I believed from the prologue that I was probably the sort of person that Hesse had intended for an audience to this book. When you enter a writer's world... that is to say, the world of a good writer, you are taken away from your own world to experience joys and sorrows of the author's creation. Hesse's world quickly became my own, but Hesse took me a step further. When I was reading the Steppenwolf, I believed that I was the Steppenwolf. Harry Haller was me and I was him.
Haller begins as a sick and sorrowful man, a brilliant man and I became him as I found myself trudging through his life. When Holler, and thus myself, came out the other side of the story, we were healed, healthier and a better people for having made the journey. For me, reading this was less of an accomplishment and more of an apotheosis... a transcendence. I wish I could thank Hesse myself for creating this wonderful little masterpiece.
It's always a concern how many stars to give a treasured work of history. This book is of course a history, but also a piece of history and as necessary in the milieu of the great works of western literature as any other work from the period. As such, I give it 5 starts, and on it's own merit it was a very enjoyable read.
Beginning with Julius Caesar and ending with the reign of Domitian, Suetonius tells a tale that includes all the victories, works and scandals of each of the emperors in turn. There is some question as to the reliability of some of his sources, as experts have learned, but I think that this in no way diminishes the text. Like with any history, several sources should be considered and Suetonius should be the first with Tacitus next and whatever you can find to follow, as this is truly a fascinating period in Western history.
This is possibly the worst book I've ever had the misfortune to lay my eyes upon. I was concerned in the opening chapter when I learned that our hero and narrator was to be a gelded eunuch slave, but my opinion gradually turned for the worst when I discovered that the eunuch had more pomposity and self-adoration than Conan Doyle's Holmes, while being impossibly knowledgeable in all subjects. More than a Renaissance man, we learn that the eunuch slave has mastered every scientific and artistic discipline known to man, most of which were unknown during his period. The anachronisms in the story are so numerous and varied that by the end of the tale that I was astonished that the eunuch hadn't started work on a baggage carousel at the Thebes airport. Meanwhile, I found every character to be flat and one-dimensional. The description of the historical period was as inaccurate as unbelievable as anything else in the novel. While anachronisms spilled out over the pages, I did manage to notice that Smith's overuse of similes (each with an Egyptian twist) had me gagging like a lapis lazuli coloured scarab that really gags a lot when it hears too many similes. Life is too short for cheap wine and terribly written books and I highly recommend that you steer your chariot clear of this sand trap of a novel.
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