Books of 2010) Here the Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer of Véra Nabokov and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry boldly gives us Cleopatra not as legend but rather as the supremely talented and dynamic woman she was. Shakespeare and Shaw put words in her mouth; Michelangelo, Tiepolo, and Elizabeth Taylor put a face to her name, and along the way Cleopatra's supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost. Stacy Schiff returns to the classical sources and interprets them with an understanding of their biases, separating fact from propaganda to present a luminous, profoundly original reconstruction of a dazzling life.

"[Stacy Schiff's] book is a masterpiece of lightly-worn learning and scintillating deduction. It's thrillingly, brazenly written. It rises in a single movement above the whole sea of Cleopatra biographies and gives us in some ways an entirely new woman for a new century.... Reading her for page after enormously fun page, we're ashamed at how often we've been lectured into forgetting that history is first and always a story of people. This is a book full of living, savage, thriving, laughing, dying people."—Open Letters Monthly

"Captivating.... Ms. Schiff strips away the accretions of myth that have built up around the Egyptian queen and plucks off the imaginative embroiderings of Shakespeare, Shaw and Elizabeth Taylor. In doing so, she gives us a cinematic portrait of a historical figure far more complex and compelling than any fictional creation, and a wide, panning, panoramic picture of her world.... Writing with verve and style and wit, Ms. Schiff recreates Cleopatra's lavish courting of Antony (including one dinner in which there was a knee-deep expanse of roses and some of the attendees received not gift baskets but furniture and horses decked out in silver-plated trappings) and his even more extravagant offerings to her (including the library of Pergamum and a host of territories which gave her dominion over Cyprus, portions of Crete and all but two cities of the thriving Phoenician coast). For that matter, Ms. Schiff even manages to make us see afresh famous scenes like Antony's painful death after his defeat at the hands of Octavian, and Cleopatra's subsequent suicide."—NYTimes

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