The Persian Boy

The Persian Boy

4.5 21
by Mary Renault
     
 

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“It takes skill to depict, as Miss Renault has done, this half-man, half Courtesan who is so deeply in love with the warrior.”–The Atlantic Monthly

The Persian Boy traces the last years of Alexander’s life through the eyes of his lover, Bagoas. Abducted and gelded as a boy, Bagoas was sold as a courtesan to King Darius

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Overview

“It takes skill to depict, as Miss Renault has done, this half-man, half Courtesan who is so deeply in love with the warrior.”–The Atlantic Monthly

The Persian Boy traces the last years of Alexander’s life through the eyes of his lover, Bagoas. Abducted and gelded as a boy, Bagoas was sold as a courtesan to King Darius of Persia, but found freedom with Alexander after the Macedon army conquered his homeland. Their relationship sustains Alexander as he weathers assassination plots, the demands of two foreign wives, a sometimes-mutinous army, and his own ferocious temper. After Alexander’s mysterious death, we are left wondering if this Persian boy understood the great warrior and his ambitions better than anyone.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Renault (d. 1983) also looks at a famous Greek historical figure through the eyes of his lover. This second of three novels she wrote about Alexander the Great (Fire from Heaven; Funeral Games) follows the emperor in his last years as observed by Bagoas, a Persian boy. Gelded and sold as a concubine to the King of Persia, he gains not only his freedom but love when Alexander conquers his homeland. VERDICT For historical fiction fans, this beautifully written and emotionally gripping tale humanizes another legend, flaws and all, and brings the ancient world vividly to life.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780394751016
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/28/1988
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
159,396
Product dimensions:
5.14(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.91(d)

Read an Excerpt

“It takes skill to depict, as Miss Renault has done, this half-man, half Courtesan who is so deeply in love with the warrior.”–The Atlantic Monthly

The Persian Boy traces the last years of Alexander’s life through the eyes of his lover, Bagoas. Abducted and gelded as a boy, Bagoas was sold as a courtesan to King Darius of Persia, but found freedom with Alexander after the Macedon army conquered his homeland. Their relationship sustains Alexander as he weathers assassination plots, the demands of two foreign wives, a sometimes-mutinous army, and his own ferocious temper. After Alexander’s mysterious death, we are left wondering if this Persian boy understood the great warrior and his ambitions better than anyone.

Meet the Author

Mary Renault died in 1983.

