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The Bravo

2 Ratings: 3.5
A book by James Fenimore Cooper.

The sun had disappeared behind the summits of the Tyrolean Alps and the moon was already risen above the low barrier of the Lido.  Venice before the age of printing. Love and murder in a viciously run, declining Venetian oligarchy.

Tags: Books, Cafe Libri
Author: James Fenimore Cooper
Publisher: BiblioBazaar
1 review about The Bravo

Has God endowed man with two souls? One for public affairs? One for things private?

  • Apr 12, 2010
Imagine Venice around 1445. It calls itself a Republic, Queen of the Adriatic. It is still wealthy, it has lands beyond its marshy border. But it is in decline. It has lost territory to the Turks. Portuguese navigators were circumnavigating Africa to open new markets in India and China. Venice which also named itself for its patron, Saint Mark the Evangelist, had once been a model state, carrying for all its people, rich and poor. But even in its very early days of decline, Venice as a state existed for the rich and was ruled by a Senate, a council of 30 and a council of 3.

Much of James Fenimore Cooper's 1831 novel, THE BRAVO, describes the rottenness of the 15th Century Venetian State. We see its oligarchic leaders conspiring together

-- to keep wealthy Duke Don Camillo Monforte of Sant' Agata from his rightful inheritance and status in Venice;

-- to prevent Don Camillo's marriage to the wealthy, orphaned heiress Violetta Tiepolo;

-- to keep an honorable civil servant Ricardo Frontoni imprisoned just over the Bridge of Sighs for a crime the Senate knows he did not commit;

-- to blackmail Ricardo's son Jacopo Frontoni to pretend to be a private assassin (or "bravo") in order to visit his dying father in prison;

-- to assassinate an ancient fisherman Antonio Vecchio for pleading incessantly and in public that the State release his 14-year old grandson from compelled duty rowing in Venice's war galleys, and on and on.

We see the newest member of the all powerful secret Council of Three slowly placing his public conscience above his private morals in agreeing to evil for reasons of state. We see the lovely Violetta Tiepolo's state-appointed guardian, Senator Alessandro Gradenigo scheme to prevent the arrest of his rotten son Giacomo.

In all this author James Fenimore Cooper, 2/3 through an eight year stay in Europe, is at pains to show his fellow Americans the clay feet of Europeans, even of Englishmen. Most Europeans misunderstand and despise the young United States of America. The example of hypocritical Venice shows the Yanks that they have no reason to be ashamed of their political accomplishments in North America. Americans rule themselves, without a police state, a secret police, a spy system and secret agents willing to assassinate anyone the State finds inconvenient.

At the same time Cooper familiarizes Americans with Catholic priests, bishops and cardinals that they have been raised to think of as incarnate fiends. In THE BRAVO, a saintly Carmelite monk Father Ferdinand Anselmo is the confessor of the young Violetta Tiepolo. Decades earlier, still a layman, Father Anselmo had proposed marriage to Donna Florinda, now Violetta's companion and maidservant. Violetta could not make up her mind and Anselmo became a monk. That monk eventually testifies that the bravo, Jacopo, did not murder the old fisherman Antonio. He also witnesses the wedding (forbidden by the Senate of Venice) of the Duke of Sant' Agata and the heiress Violetta. Venice's cruelty, violence and rank injustice push its fishermen and gondola operators close to open rebellion over the mysterious death of old Antonio.

The Carmelite monk explains to young Violetta that powerful Venetians have come to act as if God had given each of them two souls. The Ten Commandments, honor and justice were for their private souls. The survival and power of Venice was the only subject of their public souls.

This novel has it all: the rich art and architecture of mighty Vienna, the pageant of the Doge's wedding of his city to the Adriatic, public boat races, power politics, love, religion, murder and a passion by simple fishermen for justice. Oddly, the author does not mention even once the ubiquitous alley cats of the Queen of the Adriatic.

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April 15, 2010
Enjoy. We are just beginning to re-evaluate the greatness of Cooper, not just as novelist but as observer of the passing parade in both Europe and America. I am currently reading his very mysterious WATER-WITCH, a tale of the sea off North America. qigongbear
April 15, 2010
This sounds like a great read! I already added it to my Goodreads list. I haven't read a book by Cooper in a long time, so I will need to check this one out for sure!
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