A literary sensation in Hungary, Gyorgy Spiro's Captivity is both a highly sophisticated historical novel and a gripping page-turner. Read more...
A literary sensation in Hungary, Gyorgy Spiro's Captivity is both a highly sophisticated historical novel and a gripping page-turner. Set in the tumultuous first century A.D., between the year of Christ's death and the outbreak of the Jewish War, Captivity recounts the adventures of the feeble-bodied, bookish Uri, a young Roman Jew.
Frustrated with his hapless son, Uri's father sends the young man to the Holy Land to regain the family's prestige. In Jerusalem, Uri is imprisoned by Herod and meets two thieves and (perhaps) Jesus before their crucifixion. Later, in cosmopolitan Alexandria, he undergoes a scholarly and sexual awakening--but must also escape a pogrom. Returning to Rome at last, he finds an entirely unexpected inheritance.
Equal parts Homeric epic, brilliantly researched Jewish history, and picaresque adventure, Captivity is a dramatic tale of family, fate, and fortitude. In its weak-yet-valiant hero, fans will be reminded of Robert Graves' classics of Ancient Rome, I, Claudius and Claudius the God.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-09-21
- Reviewer: Staff
Uri, the hero of Spiró's enormous novel, is a Jewish Candide, although the scope of his exploits suggests more of a naive Don Quixote typea wide-eyed and resilient innocent, faithful to both his family and his religion. His big dream is to travel from his native Rome to Jerusalem, which he does in the course of this episodic epic. Set in the first century A.D., the novel (first published in Hungary in 2005) covers roughly the same period as Robert Graves's classic I, Claudius, but Uri is on the ground with the rabble instead of in the exalted halls of intrigue. Indeed, a good chunk of the story involves Uri and his friends' retelling the exploits of the royals. The pacing is slow but deliberate, evocative and richly detailed. Spiró's elaborate style reflects Uri's acute observation, with the hint of a wink at the reader. Whether he is imprisoned next to Jesus Christ or is conversing with Pontius Pilate or Kainis, his ex-wife, who happens to be a faux empress, Uri remains his earnest self. Much of the novel is dedicated to Uri's everyday struggles, musings on religion, and arguments with friends. Spiró, a Hungarian man of letters, juxtaposes the prosaic and the significant with aplomb and offers a cheeky, unique view of history through the eyes of his modest everyman. A thoroughly impressive literary feat. Agent: Marc Koralnik, Liepman Agency. (Nov.)