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The Persian Boy 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had red this book in spanis and now I reading in english.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
Mary Renault casts a spell in "The Persian Boy", the pivot of her 2nd installment of her Alexander Great triad. “Fire From Heaven,” being the first, and “The Funeral Games,” being the third. The Persian Boy tells the story of Bagoas, who is born into an aristocratic family. In the first few pages Bagoas is subjected to the turmoil resulting from the death of King Ochos. His father, mother, and sisters, are killed and he himself is castrated and sold at the age of 10. Another tragedy follows in time: Bagoas is sold by his master to other men as a prostitute. Procured for King Darius, Bagoas's luck changes only slightly; instead of being sold to many men, he is kept by one man, a King he holds in awe for his station, and not out of personal admiration. Darius has made the mistake of underestimating the young Macedonian King Alexander, who at 20 undertakes the conquest of Greek cities in Asia Minor. But Alexander closes in on the Persian Empire, and Darius suffers one defeat after another until his own warlords lose faith in him. When a coup sees Darius taken prisoner, Bagoas escapes with only his life. In time, he is rescued by one of those warlords, and as fate has it, he is to beg Alexander for clemency. Bagoas is used to sweeten the deal—as a gift. Alexander is presented by Renault as a man capable of more than mortal feats who is still reassuringly human—more than that, he needs love desperately, from the hero-worship of the soldiers who follow him to the intimate devotion of his lover Hephaistion. Bagoas has never known love at all, only use. When Macedonian King and Persian courtesan meet, the inevitable happens—and this is where the enchantment begins. Renault's mastery is impeccable. With a few well-chosen words, she conjures the images of the great Persian palaces—the ruins at Persepolis, Susa, Ekbatana, and Babylon; she recreates the travels of the Macedonian army so well that any reader who picks up her companion book "The Nature of Alexander" will look at the pictures and recognize the structures. Renault is a master characters builder. Bagoas is keenly intelligent, charming, courtly, sarcastic, prey to jealousy and possessiveness when it comes to his lover; his growing maturity merely adds to the pain he experiences as the affair and Alexander's conquests progress. And Alexander is much more accessible here than in "Fire From Heaven," which is a wonderful book but presents Alexander as all light and no fire. Here we get to see Alexander as preening boy, heroic warrior, pragmatic king, and devoted lover. It is a marvelous love story whether or not it actually happened. The book is narrated from a first person point of view, and it's Bagoas perspective that is used to frame the events that go from Alexander's 20th birthday to his death. A wonderful read.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Mary Renault's book on Bagoas, a Persian eunuch, is one of my favorites. I've read it at least four times. Great historical fiction, very vivid and engrossing. Do yourself a favor and read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you're a fan of this genre, or better yet, and ancient history enthusiast you will love this book. Told from the perspective of a young Persian eunuch, the story follows the great Alexander from his invasion of Persia to his untimely death. Well researched with good prose, it's a classic ancient history novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wuold give this book a ten star rating if I could.IT put you in to his life as it may have happend. I couldn't stop reading. I read it twice I LOVED it so much. read it and you will see.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This has to be one of my favorite novels of all time; I re-read it recently and it still is fresh and compelling. Alexander the Great, the warrior-king who was revered as a god in parts of the ancient world, is presented here on a very human level. The story is told from the viewpoint of Bagoas, a historical character who became Alexander's servant and lover following the conquest of Persia. Essentially this is a love story: not just between Alexander and Bagoas, but also between the great general and his dear friend, lover, and battle companion, Hephastion - as well as the intense love between Alexander and his Macedonian warriors, who were willing to follow their charismatic leader to the ends of the earth. At one point Alexander tells Bagoas, 'You can't love too much', which sums up a powerful underlying theme in this wonderful book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was the best book I've ever read! I am sorry that I didn't read it when I was a teen. I don't know how I went this long having never read this book. My life has been altered and feels more complete after reading this book. I would recommend this book to every gay man in the world. If you never read anything else for the rest of your life, at least read this one book. It perfectly illustrates how the love between two men should be today. If only we still lived as they did in ancient times.
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿The Persian Boy¿ is a powerful novel written by a master of the English language at the height of her powers. Mary Renault paints an engrossing portrait of Alexander the Great, his close acquaintances, and the peoples and lands that he conquered. In this novel, Renault eschews the trendy ¿modernist¿ fripperies that she sometimes went in for, tricks such as multiple narrative viewpoints, and Henry Jamesian, vague syntax. Instead, she concentrates on character development and language, achieving a poetic grandeur with her prose. Her writing is tight, sententious and almost Old Testament-like in character. Every so often one finds a beautifully profound line such as when Alexander proclaims, ¿To hate excellence is to hate the gods.¿ Her characters are three-dimensional and surprising easy to identify with for individuals so far removed from us in terms of time, culture and place. Tears rolled down my face as I read of Alexander¿s grief for the dead Hephaistion. I felt broken hearted at the death of Alexander, a man who has been dead for over two thousand years. Renault portrays Alexander the Great as being handsome, charismatic, brave, usually fair and just, and a brilliant military strategist. And in a deliciously politically subversive yet historically justified move, she makes him essentially homosexual. I don¿t think feminist literary scholars in academia have yet taken up the work of Mary Renault. They should. Renault is the finest female writer of English prose since George Elliot.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Told in the voice of Bagoas, a eunuch first owned by Persian king Darius, then by Alexander the Great, the reader glimpses a world where masculine beauty is prized and Alexander is taking over the known world. After an uncertain early life, Bagoas later flourishes to high status as the lover, friend, and servant of Alexander himself. This is a first-person account of the events surrounding these two. Overall, an excellent read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mary Renault knows her subject well. Alexander the Great was a complex and fascinating man and Ms. Renault weaves a wonderful story of fact and fiction to give readers a full view of how Alexander lived and what he was like on a personal level. I loved it and would recommend any of her books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A brilliant book, based on a historical personage, the Persian Boy brings to life Bagoas, the persian dancing boy of the title. Enslaved and castrated by his captors, Bagoas goes from being a courtesan of the ill-fated King Darius III of Persia, to being the love of Alexander the Great's life. Mary Renault brings Alexander and Bagoas, and the rest of the characters, to life in a believable story weaving together fact and fiction in a seamless blend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I¿m an avid reader for whom this was my first Renault book. I believe the advertisement and back covers are misleading. If you want to read about Alexander the Great look else where. You will not find Alexander till mid way through. Even then you will find his character trite and full of clichés. His charisma or presence is non-existent. It is about a Persian noble¿s son who became enslaved and subsequent youth as a slave and coming of age. It delves into his exploitation, sodomy and homosexuality. Her descriptions of his exploitation and later intimacies are excessive. Only a very few of the copious amounts of sexual scenes advanced the plot or create a feeling of empathy. I ceased reading this book with 100 pages left in the dim hope that I would be inspired to return and finish it. I never have been so inclined and when I left my dorm room I left it behind. I've not finished 4 books in my entire life. That said I commend Renault on her description of Persian court and descriptive settings. She also appears very well researched and her proses are elegant but her pacing and character development leave much to be desired. I have heard good things about Renault and will in the future give another one of her books a chance in the hopes that this book is not a definitive measure of her talents.