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I, Claudius

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  • I, Claudius

    Has anyone read Robert Graves' "I, Claudius" - I half way through it at the moment - must say I'm enjoying it immensely.
    Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

    Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

  • #2
    Yes, and Claudius the God is a worthy continuation. Graves was quite a good historical novelist at times.

    If you like the 2 Claudius novels, you might want to check out his novel The Golden Fleece. It's hard to imagine Mary Renault's underrated The King Must Die without Graves's work.

    LSN

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    • #3
      I'm still on Tiberius at the moment - though looking forward to Caligula.

      I'm actually quite ashamed that I didn't get around to reading the book until 2 weeks ago.
      Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

      Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

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      • #4
        There's nothing to be ashamed of. We can't read everything, and sometimes, what we read is a matter of chance.

        I chanced upon these novels back in 1974 whilst browsing the fiction section in my university bookstore. (A university is a college that has ceased to care about its students, but they often have good bookstores, or they formerly did.) I knew Graves's work as a poet, I liked Roman history, so I picked the book up and read the first chapter -- and I was hooked.

        His novel Count Belisarius was a little disappointing, but these books are among my favorite historical novels.

        LSN

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        • #5
          His Claudius stories are probably his best, but most of his stuff is worth reading - in addition to the ones mentioned earlier, his work on the Greek myths is well worth a look as well. Of course there's also 'Goodbye to All That' on pre-1914 England and his experiences in the First World War, fascinating too.

          He's also one of the very few authors who had a good job done when a TV version of his work was produced, the BBC 'I, Claudius' is excellent - not quite a precise 'copy' of the novels, but far better than the huge majority of attempts to 'televise' fiction.

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          • #6
            LSN's mental bibliography is awakened and coaxed to disgorge remarks on the fiction of Robert Graves.

            The Claudius novels are among his best, but I don't think they're superior to The Golden Fleece. His novel King Jesus is also worth a look, as well as his reductive analysis of Hellenic mythology called The Greek Myths (available as a 2-volume work from Penguin).

            He also wrote the "Sgt. Lamb" historical novels about Revolutionary War America, and Wife to Mr. Milton, which is interesting, but not my favorite. Count Belisarius seems an attempt to do another "Claudius" novel with a different historical character and period. It is less successful, at least in part because I think he couldn't find a comparably interesting narrator / observer -- Claudius is a perfect choice in those novels. Belisarius himself would have been difficult to employ in this fashion. I sometimes wondered about why he rejected using Procopius of Caesaria, but he had his reasons, I'm sure. The novel Homer's Daughter, which uses Samuel Butler's speculations as a starting point, strikes me as slight.

            Graves's short fiction is intelligent and entertaining, but not quite up to his best novels. It's collected in The Shout.

            He wrote a "fantasy" novel called Watch the North Wind Rise that I like. In the UK, I believe it went under a different title -- something like, Seven Days in New Crete, or something of that sort.

            Don't overlook The White Goddess, despite its oft-pointed-out errors. It's still a fascinating look into the mind of a major poet, if nothing else. It does indeed contain a lot of information, however mixed with unsupported speculation. When you put it together with the autobiography, Goodbye to All That, I feel as if I know more about the author than I'd like to know. :-] The autobiography is still a pretty good book, and a nice companion to the somewhat similar The Enormous Room of E. E. Cummings.

            We could discuss his essays on writing, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and contemporary culture, but I suggest looking at the Collected Poetry instead.

            Some of his translations are quite good. His translation of The Twelve Caesars, by Suetonius, is very readable. In some ways, I often felt this book was the primary source for the Claudius novels. (He had numerous other sources as well.) His translation of The Golden Ass by Apuleius, is the standard one, I think.

            Falls off soapbox.

            LSN

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