Quo Vadis or Whither goest thou?

After a brief distraction with Haruki Murakami's newest, 1Q84, (a mammoth of book that I would have spent weeks finishing reading if it weren't for the limited 2 week check out period and the inability to renew because of holds...), I've found my way back to my Nobel reading list. Having to acquire the past few titles through interlibrary loan, I can't express my relief and surprise that my next book, W.S. Kuniczak's translation of Henryk Sienkiewick's Quo Vadis, was available at my library! And what acclaim the title has! From the back of the book: "Written nearly a century ago and translated into over 40 languages, Quo Vadis has been the greatest best-selling novel in the history of literature."

According to the Wikipedia article about him, Sienkiewicz is often misunderstood to have won the Nobel prize in recognition of Quo Vadis. However, in agreement with my previous understanding that the award is usually given in recognition of a writer's body of work, the committee only attributed "his outstanding merits as an epic writer." A Polish journalist and author, Sienkiewicz was well known for his historical novels, many of which appeared as series in newspapers (Wikipedia). Like one of the previous Nobel prize winners, Frédéric Mistral, he too had a passion for the authenticity of his native language.

I'm about six chapters into the reading, and right know, I can't say that I care much for a couple of the main characters. Not that they're not well developed. I just find them kind of despicable. Petronius (the name makes me think of Harry Potter and the Patronus Charm) lives in the lap of luxury as a Roman noble with his slave masseurs, private baths, and succulent feasts. When his nephew, Vinicius, a Roman soilder, expresses his obsession, or "love," for Ligia, a woman who grew up in the household of another noble as a hostage given to the empire by her people, he manages to rip her from the family she grew up with so Vinicius can woo her.

Now, I understand the historical context in which the book was written, but it still disturbs me when women are treated like materials that can be traded, stolen or bartered for (or anyone for that matter). The wannabe philosopher he is, Petronius even contemplates whether women have souls like men or are like animals. This is why I find him detestable. His nephew's alright...but I'm sure I'll find some reason to dislike him too. Despite these character flaws, I'm appreciating the historical look at the Roman civilization--it's not too often that I read historical fiction. On with the read!

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