This book reminds me quite a bit of Norman Mailer's Ancient Evenigs. However, I remember from a few years back that I found Ancient Evenings very hard to read, and I now find Creation (link to Wikipedia) rather much easier to read. But the similarities are there: several generations of people close to the rulers in a civilisation from a few hundred years b.c. and lots of hard-to-remember names and places and lots of mysticism and so on and so forth.
Anyway, the story is told by Cyrus Spitama to the greek youth, and Cyrus' nephew Democritus. Cyrus is the Persian ambassador in the state of Athens. He's about 75 years old and tells his live's story to Democritus. Most important is his meetings with the Buddha in India and Confucius in Cathay (China). Socrates works as a (poor) stone-mason at Cyrus' house in Athens.
I don't know enough history to know how plausible the story is. I have a strong feeling that Gore Vidal has enjoyed writing about the sometimes complex protocol and ceremonies surrounding the courts of the time, but the very high level of detail makes this (perhaps counter-intuitively) quite hard to believe. I sometimes have the feeling to read something from The Gormenghast Trilogy rather than something with a historical background. But, I guess, this should be considered as a pure work of fiction. On the other hand, the characters in the book are all quite believable, even if what they are doing isn't.
Copyright © 2009 Peter Andrén