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Brazen Head [Paperback]

John Cowper Powys

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Book Description

May 12 1978 Picador Books

In this panoramic novel of Friar Roger Bacon, John Cowper Powys displays his genius at its most fecund. First published in 1956, this novel, set in thirteenth-century Wessex, is an amalgam of all the qualities that make John Cowper Powys unique.

The love-story of Lil-Umbra and Raymond de Laon, and the quest of the Mongolian giant, Peleg, for Ghosta, the girl seen, loved, and lost on the battlefield, are intermingled with the historical, theological and magical threads which form the brocade of this novel.

Dominating all is the mysterious creation of Roger Bacon one of the boldest as well as most intricate of Powys' world-changing inventions. Professor G. Wilson Knight called this 'A book of wisdom and wonders'.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 347 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; New edition edition (May 12 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330254197
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330254199
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 2.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 299 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,021,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

John Cowper Powys (1872-1963) was born in Derbyshire, brought up in the West Country (the Somerset/Dorset border area was to have a lasting influence on him), went to Cambridge University and then became a teacher and lecturer mainly in the USA where he lived for about thirty years. On returning to the UK, after a short spell in Dorset, he settled in Wales in 1935 where he lived for the rest of his long life. Those are the bare bones of his life. In some senses they seem unimportant when set alongside his extraordinary writing career. Not only was output prodigious, it was like nothing else in English Literature. Indeed, George Steiner has made the bold claim that his works are 'the only novels produced by an English writer that can fairly be compared to the fictions of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky'. And even that doesn't touch on their multifarious strangeness.John Cowper Powys wrote compulsively: letters, diaries, short stories, fantasies, poetry, literary criticism, philosophy and, above all, novels poured out of him. He also wrote a remarkable autobiography. In addition to his Autobiography his masterpieces are considered to be Wolf Solent, Glastonbury Romance, Weymouth Sands and Porius. But his lesser, or less well-known, works shouldn't be overlooked, they spring from the same weird, mystical, brilliant and obsessive imagination.John Cowper Powys is a challenging author with an impressive list of admirers. In addition to George Steiner, these have included Robertson Davies, Margaret Drabble, Theodore Dreiser, Henry Miller, J. B. Priestley and Angus Wilson. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique writer June 6 2012
By Jakujin - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I didn't five-star because I felt the plot fizzles out. But plot is the least of John Cowper Powys, and for me, I scarcely care. This late novel is definitely fantasy, a fantasy of allegorical or simply lyrical names - Sir Mort Abyssum, Lady Lilt, the Lost Towers - and of odd symbols: the brass head of the title, an invention of the friar-scientist Roger Bacon; alongside an intelligent horse who wanders through the tale, with a growth in his neck that people take to be a human head in sprout. The sanest people in the book are Roger Bacon and Albertus Magnus. Among the insane there is a student of magnetism, who keeps a lodestone down his pants - his privates are a fuel - to cast evil quasi-scientific spells. There are questions of science and religion. As usual in John Cowper Powys, people's spiritual lives are very, very individual. I guess Roger Bacon's care for the dead bird is reminiscent of his order's founder St Francis - but his care for the future worms to feed on its corpse makes a hymn of Hamlet's 'If the sun breed maggots in a dead dog --' While Sir Mort experiences his soul as a sort of flint arrowhead that dives through the earth and flies to the stars. John Cowper Powys is a novelist of psychic experiences - 'psychic' is one of his most-used words, and used of the dim experiences of plants, and the less-dim consciousness of animals. If you love this author you love him. I do.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book. Both entertaining and stimulating Aug. 17 1999
By A Customer - Published on
This is an engaging story that ends mysteriously. I enjoyed this very much because of the drama of the plot and the interesting exploration of the characters and their inner thoughts and motives. The author explores many of the character's personal experience of spirituality. He appears to be saying that we are all alone before god, that our personal experience and relationship with God (Tao or whatever you want call it) is what is important without trying to live or conform to other peoples notions of the transcendental. This is the first book by this author that I have read and I certainly intend to read more.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly verbose and boring Feb. 4 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I was interested in a non-scholarly treatment of Bacon's Brazen Head, but I found it very hard to read. The author loves using hundreds of words instead of short sentences, his comparisons tend to be ludicrous, and there is nothing of interest about Bacon...

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