Monday, December 29, 2014

The Brotherhood of Book Hunters by Raphael Jerusalmy

Francois Villon
The Brotherhood of Book Hunters by Raphael Jerusalmy; translated from the French by Howard Curtis --- 268 pages

Jerusalmy was educated in France and now lives in Israel, where he sells antique books. Brotherhood is his second novel; his first, Saving Mozart, published in 2013, is a tale of World War II and the Jewish resistance to Nazism.

The novel is written in a picaresque style, very appropriate to the setting and the period of his tale. Jersusalmy has chosen the 15th century French poet and bandit, Francois Villon, as his hero. Villon was one of the first poets to write in the vernacular for ordinary people. He was also a thief, and a brigand. He lived by his wits in a time of great unrest, at the dawn of the Renaissance.

Villon was arrested and condemned to death in 1462; then, without any public explanation given, he was pardoned and released from prison the following year.  After that Villon disappears from history completely.

Jerusalmy postulates what might have happened, if Villon's release was part of a deal with King Louis XI and his allies, the Medici of Florence, to bring printing presses and the New Learning, to France, in support of Louis' covert war against the power of the Papacy and the Inquisition.

In Brotherhood Villon is sent on a mission to the Holy Land, to negotiate the purchase of books from the mysterious Brotherhood of Book Hunters, a secret society self-appointed to guard the wisdom of the ancients.  But as Villon discovers, both Louis and the Brotherhood have other plans for him and his subversive genius.

Click HERE to read the Kirkus review of The Brotherhood of Book Hunters.

Click HERE to read the New York Times review.

Click HERE to learn more about Francois Villon.

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