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Death of Virgil Paperback – Jan 15 1995
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"Broch is the greatest novelist European literature has produced since Joyce, and...The Death of Virgil represents the only genuine technical advance that fiction has made since Ulysses." -- George Steiner
"Hermann Broch belongs in that tradition of great twentieth-century novelists who have transformed, almost beyond recognition, one of the classic art forms of the nineteenth century."
-- Hannah Arendt
From the Inside Flap
It is the reign of the Emperor Augustus, and Publius Vergilius Maro, the poet of the Aeneid and Caesar's enchanter, has been summoned to the palace, where he will shortly die. Out of the last hours of Virgil's life and the final stirrings of his consciousness, the Austrian writer Hermann Broch fashioned one of the great works of twentieth-century modernism, a book that embraces an entire world and renders it with an immediacy that is at once sensual and profound. Begun while Broch was imprisoned in a German concentration camp, The Death of Virgil is part historical novel and part prose poem -- and always an intensely musical and immensely evocative meditation on the relation between life and death, the ancient and the modern.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
The book is about Virgil's infamous deathbed request that his magnum opus, The "Aeneid," be burned because it was imperfect. Most of the book is told in a dazzling but recondite stream-of-consciousness mode, but the best section is Virgil's deathbed discussion with Caesar Augustus.
Broch invokes 20th century ideals such as the "authenticity" of art as a mirror to the natural world. We also encounter the dilemma of works of art that are incomplete & not polished completely. Aristotle said that in a perfect art work, every word contributes to the organic whole. Arbitrarily remove or add one word, says Aristotle, and the whole work comes crumbling down. Virgil uses this motif as his justification for wishing his beloved poem burned. Juxtaposed with this paradigm are the pleadings of Augustus that it is Virgil's duty as a Roman citizen to let his poem be read by all the world. After all, the literary excursion was to be Rome's national epic. The scene is, unmistakably, magnificent.
A considerable amount of background reading is required before attempting to take on this work. At a bare minimum, read the entire canon of Virgil, especially the "Aeneid." A workable familiarity of Roman history up until and including Augustus is necessary and a biography of Virgil (I would recommend Peter Levi's) would also be helpful. I am a fairly well-read guy, but some of the allusions went over my head.
The stream-of-consciousness style is interesting, but can make the book rather dense. Many of the sentences go on for pages and pages. The book attempts to capture the free-thought attributes of the machinery of Virgil's mind. An engrossing work of prose.
Most recent customer reviews
Hermann Broch's The Death of Virgil revolves about the poet's wish to burn his masterpiece, The Aeneid, and creates out of his signified keen senses and heightened perceptions a... Read morePublished on Sept. 28 2003 by Matthew M. Yau
A magnificent book by a true master. A journey into human soul, combining the novel with the symphony (note the parts of the book and the difference in the sentences for start). Read morePublished on July 7 1999
A well wrought, beautifully written novel. Meant to be re-read several times.Published on May 31 1999