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Reviews of Byzantium Endures (1981)

Review by mwisse (2003-03-10)
Another mainstream Moorcock novel, the first of a series of four: Byzantium Endures The Laughter of Carthage,Jeruzalem Commands,The Vengeance of Rome. The last still has to be published. Together they portray the supposedly true life of one Colonel Pyat, a refugee from the Russian revolution now living in London on Portobello Road. Moorcock supposedly met him a couple of years before his death in 1977, became friends with him and got his notes hwen he died, of which these four novels would be the result.

This first volume describes Pyats childhood before the Great War in Kiev, how he went to stay with his rich uncle in Odessa just whent he war had broken out, studied in Petrograd during most of it then got swept up in the turmoil of the Russian revolution and the civil war which followed.

He tells his story in the first person, which is a bit of a problem, as Pyat is not a nice man. An anti semite, ultra right wing arrogant bastard to be more precise, with an opinion on everything, who especially near the end of the book frequently breaks out in tirades about the faith of Russia. In his cosmology, Byzantium, Greece is the centre of civilisation and Russia is the heir to Byzantium, always plagued by the Eastern and African hordes of Carthage, (Turks and Chines, amongst others) and Jeruzalem, (Jews, obviously). All this doesn't always make for comfortable reading, even if it's fascinating reading. One could call it first person blowhard.

Between the lines though I read that not everything was as it seemed with Pyat and that his antisemitism might be fueled by self hatred more then anything... the same goes for his frequent boasts about his genius and his inventions, which may not be quite as good as he makes them out to be, which can be seen from the reaction of the people around him.

I'm impressed by how Moorcock managed to do this and quite recommend this to everybody who likes his work, especially his Jerry Cornelius stories. It seems to me that the smooth chaos and anarchy of those novels are found here in their raw forms, as part of real history.

(Taken from my booklog at http://www.cloggie.org/books/)

Martin Wisse




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