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Scarlet City: A Novel of 16th Century Italy

Overview

In The Scarlet City, Hella Haasse takes us to 16th-century Italy, which is torn by savage violence of war and sinister intrigues for power.

The novel centers around Giovanni Borgia, a mysterious figure known in history as the infans Romanus, or child of Rome. Although he bears one of the most notorious names in all of Italy, Giovanni doesn't know his parentage. Is Cesare Borgia his father or his brother? Or is he no relation at all? Is Lucrezia Borgia his mother or his sister --...

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Overview

In The Scarlet City, Hella Haasse takes us to 16th-century Italy, which is torn by savage violence of war and sinister intrigues for power.

The novel centers around Giovanni Borgia, a mysterious figure known in history as the infans Romanus, or child of Rome. Although he bears one of the most notorious names in all of Italy, Giovanni doesn't know his parentage. Is Cesare Borgia his father or his brother? Or is he no relation at all? Is Lucrezia Borgia his mother or his sister -- or possibly both? Hella Haasse uses the ferment and intrigue of the Italian Wars -- during which French, Swiss, Spanish and German armies surged into Italy -- as a backdrop for Giovanni's agonizing quest for his identiy.

Giovanni's search introduces us to some of the most intriguing people of the times: Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Vittoria Colonna and Lucrezia Borgia. hella Haasse draws each with great depth and brilliant color.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This frustrating historical novel, first published in Holland in 1952, opaquely treats the early 16th century: the machinations of papal and imperial forces have divided all of Italy into scheming factions, and mercenary soldiers gather to sack Rome. Haasse In a Dark Wood Wandering chooses a nonlinear approach: various historical figures alternately narrate a series of complicated events. A bastard bearing the Borgia name diarizes his fruitless search for the identity of his parents; Niccolo Machiavelli and Francesco Guicciardini exchange letters; among the other literati heard from are Pietro Aretino and Vittoria Colonna. This structure bleeds the narrative of its intrinsic drama: critical episodes invariably take place offstage, characters enter and exit abruptly, and the single-minded concerns of the individual protagonists overshadow the central action. Those who don't know much about this thorny patch of history will be thoroughly adrift; on the other hand, anyone familiar with even a snippet of the works of the figures incarnated here will chafe at Haasse's shallow and simplistic interpretations. 50,000 first printing; BOMC and History Book Club alternates. Oct.
Library Journal
Against the turbulent backdrop of the Italian Wars (1494-1559) Haasse traces the lives and struggles of some of Italy's most famous citizens--Michelangelo Buonarroti, Niccolo Machiavelli, Vittoria Colonna--in chapters interspersed with the diary of soldier/adventurer Giovanni Borgia. Though raised in the Borgia retinue, Giovanni is uncertain of his true parentage and travels from one rival family to another seeking the key to his identity. Fear and mistrust abound, however, and the truth eludes him. As leaders war, intrigue, and shift alliances, the turmoil in Italy is reflected in each of the characters as they seek meaning in their lives. Like Italy itself, they can hope for no solution: at best they succeed in identifying the opposing forces that war within them. A brilliant picture of an uncertain age by the author of In a Dark Wood Wandering (LJ 9/1/89). BOMC and History Book Club selections. --Cynthia Johnson Whealler, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, Mass.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780897333498
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporate
  • Publication date: 10/28/1990
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 594
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.21 (d)

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