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The Death of Virgil (Vintage International) Paperback – 1 Jan 1997

5.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 493 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 1st Vintage International Ed edition (1 Jan. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679755489
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679755487
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.3 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 218,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"Broch is the greatest novelist European literature has produced since Joyce, and...The Death of Virgil represents the only genuine technical advance that fiction has made since Ulysses." -- George Steiner
"Hermann Broch belongs in that tradition of great twentieth-century novelists who have transformed, almost beyond recognition, one of the classic art forms of the nineteenth century."
-- Hannah Arendt

"Broch is the greatest novelist European literature has produced since Joyce, and...The Death of Virgil represents the only genuine technical advance that fiction has made since Ulysses." -- George Steiner
"Hermann Broch belongs in that tradition of great twentieth-century novelists who have transformed, almost beyond recognition, one of the classic art forms of the nineteenth century."
-- Hannah Arendt

From the Inside Flap

It is the reign of the Emperor Augustus, and Publius Vergilius Maro, the poet of the Aeneid and Caesar's enchanter, has been summoned to the palace, where he will shortly die. Out of the last hours of Virgil's life and the final stirrings of his consciousness, the Austrian writer Hermann Broch fashioned one of the great works of twentieth-century modernism, a book that embraces an entire world and renders it with an immediacy that is at once sensual and profound. Begun while Broch was imprisoned in a German concentration camp, The Death of Virgil is part historical novel and part prose poem -- and always an intensely musical and immensely evocative meditation on the relation between life and death, the ancient and the modern.

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Format: Paperback
The Death of Vergil is the strangest, the most demanding and quite possible the most beautiful book I've ever read. The "protagonist" is the dying writer Vergil, and the book is one long passage of almost uninterrupted stream-of-consciousness. But wait, those of you who never had the stamina to get through "Ulysses"! This one has a rythm of narration that is almost musically "catchy", and indeed, the story is deliberately composed as a symphony in 4 parts of varying tempi. What happens in this almost 500 pages long book? Well, Vergil arrives in Brundisium along with Augustus Caesar, who is going to be celebrated at his birthday a few weeks later. He then is carried from the ships to Caesars palace in the city - this is the first part of the book. He then hallucinates through the night, and finds peace in the notion of burning the Aeneid - his masterpiece. This is the second part. Then in the morning he meets friends, then Augustus, and there's a quarrel over the burning of the Aeneid, this is the third part of the book. In the fourth part Virgil dies. The action is limited to this, but the real action is in the head of the aging writer - you are there! And it's frightingly convincing (parts of the book are written in a german prison cell during World War II, the writer thus himself being close to the notion of dying). It took me 3 months to read the book (because i work full time?), and some passages I had to read twice, or thrice, to get in the right mode of concentration. So it's by no means an easy book to read.
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By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 8 Mar. 2015
Format: Paperback
That is a feeble translation of Virgil's phrase `plurima mortis imago'. Those three words show a special way he had of using language not as a vehicle for thought but to convey something outside and beyond thought, and it is something that this book seems to be trying to replicate on a large scale. It is not something I find in Milton, still less in the collective folk-poetry of the Homeric epics, and the nearest to it that I can think of might be in Blake. It is not the normal idiom of the Aeneid by any means, but something that gleams through unpredictably now and again, and I am no nearer now than I was 50 years ago to getting an adequate translation of such a line as `Sunt lacrimae rerum, et mentem mortalia tangunt'.

This book is hung around the legend that the dying Virgil wanted his incomplete epic the Aeneid burned as being imperfect, but it is about much more than Virgil, or his poem, or even death itself. It is about totality, something completely shapeless, senseless and even immortal - immortal partly because death itself is permanent and cannot be killed or destroyed, partly because there is always, has been always and will be always an infinite universe of what is. The book divides into 4 sections, each named after one of the 4 elements that some ancient philosophers reasoned to make up the world - water, fire, earth and air. This division actually seems to me rather contrived and unimportant to the book, and it is nothing remotely resembling the way the ancients themselves viewed their `elements'. Ovid explains them clearly if we just correct his text to read what he must have been saying `...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The story is Virgil’s death in his final hours on arriving back at Brundisium to see Emperor Augustus. The fiction is based on the understood history of the real Virgil of 19BC. The book is a long 480 pages comprising 4 books of water (arrival), fire (the decent), earth (expectation), and air (homecoming) – the four universal constituents of Aristole – the final book of air appears to have Virgil merging with the ether. There are few characters including Augustus, a slave boy, Lysanias, Plotia Hieria (a girlfriend) – however as the prose draws along it is clear that pretty much everything is going on in Virgil’s artistic head but fading brain. This is the conscious and dying thoughts of a poetic and philosophical man. The middle section dialogues and imagined arguments mainly centre on Virgil wanting to burn his poem the Aeneid. Not a lot actually happens – Virgil dies, the poem is saved if slightly unfinished. The author manages to juggle some very thought provoking concepts such as the reality of words and history, the ownership of ideas, religion, art and belief. Virgil has premonitions of a saviour so the obvious overlap with ideas of the Bible and Dante’s Inferno, as similar documents, are clear. The four phases are prose-poem structured around the barque music with slow and fast movements (short/long sentences etc).

For all its complications, style, stream of consciousness and deep reflective nature it is a remarkably readable and philosophical work.
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