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Just Shoot Me

Bala, 28, Gordon Gekko in the making, pseudo-intellectual, cynic, bibliophile, obsessive compulsive ranter...

Nerds and Emperors

October 20, 2008

There are some books which you can read in any frame of mind and come out feeling much better. Robert Graves' I, Claudius is such a book. I read its sequel Claudius the God this weekend. It is not as good as its predecessor but is still a great read. At the end of I, Claudius Tiberius Claudius Drusus Germanicus Nero aka claudius the idiot aka poor uncle claudius aka clau-clau-claudius, after surviving his dysfunctional family, finds himself proclaimed as the emperor of Rome though no fault of his own. In Claudius the God he narrates his (mis)adventures as he sets about to rule Rome as an absolute monarch and restore the republic while he can.

In the first book, Claudius was a nerd pretending to be an idiot to fly under the radar of his family of adulterers,sociopaths, megalomaniacs and murderers. Now he is emperor and God, surrounded by sycophants, schemers, nymphomanic wives and quarreling advisors. In typical nerd fashion, he sets out to make Rome safer from her enemies - both within and without. The narrator here is not a nervous nerd trying to find acceptance with his family, but a whining nerd trying to make himself understood by his unappreciative subjects. Claudius the emperor is always alternating between self congratulation over his achievements and petulance over his subjects failure to recognize them. Ultimately he fails to restore the republic and the monarchy falls to Nero who is as despicable his predecessor Caligula.

The best parts in the book describe the invasion of Britain and the story of Jesus Christ (who is described as a pretender to the messaihhood). The story of Herod Agrippa is a distraction and just makes the narrative longer. What i missed most was the gallows humour that permeated I, claudius. And there is no larger than life villain to replace Livia. It is a good book but not comparable to its prequel.

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posted by Bala, 3:27 PM

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