33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Terrific fictional biography/autobiography of Caesar Augustus,
This review is from: Augustus (Vintage) (Paperback)
This John Williams novel is a real literary treasure. Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction in 1973, this is the work of a writer whose skill with language has probably not been equaled since his death some ten plus years ago. "Augustus" is a personal history of the remarkable man who inherited from his uncle, Julius Caesar, a sense of mission to save the faltering Roman Republic and succeeded in making the city state into a well organized, stable and prosperous empire. The author argues, through fictionalized letters between Augustus, his family, friends and rivals, that the reluctant emperor, who preferred the title "First Citizen of Rome", made painful personal choices and sacrifices throughout his life, all in the interest in protecting the Roman state. The last chapter of the book, written as a letter to his last living old friend--Nicolas of Damascus--is Augustus' final reflection on his life. It is as poignant a swan song as you can find in literature and probably captures the man and his life as well as anyone has to date.
"Augustus" has been compared to the "Claudius" books of Robert Graves, which are quite fine as historical fiction. In my opinion, this work by Williams is even better in its language and scholarship and, overall, as a novel. Really one of the best books I read in some time.