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THE DREAM OF SCIPIO

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The Dream of Scipio

type:
Book
Current Status:
In Season
author:
Iain Pears
publisher:
Riverhead
genre:
Fiction

We gave it a C

Pears, author of the Restoration-era mystery An Instance of the Fingerpost, again uses the past as a canvas, but this time the history is pedantic and the only mystery concerns the apparent disappearance of his editor. The book is set in Provence during three periods of upheaval: In the waning days of the Roman Empire, Manlius Hippomanes accepts a bishopric, feeling that he’s the best man to thwart the advance of barbarian tribes. In the 1300s, a courtier unearths the bishop’s treatise on Neoplatonic philosophy. In the 1940s, a scholar of Manlius attempts a minor subversion of Nazi rule by accepting work as a censor. Throughout, dialogue and narration remain stiffly academic; it’s fairly typical that, in speaking of love, a character remarks, ”the physical craving is a reflection of the desire of the soul to reunite with the ultimate beauty, with God.” This is how ”the novel of ideas” became a dirty phrase.

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