God of Impertinence

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Overview

The naked, charcoal-colored man with red hair who steals the flag from the police station in Greece on a sunny Spring day obviously isn't ordinary; indeed, it could be said - and it would be true - that he is, well, extraordinary. He is none other than Hermes, god of stolen kisses, insolence, erotic freedom, turmoil, sleep, thievery, and messenger to the gods. Hermes is looking for adventure and love, preferably the physical kind. He has been liberated to enchant, to save the world from the corruption of crass ...
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1997 NEW BOOK, COVER AND DUST JACKET ARE IN MYLAR PROTECTIVE COVER

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Overview

The naked, charcoal-colored man with red hair who steals the flag from the police station in Greece on a sunny Spring day obviously isn't ordinary; indeed, it could be said - and it would be true - that he is, well, extraordinary. He is none other than Hermes, god of stolen kisses, insolence, erotic freedom, turmoil, sleep, thievery, and messenger to the gods. Hermes is looking for adventure and love, preferably the physical kind. He has been liberated to enchant, to save the world from the corruption of crass cynicism and to resurrect virtues of mischief, curiosity, imagination, and daring...and to fall in love. Unsurprisingly, Hermes' new world seems very, very weird to him - after all, he was kept in chains in a volcanic crater for 2,187 years. Meanwhile, Zeus has been disempowered and escapes to America - where he plays rounds of golf in Missouri - after his wife, Hera, discovers haute couture. Hephaestus, that degenerate, neurotic god of volcanoes, is now "the chief." He has advanced from the blacksmith of old into the commander of human technology and lord of a world driven by computers. Even Ares, the god of war, is subservient to Hephaestus. Even though Hermes finds himself in a strange and confusing age, unsure of why he was freed, this emblem of piratical daring crisscrosses the world in amazement, chasing...who else but a light-skinned beauty. His travels lead him from Europe to Athens (Georgia), to Sparta (Illinois) and, yes, above and beyond human boundaries. On his odyssey, tapping the minds and "having the ear" of brain specialists, rappers, graffiti artists, Hermes realizes that he must supercharge those qualities of impertinence and roguery with godlike impetus. It is the only way he himself can survive. To do so, however, he first has to lead Hephaestus back into the fold of the family...or defeat him...or both.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
German writer Nadolny resurrects the Greek gods and makes them pertinent to our time in this fast-paced and funny novel. Iron-god Hephaestus, in the hopes of finalizing his doomsday plan, frees Hermes, whom he chained inside the crater of a volcano on one of the Greek islands over 2000 years ago. Taking his first steps of freedom at the end of the second millennium, Hermes realizes that the world has changed beyond recognition and that he must bring himself up to speed as quickly as he can. The mischievous god of fertility, messengers and thieves learns by hopping into the ears of people and attaching himself to the c erebellum. Once he has tapped into a person's brain and nerves, he can then direct and control the person while peering through that person's eyes. Hermes, who can't go long without seducing a woman, unknowingly falls for none other than Helle, Hephaestus's daughter, who has assumed the body of Helga, a 17-year-old German. Nadolny (The Discovery of Slowness) embellishes on the myths of classic Greek gods who appear anachronistic in a modern world where "the gap between rich and poor [is] greater than ever, vulgarity and selfishness [are] practically religious dogma, and the death wish [has] reached epidemic proportions." Hermes becomes the only god willing and able to save the world from the iron wheels of the technophile Hephaestus (Zeus has long since retired to the golf courses of middle America), who reins over humans "through their own desire for comfort," and the two agree that the ruler will be decided by a divine game of poker. Written in the quicksilver spirit of Hermes himself (Mercury to the Romans), The God of Impertinence offers a playfully intelligent take on Western society at the end of the millennium.
Library Journal
The god in question is Hermes, Greek divinity of impudence and debauchery, who is released from a volcano prison after a 2000-year stay only to encounter a world obsessed with technology and reeling toward destruction. Most of the gods have grown apathetic; Zeus golfs to pass the time, and Apollo reads newspapers all day. Hephaestus, god of fire and the forge, has assumed the duties of overseer, but his cold, clinical mind has doomed the world to a soulless existence. Along with the fire god's daughter Helle, Hermes attempts to save the world from itself or at least liven it up a bit. German author Nadolny, whose The Discovery of Slowness (LJ 9/15/87), has been translated into 14 languages, endows these mighty gods with recognizable human traits and observes Hermes' bewilderment at how far mere mortals have been allowed to sink; therein lies the humor. The novel is a rare blend thoughtful, learned, and amusing in equal doses but you won't need a mythology background to enjoy it. Recommended for public and academic collections. Marc A. Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., Indiana, Pa.
Kirkus Reviews
A blithe, inventive fable about the lives of the old Greek and Roman gods in the modern world that also takes some sardonic jabs at contemporary obsessions.

German writer Nadolny (The Discovery of Slowness) uses Hermes, the god of change, commerce, and mischief, an irresistible scoundrel, as his protagonist. Freed after having been chained for some 2000 years to a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, he sets out to make up for lost time by plunging into the minds of a variety of tourists aboard a passing cruise ship. Much baffles him, including light switches, rampant individuality, and consumerism, but he's pleased to discover that the old slow dance of seduction still prevails between men and women. He falls in love with a young woman from Germany, who reciprocates. He also discovers the whereabouts of the other gods and goddesses. It turns out that Hephaestus, the god of blacksmiths, has seized control of Olympus, and, being both a control freak and an inveterate tinkerer, has suppressed the other gods, muffling their joyous abandon, and spent the past two millennia prodding mankind toward technology, logic, the embrace of order. Willful, credulous mankind, however, has disappointed him, and he's decided to end the world. Hermes, appalled, launches a series of witty assaults on the establishment, rallying the gods to his side. Ranging about Europe, from Greece to Germany, and on to America (where Zeus, retired, now lives) just one step ahead of his nemesis, he takes a crash course in human behavior, loses his lover, finds another, and muses, in droll fashion, on the peculiar need of humans for their gods—and vice versa. Of course, in a typically sly manner, he manages to help trounce Hephaestus and usher in a new Golden Age.

In less assured hands, such material would seem coy and tedious. Nadolny, however, manages to keep the narrative swift, lively, and witty in an unforced way. A droll delight.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670873012
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/1/1997
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.33 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 0.85 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2002

    Just fun

    I'm giving this book the highest rating because for one I enjoyed it thoroughly. I don't remember thinking for one-second (except the first few pages) that it was boring. It was imaginative and uniquely organized. I loved the Hermes character and the witty jokes throughout. This is a book to read if you just want to enjoy a book. It isn't for literature classes or anything like that-it's just fun-and how often can you say that about a book?

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