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Geoffrey Roper

Russian-Swiss writer and traveler in North Africa, was born in Geneva on 17 February 1877, the illegitimate daughter of Aleksander Trofimovskiĭ, a Russian ex-priest, anarchist, and horticulturalist, and Madame de Moerder (née Eberhardt), a general’s wife. She was educated mainly by her father, who taught her several languages, including Arabic. Among other things, she read the Qurʾan with him and subsequently acquired a love of classical Arabic and Islam. She later claimed to have been born and brought up a Muslim, but this, like much else in her account of herself, was a fantasy.

In her youth, inspired by the novels of Pierre Loti, she dreamed of escaping to an exotic Muslim environment. The deserts of North Africa especially attracted her, and in 1896 she entered into correspondence with Eugène Latord a French officer in southeast Algeria who fed her imagination with accounts of life there At this ...