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Salammbo (Penguin Classics) Paperback – August 25, 1977
Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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Top Customer Reviews
The book describes in great, often gory detail the horrors and the carnage of war. The gods must be appeased if there is no food or if the soldiers are dying of thirst. These rituals include children being sacrificed with, perhaps, Hamilcar's son being one of the victims. Cannibilism is an alternative
to mass starvation. Torture is the sport of kings and the masses alike.
In the middle of all these goings on is Hamilcar's daughter, the lovely and exotically beautiful Salammbo. Her conniving to recapture the Zaimph from Matho, the Libyan leader of the Barbarians, includes some of the most erotic passage in 19th century literature. Her pet serpent figures very prominently in these scenes. A priest advises Salammbo that without reobtaining the Zaimph, an important holy relic in their possession, Carthage is doomed to defeat.
Having previously read Flaubert's _Madame Bovary_ and _Sentimental Education_, I believed them to be totally different from _Salammbo_, the former two being romantic melodramas and the latter a historic war novel. This is incorrect. All three novels focus on a major female character, who for better or for worse, forms key relationships, romantic or otherwise, with the novels' lead male characters, and which ultimately determine the shape and the final outcome of each of these books. "All is fair in love and war" may be a cliche, but in _Salammbo_ it becomes the ultimate truth.
Salammbo needs to be read as a novel; not as a work of history in order to truly understand what Flaubert intentions were.
I first encountered this novel at the impressionable age of 13, and had no idea what to make of it. I had to gain a lot more knowledge (and cynicism) before I could approach it with anything but nausea. It is not a pretty book, nor do the actions of the protagonists make much sense, until one takes them in the context of Flaubert. He did do a good deal of historical research, but he was, as A.J. Krailsheimer points out in the introduction, also an enthusiastic student of de Sade. This novel is not simply about violence (although the reader will need hip-waders to get through the gore); it is about the torture of futility. It brims with sensual enticements, only to see every effort come to disaster. Even Salammbo herself is doomed by the very thing she wants most: she only wishes to become an initiate of Tanit, but her wish leads to her downfall.
All that said, I had some fairly significant troubles with the plot, and that started in the very first chapter. The soldiers are rioting through the garden, and Salammbo comes out of her room to scold them (in tongues) for destroying her pet fish. Why, I said to myself, does a father who wants to marry his daughter off well leave her without guards in a place where a bunch of drunken mercenaries can get at her? Once I started reading critically, things went downhill from there. The characters seem to have no control over what happens to them, so they struggle on through an atmosphere of dreamy, cynical futility until the bloody finale. I kept wanting to give someone, preferably Flaubert, a swift kick in the pants.
The true nature of Salammbo (more an archetype than a mortal heroine) isn't revealed to the reader, or to her, until the final pages of the book. What were Flaubert's motivations for writing this novel? I guess he had to get it out of his system; he's like a dangerous, intoxicated, wild animal, filled with blood lust, who can transform his cravings into mystical poetry.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Big help to know the history of the mercenary revolt in ancient Carthage. Once I understood it, this novel was amazing, a hallucinatory journey back into the ancient world.Published 14 months ago by jbld
This book did Not match the product description! It had yellow aged pages and it fell apart when I opened it. Very poor quality.Published on April 1, 2014 by Ron E. Goulet
The fame of Madame Bovary has for so long overshadowed Salammbo that it needs to be said that it is in Salammbo that one finds the real Flaubert, the orientalist and decadent... Read morePublished on September 7, 2011 by othoniaboys
Perhaps if Anthony Burgess wrote a screenplay directed by Werner Herzog that remade a sword-and-sandals Victor Mature epic by Cecil B. DeMille from storyboards abandoned by D.W. Read morePublished on February 20, 2009 by John L Murphy
I was not expecting anything from this book, though I loved Madam Bovary. The problem with the character, Salambo, a temple girl, is that she was missing in action. Read morePublished on May 26, 2008 by GG Gawain
I didn't dislike the book. And in retrospect, there were some well-created scenes. But a lot of it is flowery language that doesn't really move a plot. Read morePublished on September 29, 2007 by J. S. Breunig
One must admire the research that went into the book, and for that the novel has some value. Beyond the historical research, there are few positive things to recommend the... Read morePublished on April 15, 2007 by Jack Ridley
I enjoyed this novel enough to recommend it, but I'm sure it's not for everyone. In a way the things I like about it are integrally interwoven with its flaws. Read morePublished on March 24, 2005 by Oceanus Gregory
Death, mayhem, blood, torture, and no sympathetic characters; except, perhaps, the poor. The characters are petty, dishonest, conniving, and superstitious. Read morePublished on March 7, 2004 by Neri