Captivity by György Spiró

By György Spiró

A literary sensation in Hungary, György Spiró’s Captivity is either a hugely refined old novel and a gripping page-turner. Set within the tumultuous first century A.D., among the yr of Christ’s loss of life and the outbreak of the Jewish battle, Captivity recounts the adventures of the feeble-bodied, bookish Uri, a tender Roman Jew.

Frustrated along with his hapless son, Uri’s father sends the younger guy to the Holy Land to regain the family’s status. In Jerusalem, Uri is imprisoned by means of Herod and meets thieves and (perhaps) Jesus ahead of their crucifixion. Later, in cosmopolitan Alexandria, he undergoes a scholarly and sexual awakening—but also needs to get away a pogrom. Returning to Rome finally, he unearths a completely unforeseen inheritance.

Equal components Homeric epic, brilliantly researched Jewish background, and picaresque experience, Captivity is a dramatic story of kin, destiny, and fortitude. In its weak-yet-valiant hero, lovers can be reminded of Robert Graves’ classics of historic Rome, I, Claudius and Claudius the God.

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Let me help you. I’ve got a spare horse in the stables; we can be over the border well before dusk with no one the wiser. You’d never reach the boundary in time if you went on foot – the marshals saw to that when they knocked your wits into next week. Besides, you need a bath and a shave and you haven’t a stitch to wear. Now we can fight about it if you want, or you can sit still and recognise good sense when it’s poured in your ear. ’ ‘You’re only making trouble for yourself. ’ ‘By thieving? And what about clothes?

The butt of a marshal’s mace connected with the side of his head. ‘Be still, hidderling,’ the marshal snarled. ’ The noon sun was too bright, its shadows black and sharp as daggers, pounding into Gair’s skull. He couldn’t focus, had no strength to resist as his left arm was forced onto the block, the other twisted up tight between his shoulder-blades by the chain. His fingers were shoved under a broad iron staple and leather straps hauled tight around his elbow and wrist. Blood dripped from his face, pocking the dusty stones like summer rain.

He looked up as Gair sat down. ’ Gair nodded. It had been awkward shaving with a new razor and only one good hand. His face and neck were as pink as a boy’s. Alderan pushed the tray across the table. ‘I thought you might be hungry,’ he said, flicking the cloth away. ’ Slabs of pork pie were piled on a plate. Fresh bread and a crock of butter. Roast meats and pickles and a bowl of fruit. A dewy pitcher of cold milk to wash it down. Gair’s stomach growled. His left hand sketched the sign of blessing before he remembered.

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