Three narratives, set in the fifth, fourteenth, and twentieth centuries, all revolving around an ancient text and each with a love story at its centre, are the elements of this brilliantly ingenious novel, a follow-up to the international bestseller An Instance of the Fingerpost.
Now Ian Pears returns with a greatly anticipated novel, so expertly imagined and perfectly constructed the author himself describes it as “a complexity.”
The centuries are the 5th (the final days of the Roman Empire); the 14th (the years of the Plague — the Black Death); and the 20th (World War II). The setting for each is the same — Provence — and each has at its heart a love story. The narratives intertwine seamlessly, and what joins them thematically is an ancient text — “The Dream of Scipio” — a work of neo-Platonism that poses timeless philosophical questions. What is the obligation of the individual in a society under siege? What is the role of learning when civilization itself is threatened, whether by acts of man or nature? Does virtue lie more in engagement or in neutrality? “Power without wisdom is tyranny; wisdom without power is pointless,” warns one of Pears’s characters.
The Dream of Scipio is a bona fide novel of ideas, a dazzling feat of storytelling, fiction for our times.
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Set in Provence at three different critical moments of Western civilisation - the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, the Black Death in the fourteenth, and the Second World War in the twentieth - THE DREAM OF SCIPIO follows the fortunes of three men: Manlius Hippomanes, a Gallic aristocrat obsessed with the preservation of Roman civilisation, Olivier de Noyen, a poet, and Julien Barneuve, an intellectual who joins the Vichy government. The story of each man is woven through the narrative, linked by the classical text that gives the book its title, and by each man's love for an extraordinary woman. Utterly compellng, THE DREAM OF SCIPIO confirms Iain Pears as one of Britain's most imaginative novelists. ...it is Pears's finest book yet, even more successful and riveting than its predecessor. BOSTON GLOBE Pears asks good, cutting questions about the idea of civilization, showing that those who claim to preserve it are often its worst enemies. Most libraries will want this. Barbara Hoffert, LIBRARY JOURNALReview:
Like his elegant debut, An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears's The Dream of Scipio is an inventive, gloriously detailed historical novel told from multiple viewpoints. But Pears has set himself an additional challenge by spreading his narrators over several centuries: there's the fifth century French nobleman and bishop, Manlius, a civilized man who has embraced the uncouth Christian faith in order to protect what he holds dear; an 11th-century scholar and troubadour named Olivier de Noyen, the famously ill-fated admirer of a married girl; and Julien Barneuve, an early 20th-century scholar of de Noyen who discovers, through him, a magnificent manuscript of Manlius's called "The Dream of Scipio." Though all three men come from the same small Provenšal town, it is this manuscript, derived from the teachings of a wise woman, that links the three narrative threads of Pears's story. At the heart of The Dream of Scipio and, one suspects, at the heart of its author, is the conflict between a classical ideal of learning and the contemplation of beauty, and the noisy, uncivilized, democratizing impulses of the Christian era. A novel of ideas like its predecessor, The Dream of Scipio is neither chilly nor didactic and doesn't shy away from depicting the costs of its narrators' unpopular devotions. --Regina Marler
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Book Description Isis Audio Books, 2002. Book Condition: Good. Unabridged. N/A. Ships from the UK. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP88418808