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Creation: A Novel Paperback – August 27, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (August 27, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375727051
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375727054
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 445 B.C., Cyrus Spitama, the grandson of the prophet Zoroaster, is the Persian ambassador to the city of Athens. He has a rather caustic appreciation of his situation: "I am blind. But I am not deaf. Because of the incompleteness of my misfortune, I was obliged yesterday to listen for nearly six hours to a self-styled historian whose account of what the Athenians like to call 'the Persian Wars' was nonsense of a sort that were I less old and more privileged, I would have risen to my seat at the Odeon and scandalized all Athens by answering him." Having thus dismissed Herodotus, Cyrus then dictates his life story to his nephew, Democritus, with similar disdain for the Greeks--whom we in the modern world have come to view as the progenitors of civilization, but whom Cyrus considers to be bad-smelling rabble.

Of course, Cyrus Spitama speaks with a very modern, ironic voice supplied to him by Gore Vidal--and the political intrigues in which Cyrus finds himself immersed are likewise familiar territory for fans of Vidal's historical fiction. But the narrator's delightfully wicked observations are the icing on a narrative of truly epic scope--out of his desire to understand the origins of the world, Cyrus undertakes journeys to India, where he encounters disciples of the Buddha, and China, where he engages Confucius in philosophical conversation while the great sage fishes by the riverside. Creation offers insights into classical history laced with scintillating wit and narrative brio. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Something old, something new: Vidal's classic, narrated by the grandson of the prophet Zoroaster, is being republished in an expanded edition that includes material from the original manuscript that never made its way into print.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This is one of the most entertaining books I have ever read.
"eibhinn"
Having read it many years ago, I bought this book as a gift fora friend in the hospital... Just for fun, I opened it up to peruse it a bit.
Robert J. Crawford
Among the great ancient religions (Christianity and Judaism are not included) the reader is left to forge his or her own conclusion.
R. McOuat

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on April 5, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Having read it many years ago, I bought this book as a gift fora friend in the hospital... Just for fun, I opened it up to peruse it a bit. And then I became totally engrossed and read it again cover to cover. THat is the test of a great book: you can read it again and again and see more each time.Of all of Vidal's novels, this one has the most ideas: the main character (a Persian ambassador to Athens who despises what he hears Herodotus reading) recounts his meetings with the creators of the several great cosmological systems, that is, monotheism, buddhism, and confucianism, all of whom may have lived within one person's lifetime. These are some of the principal systems that have undergirded world civilisations ever since. Vidal recounts them with fascination and acid wit.But that is not all. At the core of the book is a portrayal of court life at the high noon of the Persian empire, a hotbed of intrigue, fellowship, and sex. You learn about subject Babylon, Xerxes' alcoholism, and the governance via eunichs from the inner chambers of the queen's harem. What is most original is that Vidal sets Persian civilisation in stark contrast to the more primitive Greeks, who were enjoying their own golden (Periklean) age. This neatly turns our Western self image of Greek glory on its head, and is hilarious as well as effective satire (though Vidal is so subtle that I may be misreading him here).Highly recommended, the best historical novel I ever read.
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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Gail Moore on April 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
Our narrator in "Creation" is Cyrus Spitama, son of a Persian father and Greek mother, grandson of Zoroaster and friend to Xerxes. Cyrus is old and blind, he has ended up in Athens in his last years, dictating the story of his travels and his life to his nephew and scribe, Democritus. In each of the places he describes - Babylon, Cathay, India, Greece, cities of Persia - his main focus is on the religious customs, particularly various creation myths. It is no secret that Cyrus definitely favors the one (male) god that created everything, we live one life - it's good versus evil and then there's either heaven or hell.
There is so much crammed into this book, which is both its' strength and weakness. There are so many characters in this book, especially in the parts dealing with the Greeks, that it sometimes reads more like a history lesson than page turning fiction. Over the course of his life Cyrus comes to know Darius & Xerxes, both Great Kings of Persia, Zoroaster, the Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, and Li Tzu, quite amazing for a single individual. Even so, it's the scope of this book that makes it so interesting, I thought the trips through what is now India and China were the best parts. Who were the Aryans, really?
In spite of its weaknesses, I can't think of any other work of fiction that introduces so many customs, traditions, and philosophies of the ancient world and also encourages an awareness of the vastness of human civilization and history.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By John A. Kackley on October 6, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book, through the person of the grandson of the founder of Zoroastrianism, scans the major world societies of the Classical age, examining the creation of several of the world's major religions and secular foundations. The book spans the Persian Empire, the Greek City States, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism along with Zoroastrianism, placing each within the human context of their foundation and belief. There's not really any plot, other than the life story of the narrator - and by extension, Persian politics which affect it, but the book is tremendously absorbing. While the book is fabulous in its strong points, it may take a reader with a strong predisposition to enjoy the book - philosophical comparisons of classical religions may not excite every reader.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 31, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Gore Vidal does a wonderful job bringing the fifth century B.C. to life. Most of the historical material that is available from this time period tells the story from the Greek point of view, though it is likely the Persians thought of Greece in the uncultured and unwealthy way that Vidal portrays. More importantly, the novel presents eastern thought of the period in a very clear, concise manner. Questions are raised not only pertaining to the narrator's Zoroastrian religion, but also pertaining to Buddhism and Confucianism. The benefits and pitfalls of each are described in detail. This is the first Gore Vidal novel I have read, and I will certainly delve into more.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Chitown Reader VINE VOICE on January 17, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Recently on an interview broadcast on C-SPAN, Gore Vidal, when asked what he would do if he were to be King for a day said that he would make everyone read this book. After reading it, I must agree. This is a truly enjoyable and entertaining book to read, but more than that it is profound in its insight and wisdom into the organized religious structure of society today. Vidal uses the origins of the various religions and slightly veiled fictional religions to present his thesis and critique of the monotheistic religions. I highly recommend this book to everyone, whether you are looking for merely an entertaining book to read or for something more, this book will "create" that experience for you.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 20, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
'I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot
say where.' - Eliot, Burnt Norton.

Vidal's narrator is the grandson of the
prophet Zoroaster. Now, late in life, he is the Persian ambassador to the Athens of the 5th century before Christ. This is a time when Hellenism is hardly newborn in the scheme of history. The rest of Europe is an obscure and forested peninsula beyond the vision of civilisation.

What the Persian ambassador describes to the listening statesman Democritus is his lifetime's experience of the Eurasian landmass from Greece to Cathay. Aboriginal, Dravidian India are already immemorially ancient and even Aryanism is already a thousand established in Northern India. The world is a mysterious levathianic, where it comes from and where its going he doesnt know, he's at a loss as to what it portends. The narrator, trapped in time, seems astonished that the world can be so dense and pregnant with meaning. The reader will perhaps recognise in his account the synchronous historical moment at which Europe, India and China were all in momentous change.

Vidal should be a history professor, so effective is he at reanimating a continuum of human history otherwise closed to us. I felt that Vidal had completely me lifted out of the local Christian era while I read this book, perhaps as effectively as Eliot and Kafka transported me in 'The Four Quartets' and 'The Great Wall of China'. Human history is so ancient and so cyclical. Our own myths of recent history are brought into their proper insignificance by Vidal's perspective of historical scale. Human civilisation, in the long term, predates our farthest memories and in turn remind us how ephemeral we might be.
---
Stephen Fleming
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