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Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome

Imperium - Robert Harris Historical fiction writers are cursed. They are not Robert Graves.Nonetheless, this is an entertaining attempt with a provoking figure as the main focus to visit Ancient Republican Rome. The book deals with the fascinating life of the political animal and great thinker, Marcus Tullius Cicero. This novel is the first in a Trilogy. The second has a different title for the English [b:Lustrum|3588825|Lustrum (Cicero, #2)|Robert Harris|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1295465776s/3588825.jpg|3631091] and American editions [b:Conspirata|3629971|Conspirata (Cicero, #2)|Robert Harris|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348459590s/3629971.jpg|3631091]. The third one has not been published yet. I have so far read only this first one.Imperium is a gripping read particularly thanks to three brilliant scenes, the Trial of Verres; Cicero’s Denouncement of Catilina; and Cicero’s election as Consul. The book closes with this last one. These scenes are brought to life magnificently so that at the end of the carefully staged rhetorical and theatrical interventions (then by Cicero, now brought to us by Harris), we are ready to burst out clapping.These scenes have inspired painters in the past and may inspire cineastes in the future. Robert Harris has collaborated with Roman Polansky in a couple of movies already. Will they attempt this one?.Anyway, what withholds the fifth star is that Robert is Harris and not Graves. The book has only a patina of Antiquity. There certainly is a load of Latin sites, characters and terms, but one does not feel that Antiquity circulates through Harris’s veins. These Latin references are the result of a serious but ring-fenced research which has been stuck on top of or squeezed in between the plot dynamics, at intervals, lest we forget that we are dealing with Antiquity.Instead, what does circulate through Robert Harris’s veins is Politics. For indeed the plot is a political plotting in which Harris has intricately mixed the moral beliefs with the political personal ambitions of his main character. The result is that although the Cicero story and setting are fascinating (to me the main interest of the book), one suspects that the real pursuit of the book is contemporary (UK’s?) politics and fight for power. Harris may be following a tradition. I wonder who was really depicted in this drawing for Punch magazine in mid 19th century (by John Leech).

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