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The Dream of Scipio (2002)

by Iain Pears

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,177547,001 (3.72)89
The bestselling author of An Instance of the Fingerpost intertwines three intellectual mysteries, three love stories--and three of the darkest moments in human history.
  1. 00
    The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Each explores individual morality, justice, and Jewish identity in France during different eras. The Paris Architect offers a linear narrative of French and Jewish resistance in World War II; the denser, more complex Dream of Scipio treats 4th-20th century events.… (more)
  2. 00
    The Fencing Master by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (sturlington)

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» See also 89 mentions

English (49)  French (3)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (54)
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
Three parallel stories set in a small area of Provence at times when the world or at least civilized life seemed to be coming to an end (the last years of the Western Roman Empire, the Black Death, WWII) look at issues of cultural memory and how ideas survive and recognising and choosing the lesser of evils. ( )
1 vote Robertgreaves | Sep 13, 2022 |
With The Dream of Scipio Iain Pears has written an intelligent, complex, thought-provoking and in parts philosophical examination of civilisation, and the moral choices people make. He illustrates this by telling the stories of three men across three discrete timelines: landowner Manlius Hippomanes at the fall of the Roman Empire, poet Olivier de Noyen during the Black Death, and scholar Julien Barneuve during the Second World War. Each is connected to the other through the manuscript of the title, with an omniscient narrator linking one section to the next.

Iain Pears is absolutely in command of his characters and the period they inhabit, even if the narrative does wander slightly off-topic on occasion and the prose can come across as a bit wordy. The vignettes that are used to describe and illustrate each character's life, actions and decisions are described so vividly that they appear to have been taken from historical sources.

The writing is dense, not only because of a small font being used, but also because of the breadth and depth of ideas that are communicated, and the reader needs to pay attention in order to pick up the nuances and implications, especially since the novel isn't told in chronological order. Instead, the author has chosen to tell his story in three parts, each split into numerous section breaks wherein one era may be followed by another in the same timeline, but is more likely to be succeeded by one of the other two; the effect can come across as disjointed and distracting, and doesn't lend itself to much of the book being read during one session – it took me over two months to finish it, time I consider well spent, nonetheless, since the topic of the novel is timeless. Recommended. ( )
  passion4reading | Apr 17, 2022 |
The influence of a MS by Cicero in three eras--Roman Gaul as Empire falls, during Avignon Papacy and Occupied France
  ritaer | Mar 5, 2022 |
Not for the faint-hearted and it might be an easier read if you have some knowledge of classics and medieval history. That said, the three interwoven threads (the fall of the Roman empire, the onslaught of the Black Death and the beginning of the Avignon papacy, and the end of the Vichy government in France are skillfully and thematically related. What happens at the end of civilization? Can an bad act be redeemed because it is done for a good reason? Thought-provoking. ( )
  PattyLee | Dec 14, 2021 |
I really wanted to like this as much as I enjoyed Fingerpost...but the time shifts didn't seem to have meaning; I've been meaning to read it in chronological order...but so many other reads on my night stand. ( )
  jimgosailing | Nov 18, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
... the plot is certainly dense, if not at times impenetrable. The real benefit and the satisfactions of the book lie not so much in its impressively complex design, but rather in its neat set-piece scenes. ...

Civilisation is what The Dream of Scipio and Pears are really all about. Pears is undoubtedly a writer of peculiarly refined sensibilities, and the book is studded with aphorisms. In the end, though, it all boils down to this: "Do we use the barbarians to control barbarism? Can we exploit them so that they preserve civilised values rather than destroy them?" It's a good question. The Dream of Scipio is one answer.

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Iain Pearsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cerutti Pini, DonatellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Julien Barneuve died at 3.28 on the afternoon of 18 August 1943.
The world needs only a few geniuses; civilisation is maintained and extended by those lesser souls who corral the men of greatness, tie them down with explanations and footnotes and annotated editions, explain what they meant when they didn't know themselves, show their true place in the awesome progression of mankind. (p. 23)
[Manlius] would then be faced with a decision, and a conundrum: can one act unjustly to achieve justice? Can virtue manifest itself through the exercise of harshness? (pp. 90-91)
Do we use the barbarians to control barbarism? Can we exploit them so that they preserve civilised values rather than destroy them? (p. 171)
Every cataclysm is welcomed by somebody; there is always someone to rejoice at disaster, and see in it the prospect of a new beginning and a better world. Equally, however much an act of God, there is always someone ready to take responsibility for any event or, failing that, to have blame thrust upon them. (p. 176)
Successful governance with no true authority in law depends on convincing others to do your bidding, which in turn means acting in ways which they consider appropriate. (p. 350)
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The bestselling author of An Instance of the Fingerpost intertwines three intellectual mysteries, three love stories--and three of the darkest moments in human history.

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Three men, three timelines,
one cerebral discourse on

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