Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Blood and Thunder
Salammbô (1862) by Gustave Flaubert
"An exercise in sensuous and violent exoticism" - About the Mercenary Revolt against Carthage in the third century BC.
I would describe this book as a mix of pulp action plotting and ornate literary embellishment. As if Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni painted a Conan the Barbarian comic book.
Benvenuto Cellini (November 3, 1500 – February 13, 1571)
The illest autobiography in history. Cellini studies under Michelangelo and wins the favor of the Pope and the King of France with his sculpture and gold work. But Cellini cant help but drive all that good will into the dirt with outrageous bloodthirsty criminality, and paranoid delusional behavior. What Cellini admits in his autobiography is shocking, and his obvious lies are shocking; for example, when Cellini is shooting birds off the pope's window sill for "target practice" he is obviously threatening the pope with assassination.
Cellini's autobiographical memoirs, which he began writing in Florence in 1558, give a detailed account of his singular career, as well as his loves, hatreds, passions, and delights, written in an energetic, direct, and racy style. They show a great self-regard and self-assertion, sometimes running into extravagances which are impossible to credit. He even writes in a complacent way of how he contemplated his murders before carrying them out.
"When certain decisions of the court were sent me by those lawyers, and I perceived that my cause had been unjustly lost, I had recourse for my defense to a great dagger I carried; for I have always taken pleasure in keeping fine weapons. The first man I attacked was a plaintiff who had sued me; and one evening I wounded him in the legs and arms so severely, taking care, however, not to kill him, that I deprived him of the use of both his legs. Then I sought out the other fellow who had brought the suit, and used him also such wise that he dropped it."
Parts of his tale recount some extraordinary events and phenomena; such as his stories of conjuring up a legion of devils in the Colosseum, after one of his not innumerous mistresses had been spirited away from him by her mother; of the marvelous halo of light which he found surrounding his head at dawn and twilight after his Roman imprisonment, and his supernatural visions and angelic protection during that adversity; and of his being poisoned on two separate occasions.