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SOLD OUT, Book Talk, Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra: A Life

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm



Cleopatra: A LifeImage courtesy of Little, Brown and Company

For all the legends and misconceptions that have shrouded the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, the historical record shows someone perhaps even more intriguing than her infamy. Her life spanned fewer than 40 years, but Cleopatra would reshape the contours of the ancient world: a shrewd strategist and negotiator, she married two of her brothers, waging a brutal civil war against the first and opting to poison the second while she was still in her teens. As Rome’s power grew and Egypt’s value as a provider of valuable grain and other riches became clear, Cleopatra first attached herself to the very much married Julius Caesar—with whom she had a son—and, after Caesar’s murder, to his rival, Mark Antony. The two would together attempt to form a new empire, in an alliance that caused their deaths.

Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra is famous for all the wrong reasons, Schiff says. “Shakespeare and Shaw put words in her mouth. Michelangelo, Tiepolo, and Elizabeth Taylor put a face to her name. Along the way the supple personality has been lost.” Not lost forever, fortunately: returning to the original sources, Schiff sifts fact from fiction and provides a portrait of the magnetic queen and her place at a pivotal time in ancient history.

Image courtesy of Elena Seibert.


Stacy Schiff is the author of Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Saint-Exupéry, a Pulitzer prize finalist; and A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, which won the George Washington Book Prize and the Ambassador Book Award. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. The recipient of an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she lives in New York City.



 To Reserve: This event is open to the public. The fee is $10 for members, and $15 for non-members. Reservations are required but cannot be accepted until Tuesday, November 16. Please call the Athenæum’s events reservation line, (617) 720-7600.

Ms. Schiff's book will be on sale after her lecture through the Globe Corner Book Store.

Read a review here: Library Journal

Read an interview with Stacy Schiff here: The New York Times Magazine

Books of the Times: The Woman Who Had The World Enthralled