I have read three books by Robert Harris recently; this one, Pompeii and Enigma. Notwithstanding anything I might have found previously to say about his works, one thing I have to give him is that the man does his research quiet well. He does not rely on heavy words like some authors to veil an otherwise paper thin plot (that is, if there is one to start with), but he trusts his immaculate research to speak for his work with a clean narration. As a result, the reader is exposed to a very well researched work with normal and light prose, which as an after-effect keeps the migraine situation under control.
For Imperium, his principal source of material was the twenty-nine volumes of Cicero’s speeches and letters as he himself points out in his acknowledgement. And his effort paid off (for me, at least).
Imperium is an imaginary biography of Marcus Tullius Cicero
, Rome’s first and greatest politician. The book is narrated by Tiro, Cicero’s slave and Secretary, and apparently the inventor of the art of shorthand, which made it possible to take down fully and correctly the words of public speakers, however rapid their enunciation. Unfortunately, Cicero’s real biography written by Tiro was lost to history as the Roman Empire fell gradually.
Cicero, against daunting odds and even mightier rivals, without any substantial backing, decided to become the consul of Roman Empire (the highest post in the senate) with his wit, dare and intelligence. What follows is the account of his eventual achievement and even though you know what is going to happen, the book compels you to keep reading, which sounds easier but is way harder for an author to accomplish.
Meanwhile Harris does not forget to offer some fantabulous quotes in his narration, for example,“Politics is a country idiot, and capable of concentrating on only one thing at a time.”
“If it is gratitude you want, get a dog.”
The above quote by Cicero is because his brother asks him that why Pompey should not support Cicero in his ambition for becoming consul as he should be grateful for what Cicero did for him.“Power brings a man many luxuries, but a clean pair of hands is seldom among them.”
The magnitude of Marcus Tullius Cicero's accomplishment could be summed up "easily" with the following words that: at forty-two, the youngest age allowable, he became the supreme Imperium of the Roman consulship and as a “new man,” without family, fortune, or force of arms to assist him: a feat never accomplished before or afterwards in Roman History.
It is really baffling to read how the politics of Roman era is reminiscent to the modern day politics. For better or worse, so little has changed. And also, Cicero reminded me of the pioneer of Indian politics, Chanakya
, whose feat I consider second to none, who, as a matter of fact, was born 164 years before Cicero. (Although they both served different political systems).
Yes the book plods somewhat especially in the second half but considering the subject of the novel, I don’t think any other author could have done better than what Robert Harris did.
So, a very well deserved 3.5 stars.