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The Czar's Madman (1978)
by Jaan Kross
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Even in the remote Baltic province of Estonia, ruled with an iron hand by Russia's Czar Alexander I, the new notions of liberty and freedom wafting across Europe had not been silenced by Napoleon's defeat. It was the fall of 1813, and Colonel Timotheus von Bock, a Baltic nobleman and a favorite of the czar, had returned from the battlefields of Europe a hero, convinced that new and better ways were coming, and determined to play his part in bringing them about. He first.scandalized his fellow aristocrats by spurning a far more appropriate marriage in order to wed a peasant's daughter. Then he committed an even more grievous infraction. Having sworn an oath to his sovereign always to tell him the truth, von Bock sent the czar a memorandum condemning his tyrannical rule. The reaction was prompt. Von Bock was banished from his estate and imprisoned for nine years in the Schlusselburg fortress. When Czar Alexander was succeeded by his.brother Nicholas I, von Bock was released at last, and he returned under close surveillance to his impoverished estate and his destitute wife. His physical health had been shattered by his imprisonment no less than his mental stability. Was he indeed the madman the czar certified him to be whose unstable mind had led him to his subversive ideas? Or was he really a utopian revolutionary, a man of the highest moral principles? Timo von Bock's story is the main thread in a.richly worked tapestry evoking the world of nineteenth-century Russia and its Baltic provinces after the fall of Napoleon - a time of great turmoil that saw the birth of a new national awareness among the many peoples unwillingly held under the rule of the Russian crown. Recounting this compelling tale from the pages of history, Jaan Kross takes the reader deep into the passions of a time and a country that foreshadow the tragedies of our own century, creating at the.same time a powerful vision of human emotion: honor and knavery, greed and sacrifice, love and desire. The Czar's Madman combines the elements of a gripping historical novel with the profound sensibilities of a great writer wrestling with the deepest moral issues of our day. The Czar's Madman was awarded the Literature Prize of Amnesty International's French affiliate in 1990.
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