Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fortnightly Book, September 11

There are so many things wrong and difficult in the world, that no man can be great—he can hardly keep himself from wickedness—unless he gives up thinking much about pleasure or rewards, and gets strength to endure what is hard and painful.

The Fortnightly Book this time around is a re-read, George Eliot's Romola. Serialized in Cornhill Magazine in 1862 and 1863, it's George Eliot's fourth novel. It's fairly long, so we'll see if I get quite through it in two weeks.

The novel opens in Florence in 1492. Lorenzo de' Medici has recently died, and Tito Melema, a Greek, comes to Renaissance Florence at the height of shipwreck. I've always thought Tito Melema one of the more interesting villains in literature, because he truly is a villain only because he does not do what is "hard and painful". In any case, Tito is introduced to a scholar Bardo, whom he comes to assist, and falls in love with and marries Bardo's daughter, Romola. Florence over the next several years will be in a state of great agitation. Girolamo Savonarola is preaching doom; the First Italian War will begin in 1494; the Florentines will overthrow the Medicis and found the Republic of Florence. And Tito Melema will always, without exception, do what it takes to navigate to the top. Romola, in the meantime, will become a supporter of Savonarola and increasingly work at cross-purposes with Tito....

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