Saturday, May 28, 2011

Byzantium Endures

Certainly the best 19th century Russian novel written in the 20th century by an Englishman if nothing else. Reaching depth and literary accomplishment beyond anything else in his excellent and (arguably) over productive writing career, Moorcock has written a literary and deeply evocative historical novel that will offer no comfort or easy ground for the reader. Filled with vicious ironies and harrowing darkness it’s also beautifully researched and utterly convincing in its portrait of its time and place. Pyatt is one of Moorcock’s best creations, a liar, right winger, lunatic, cocaine addict, nymphomaniac who despite it all you uncomfortably feel some connection to, because like Humber Humbert, he is monster, but a silver tongued one. Moorcock uses the trick of claiming that he is editing a found document, so these are Pyatt’s words you most interpret. The story follows the days of Russian Civil war as it transforms the Ukraine into a scene of some earthly hell. The intertextuality with other Moorcock books will make this book a lot of fun for his readers. I can’t wait to read the rest of Pyatt’s adventures as he sleazes his way towards the 20th century’s heart of darkness.

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