By Anna Rao
The literature on Napoleon runs into thousands. In biographies recent ones are by Michael Broers, Phillip Dwyer and Robert Asprey. Despite all these being in 2 volumes they are still short compared to Patrice Gueniffey’s monumental work ‘ Bonaparte ‘of which the first volume itself is a 1000 pages !
Andrew Robert’s standard work which replaces the one by Frank Mclynn is around the same size but complete in a single volume. Perhaps because he himself is French, Gueniffey I feel manages to capture the inner feelings of his subject better. This biography is more lucid in explaining the Corsican historical milieu; family background, early life and the fiasco of the Egyptian interlude from the standpoint of Bonaparte himself. Rather than being the usual storyline buttressed by a mass of factual descriptions, it is more a study of the subject’s reactions to the momentous events he was affected by and shaped. It ends at the beginning of the consulate period.
As throughout the book is tightly focused on Napoleon it demands that the reader have sufficient prior knowledge of French history during this time. I was lucky to get a new copy from Amazon at around Rs.1250; the latest price seems a bit high at 4000+ Rupees! One hopes the next volume would be available soon.