The Dream Of Scipio Paperback – 3 Apr 2003
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With his admirable craftsmanship and the rich emotional life Iain Pears grants his beautifully drawn characters, he has created a considerable following for his remarkable novels. The Dream of Scipio is a novel of great ambition that simultaneously engages the emotional and intellectual capacities of the reader while always remaining compulsively readable.
Set in Provence at three crucial moments of Western civilisation (the final collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, the Black Death in the 14th century, and the Second World War in the 20th), Pears presents the lives of three men. Manlius Hippomanes is an aristocrat, obsessively concerned with the preservation of Roman civilisation; Olivier de Noyen is a poet; and Julian Barneuve is an intellectual who makes the mistake of joining the corrupt Vichy government. Pears weaves his dazzling and discursive narrative through the troubled lives of each man, the common thread being the classical text which is the books title-- a work of challenging philosophical inquiry. The other common denominator is the love each man has for a remarkable woman.
It is difficult to know where to begin in praising the achievement of this rigorous but infinitely beguiling book. The novel of ideas has been moribund for quite some time, but Pears breathes rude life into the genre with an epic that echoes the achievements of Robert Graves and André Gide. The balance between the key questions of existence and the passionate, life-affirming solidity that the author grants to his characters is impeccable, and all three protagonists are forcefully characterised.
But above all, this is a piece of storytelling that almost redefines the very notion of the art: luminescent entertainment by a master, even more impressive than An Instance of the Fingerpost, the book which first drew attention to Pears highly individual skills.--Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Irresistibly seizes the imagination" (Evening Standard)
"Combining the visceral pleasures of a thriller with the more intellectual excitements of a novel of ideas... Beautifully constructed...never less than engrossing" (Sunday Telegraph)
"Vivid, admirably imagined, ultimately very moving...This is a novel of the very highest ambition...immediate, sensuous, beautiful" (Alan Massie Scotsman)
"Combines dazzling erudition with assured narrative skills to offer glimpses of some of history's darkest corners, and stark and timely challenges to the very notions of civilisation and progress" (Independent on Sunday)
"A dazzling hall of mirrors... Ferociously ambitious... Illumined by a fizzing passion for the recondite" (Daily Telegraph)
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a deeply philosophical book. It makes the reader confront the age old questions - is it an evil act in itself to stand by and let evil happen - is it ever justifiable to do a wrong in order to achieve a right - can you preserve civilization by acting barbarically ? I don't go along with criticisms which I have read that Iain Pears should have written a learned treatise rather than a novel on this subject. Like several of the characters in the novel, the reader is led subtly on a path towards understanding. The novel is never didactic, and rather works towards the conclusion that there are no answers, but it is possible for human beings to arrive at a deeper understanding.
This is not to say that you have to tap into these deep and philosophical levels to ejnoy the novel. There are actually three intertwined stories here, set in Provence in three seperate time periods. These tell the stories of Manlius, living at the time of the crumbling of Roman rule in Gaul, of Olivier, living in papal Avignon at the time of the Black Death, and of Julien, living in Petain's Vichy France. The three interwoven narratives are told with skill, and each held my interest. Iain Pears has the ability to effortlessly recreate the flavour of a particular place in time - readers of "An Instance of the Fingerpost" will not be disappointed on this score. His prose is clear and engaging. The endings of each of the three strands of the narrative contain twists which will leave you satisfied.
For all of that I do have one small moan.Read more ›
Fingerpost was a good book, but the Dream of Scipio is something of a different order altogether: this is the most remarkable book I have read in a long time (and I read a lot of books...)
I think what makes it so unusual in contemporary fiction is in fact precisely its construction: this is a novel with much plot, but not as such driven by it (certainly not in the same way that Pears' other fiction is); with beautiful use of language, but not exceptional (lyrical and meditative, yes); with very well developed characters, patiently and humanely presented. All of these could be the engine of a book, but in this case it is a 'suite' of ideas, epitomised by the manuscript of its title - which is why the title is ultimately appropriate, even if a reading of the book suggests otherwise. I can't think of another book so meditative in tone and so patient in its expositions that is at the same time so compelling to read, always drawing you forward.
In the same way that Pears judiciously avoids presenting more than the merest fragments of the Dream manuscript, Olivier de Noyen's poetry and Julien Barneuve's essay alike, the glimpses of these, just as they caught sigh of one another in turn, create a slowly unfurling sense of an extraordinary whole - and make the book deserve to be thought about, thought about again, and above all protected from barbarians, civilised or otherwise.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
While it's not as phenomenal as An Inatance of the Fingerpost, I didn't expect it to be. It is still a fantastic read! Read morePublished 7 months ago by Kendall Ward
For those who like writers with a masterly command of English, historical settings, and books of ideas, Iain Pears is one of the best authors out there today. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Alison Ward
I enjoyed this overall,some parts I found could have been done just as effectively with half the words but then again,maybe it would have lost some of its character if it had been... Read morePublished 17 months ago by adam200982
I first read this when it came out, and it set me off reading in a wide circuit of the history of Late Antiquity - starting with Peter Brown's 'The World of Late Antiquity', which... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Gettheebehindme+
This is the third of his novels I have read. It has its difficulties but they ase ultimately rewarding.Published 19 months ago by j.m.galgut
For me 'The Dream of Scipio' was the most outstanding novel I have read for a very long time. Its three stories are all set in or around Avignon in the fifth, fourteenth and... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Gervase T. M. Shorter