Et tu

6 09 2009

Caesar by Allan Massie

From review by Tom Adair in Independent on publication in 1993:

FOR MOST of us Julius Caesar lives, as a schoolroom memory of Shakespeare, in the moment of his dying as he slumps in slow motion beneath the daggers of his assassins. Allan Massie’s achievement in Caesar (as in Augustus, in particular, and in Tiberius), is to infuse the mythical emperor with blood, to press succulent marrow into the hollow of his bones.

caesarMassie authenticates his tale by drawing together those famous familiars – Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon, his triumph over Pompey, Cleopatra smuggled to Caesar in a carpet, the Ides of March – through the thought-scape and memory of Caesar’s confidante and adviser, a wordsmith worthy of Massie’s mission to reveal and entertain.

The review continues:

These, Brutus states, are his memoirs, not an apology, (though he is captive, awaiting judgement on his role as foremost betrayer of Caesar’s trust). The novel conveys with remarkable clarity the double focus of Decimus’s tale, the rationale of a conspiracy, combined with its author’s urge to play the honourable man.

Massie discloses through the tone of the narration, Decimus Brutus’s striving for poise, his grasp of the polity and complexity of his times, his stealth, his manipulative power, his aspiration to seeming neutrality: ‘I suppose historians will call (it) the conspiracy. I would reject that term: it has criminal connotations . . . we were executioners of just necessity.’

This captures it perfectly. Caesar really is a terrific, intelligent and amusing read. And, as Adair suggests, it is rather reminiscent of Anthony Burgess at his best.





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