Dolet depicts the life and times of Etienne Dolet. Etienne, who told the bald truth to friend and foe alike, angered the city authorities in sixteenth-century Toulouse, fled to Lyon, and became a publisher of innovative works on language, history, and theology. His foes framed him; he was persecuted, imprisoned, and ultimately executed by the Inquisition for daring to publish the Bible in French translation.
"[Dolet] ...I read it all with pleasure, and delighted to see names that I have known for some time coming alive as "characters," albeit fictitious ones. I especially liked the way in which you brought out the sense of community, of being a band of brothers that so many of those amazing people shared."
~ Kenneth Lloyd-Jones, Professor, Trinity College, Hartford, CT.
|Publisher:||Twilight Times Books|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||559 KB|
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Beginning and ending in the flames of execution, Florence Byham Weinberg’s Dolet presents with the majestic dignity appropriate to her subject, the life, career and death of Etienne Dolet, a French scholar, printer and translator from the first half of the 16th century. Weinberg’s work gives the lie to any one who would think dull or uninteresting the story of a man heretofore known chiefly to academics and specialists of French letters, early printing, and the religious controversies of the mid -1500’s. The book is remarkable in a number of aspects. First among those is Weinberg’s ability to create vibrant, living descriptions of both people and settings: Guillaume Scève’s study is “cozy and yet large enough to accommodate the group of fifteen, (it) harmonized all shades of brown, from the reddish-brown tile floor to the darker brown of the wainscoting, to the bookshelves containing leather and vellum-bound volumes, to the blackish-brown of the ceiling beams. The whole was saved from dullness by the tile border on the floor with a Greek-key pattern in apple green. The mullioned windows in the wall opposite the door, their small leaded panes opaque against the light outside, reflected the movement inside the room in distorted and fragmented images” (112). The Inquisitor General Matthieu Orry “was a short man of huge girth, which his ecclesiastical robes emphasized further. His bulging purple neck contrasted alarmingly with his white collar, giving Etienne the impression he was choking. The puffy cheeks, also purple, seemed to have slid partway off his face to form hanging dewlaps on either side of his chin, waggling when he shook his head, or trembling when he became angry” (217). Similar passages abound. Weinberg moves seamlessly from the imagined parts of the narrative to the fruits of her meticulous research. Immediately after a created conversation, intimate and tender, between Etienne and his wife and Louise Giraud, we read: “He continued to publish other officially condemned books: a French translation of the Psalms and Song of Songs by Dolet himself, the Exhortation to Read the Holy Scriptures (in French) and a summary of the Old and New Testaments” (212). Either the conversation of the narration would suffer without the other. The book also contains scenes we all might imagine, but which Weinberg’s skill with visual, poignant details bring to life. “A lone woman … knelt at the spot where Etienne had disappeared among the flames… . With both hands, she gathered ashes until the bag was full. … She stood in slow dignity, shook her skirt, brushed the ash from her shoes, and made her way toward the Rue Lagrange” (283). Weinberg does not portray Etienne Dolet as some long-forgotten obscure printer, nor even as a martyr in the battle between “Holy Mother the Church” and the “heresies” that became Protestantism. Rather from her pen emerges a free thinker, a man who (to use a cliché) speaks truth to power, a voice many of us recognize: a modern man, admired by and needed in our own time. I am not an expert on Etienne Dolet, 16th century France, religious controversy, nor printing in the Renaissance. I am an expert on what I enjoy reading, and Dolet by Florence Byham Weinberg (ISBN 978-1-60619-128-6) gave me an oft’-sought and seldom found pleasure.
The Inquisition provides the background to this fast paced tale of a young, intelligent and impetuous man. We see as he grows to maturity while stumbling as all men do on their way to adulthood. We experience his loves both carnal and intellectual. We pray for him as the dragnet ensnares him and the tale leads him full circle to the vision he experienced at the start. But the final phase of his journey is a most unexpected and enjoyable twist! I thoroughly enjoyed the story, though I do think that I found two anachronistic phrases but research as I might I was unable to disprove their validity. I challenge other readers to see if my conclusions were correct or not.
I thoroughly enjoyed "Dolet," as I have all of Florence Weinberg’s novels. She brings the character and his world vividly to life. I came to love and admire this man, proud and brilliant and generous-hearted, flawed as we all are, and courageous. The political and social atmosphere in which Dolet struggled was so different from our own; his life "back then" feels almost alien -- and frightening, too!... Everything in this novel is authentic, meticulously researched, beautifully narrated. I was transported back into time -- a time that seemed so outrageous, so difficult, so certain of its brand of truth -- that it kept me turning the pages, urgent to read the next. As a side note, without giving anything away: the harrowing ending still lingers in my mind, and will likely do so for a long while.
Welcome to 16th Century France, graced by the Inquisition. As a young man, Etienne Dolet witnessed a burning at the stake. The victim had been unjustly convicted of heresy, and was a man Etienne admired. He knew that, already, the reactionaries of the Church had their eyes on him. A person of great intellect, Etienne attracted the patronage and friendship of many men, several in positions of power and influence. He was admired as one of the foremost thinkers of his time -- and this was his downfall. The Church felt beleaguered by the advent of Lutheran and Calvinist thinking, and saw a heretic in everyone who expressed anything but fervent agreement with the status quo. So, for much of his adulthood, Etienne was in mortal danger. As well as friends, he had many enemies, for he was intolerant of stupidity, cutting with his wit, and arrogant in his bearing. His story, as told by Florence Weinberg, is a compelling tale, although not at all comfortable. It is an account of brilliance, courage and decency. It brings to life a little-known period of history, one as grim as for example either of the two World Wars. Above all, it is a gripping story. Once you get to know, respect and like Etienne, you won’t be able to put the book down.